Celebrities really aren’t worth it

L’Oreal, one of the most well-known users of a celebrity endorsement strategy, has been accused of ‘whitening’ Beyoncé Knowles’ skin in cosmetics ad.

But what I find most interesting in the story is that the star’s contract – for a five year deal worth $4.for 10 days’ work a year – doesn’t stipulate that she uses the brand.  Source credibility theory identifies attractiveness, trustworthiness and expertise as key factors, which you would think should mean the celebrity actually is an expert with the product.  However, research by Erdogan shows few advertisers see use of the brand as important. 

It seems rather odd that the public buy into the celebrity claims for L’Oréal products, whilst accepting that the stars don’t actually use them. But do we really believe the likes of  Beyoncé use home hair dye products?  If not, why are we persuaded by these adverts?

Do women prefer the glitzy association and “Because I’m Worth It” strapline over Dove’s Real Women strategy? 

Is illusion all that is important in the cosmetics industry?  After all, last year the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against L’Oreal regarding a mascara product as it had not clearly stated the actress Penelope Cruz wore false eyelashes in the advert.

From a motor industry PR perspective, celebrities are often called upon to road test cars or given loan cars by manufacturers.  I’ve been involved in such tactics which frequently involved ghost-writing the reviews based on a few impressions gathered from interviewing the celebs.  Even more frustrating was the fact that cars (apart from high end sportscars) were often passed on by the famous ones to relatives.  As such, there seems little benefit from the loan.

Surely the public are wise to the fact that celebs are given free products or paid to use (or not use) them – so their endorsement would seem to be pretty worthless.  I’ve always thought real endorsement of a brand comes from knowing someone, regardless of how rich or famous, has used their own money and is a loyal customer by choice.

That is probably so rare in relation to celebrities – and even nonentities on the D-Z list – that their endorsement really ain’t worth it.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.