[KANTAR] Celebrity-Based AD Campaigns: What are the PROS and CONS in World & South Korea?

Executive Director and Creative Domain Lead (Korea) Subhashish Dasgupta 's insight and Data research of KANTAR
Published : Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 10:54 am
Celebrities are used in advertising around the world. The right celebrity, used in the right way, can undoubtedly be a powerful brand asset. But using a celebrity does not guarantee effective advertising; overall, there’s very little difference between the performance of ads with celebrities versus those without. However, celebrities can make campaigns more effective. There are pitfalls to using celebrities. To gauge whether a celebrity is right for your brand, you need to establish whether they are known, whether they are liked, and what they stand for, among your target audience.


The use of celebrities in advertising varies enormously around the world. It continues to be highest in Asia Pacific, as this analysis of ads we have researched with our Link copy test shows.

In terms of individual countries, use is highest in Japan and Korea, where around 40 percent of TV ads feature celebrities. In comparison, use of celebrities is 31 percent in China, 23 percent in India, 11 percent in the U.S., and 11 percent in the UK.

The type of celebrity used varies a lot by region. Movie stars are particularly popular in Asia, notably Korea and Japan. TV presenters are particularly popular in the UK; while sports stars are more common in the US.


Celebrity-based campaigns can be very effective. The Snickers “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign won a Cannes Lion Creative Effectiveness award; as did Virgin Mobile Australia for their ‘Fair Go Bro’ campaign. In the US, one client had used a celebrity in some of its ads over a ten year period, and wanted to know if they should continue the relationship. Our analysis showed that the ads featuring the celebrity performed better on key measures than those without the celebrity. The celebrity had also become a strong branding cue. We were able to estimate that the celebrity was worth over $5 million per year to the client. After an ROI calculation, the client continued the relationship.

An in-depth analysis of Twitter volumes and sentiment for 16 brands across 5 countries found that celebrities are one of the drivers of short-term buzz. Brand campaigns and short-term promotions generate buzz more often, but celebrity associations and endorsements are likely to increase positive sentiment for the brand in the short term. In February 2014, Mila Kunis was announced as the new face of Jim Beam and featured in a number of ads and videos for the brand. Using our Digital Behavior Analytics solution to decompose the raw digital signal into more meaningful metrics, Kantar Millward Brown was able to quantify that this was a more efficient use of the brand’s marketing budget, and delivered a greater return on investment in both the short term and the long term.

However, while individual celebrity campaigns can be highly effective, there is very little difference overall between the performance on most key measures of ads with celebrities versus those without, on key measures like Enjoyment, Involvement or branding.

However, our CrossMedia database suggests that campaigns with celebrities tend to be more effective than campaigns without. Why should this be? An internal assessment of the campaigns for the 2018 AdReaction study suggested that campaigns with celebrities tend to be better integrated. It seems the presence of a celebrity can provide an instant link to other elements of the campaign, promoting synergy. But other audio and visual elements can also provide that ‘instant link’.

For some long running campaigns, particular celebrities have, over time, become synonymous with the brand: for example, Roger Federer for Rolex, Gary Lineker and Walkers in the UK, Carina Lau and the cosmetic brand SK-II in China. The following example shows the gradual build of one celebrity brand cue over 15 ads.


Given that using a celebrity does not guarantee a successful campaign, what are the guidelines for getting it right? We’d suggest there are three key questions you need to answer.

1. Who is the celebrity?

Where the celebrity is central to the core idea, it’s important to establish how well known they are among your target audience. Some time ago, a lipstick brand was launched using a foreign model. Among those who recognized her, communication, enjoyment and purchase intent were much stronger. However, less than a quarter of the audience recognized her, severely limiting the effectiveness of the campaign.

2. Is the celebrity well liked?

While it isn’t essential for a celebrity to be liked, this can have a significant impact on the emotional response to an ad. The effectiveness of likeable celebrities is more similar across countries: enjoyment is higher when the celebrity is liked, in all countries. All countries tend to see higher scores across persuasive measures and overall Power Contribution when the celebrity is liked.

In particular the likability of the celebrity needs to be assessed among the target audience. In one project for a cereal brand in the UK Kantar Millward Brown asked about celebrities who were considered positive role models. One particular male TV and radio presenter was rated highly; but this ranking was driven by the 40+ age group. When we researched an animatic version of an ad for the brand featuring him, he was dismissed by the younger target respondents as being too old and old fashioned. The ad was not produced.

3. What does the celebrity represent?

It’s important to understand how well the celebrity fits with the brand, or with where you want to take the brand. When the celebrity is perceived to be appropriate, communication can be enhanced.

The ‘right fit’ celebrity can enhance key measures.

■ Potential pitfalls

Unlike an animated character, celebrities are human, and subject to human failings. So there are a number of ways in which a celebrity could become a liability to the brand.

The Chinese athlete Liu Xiang was in the London Olympics, but had apparently disguised an injury; the injury flared up and he had to pull out. Chinese public opinion turned against him for his perceived dishonesty, and a year later was still far from recovering. Other examples of celebrity activities potentially damaging a brand include: OJ Simpson, the face of Hertz, being charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson; Whoopi Goldberg, failing to lose weight while endorsing Slim-Fast; following the media exposure of his adulterous affairs, and a public divorce from his wife, Tiger Woods lost five major endorsements. Brands are quick to distance themselves from such issues. In early 2016, when Maria Sharapova failed a drugs test, brands she had promoted such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche all distanced themselves from her within 24 hours.

In addition, there is always the risk of a celebrity becoming the hero of an ad, rather than the brand. A new campaign was developed for a tea brand in India, featuring popular movie actors. Kantar Millward Brown researched two versions of the ads in animatic forms; one with the celebrities, and one without. The research showed that, in the versions with the celebrities, the message takeout was weaker; the celebrities were ‘drowning out’ the communication. And while the celebrities were intended to help gain attention, the versions without celebrities were just as impactful. The client went ahead and filmed and aired versions without celebrities.

But experience suggests that this tends to be more an issue of ad structure than the fame of the celebrity. Testimonial ads, for example, with their clear focus on the brand, rarely suffer this problem. But the celebrity needs to come across as likeable and genuine, or the endorsement may lack credibility.

Hence, the right celebrity, used in the right way, can be a powerful brand asset; in any country, in any category.


Executive Director and Creative Domain Lead (Korea)

Subhashish Dasgupta currently works at Kantar group company Kantar Millward Brown and leads the Creative Domain for Insights division of Kantar Korea.

His marketing and research career spans over 18 years in both Asia and Europe. Subhashish has extensive research experience, encompassing market entry studies, strategic brand and positioning research, brand health tracking, concept and product testing, advertising testing, channel partner motivation tracking, and stakeholder management. His sector experience covers Automotive, Services, Oil & Gas, Telecom and FMCG.

Subhashish has two post graduate degrees with an MBA with specialization in Marketing and Marketing Communication.

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