The Use Of Celebrities In Advertising Cultural Studies Essay

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In my third and last year as an Office Management student I had the assignment of writing a paper for the International Marketing course. I could choose one of the teacher's topics or find one myself. I have decided to pick the topic: the differences between Western and Asian culture. This was one of the many subjects offered by the teacher. There is a lot to say about this aspect, which is why I have decided to pick two countries and to dig deeper in their culture, and their point of view regarding to advertisement.

The United States and Japan will be discussed in this document and I will add several examples to give a better view on the subject. I have chosen these two countries because they are totally different from each other, what makes it the more or less easy to spot differences. The United States is for me the place to be when it comes to celebrity endorsement. Even though the two cultures are not the same, there is a link and this will be explained in the paper.

I expect to receive better understanding of the two cultures but also have a look behind the scenes. I am anxious to learn whether the use of celebrity does have impact on the brand and if that impact is positive for the brand.

The paper will be handled in English. I have chosen to do so, because the course and my exam were in English, and the fact that the teacher did an effort to speak in English during the course, I have found it disrespectful not to make the same effort and write this paper in English.

Before starting with my main subject I would like to explain some basic things. The term 'celebrity' is widely used for every person that comes on TV. But for companies and brands, they are more than that. Furthermore I will start with the use of celebrity, mainly in the States and tackle the marketing strategy a little bit. My paper consists of two countries, that is why Japan will come next. The differences between these two countries will be tackled by the end along with some examples.

A celebrity is…

Also called a 'celeb' and it is a person that is generally recognized in a society or a culture. People can become famous in different ways: through their profession, appearances in the mass media, beauty and even crime. Through mass media, starting in the 19th and 20th century, celebrities are known in a relatively short time nationally or internationally. This can sometimes occur very fast. Like Neil Armstrong being the first man walking over/on the moon in 1969, got famous in a nick of time.

Celebrities appear in public in a different way, you and me can walk on the street unnoticed without anybody carrying. For celebs it is the other way around, they are walking advertising poles. From head to toe fans analyse the clothes and brands they are wearing.

Furthermore they appear in public when fulfilling their jobs, like a tennis player in front of an audience. And also while attending events, like the Academy Awards, premieres of movies, etc… The news, fashion magazines and even tabloids provide second source information concerning their private life. Besides doing what they do, they also endorse a brand, and act as spokespeople in advertising and on events to promote their brand. Or should I say the brand they work for.

The most logical question is does this celebrity endorsement do some good to the brand? A study of Till, Stanley, Priluck in 2008 explains us that celebrity endorsement is used in marketing, because it is believed that the consumer's perception of the product improves. According to McCracken (1989) a celebrity endorser "is an individual who has gained public awareness and uses this awareness in commercials and advertisements on behalf of consumer products.

The use of celebrities in advertising: the States

When Nike started collaborating with golf icon Tiger Woods, there was a lot of scepticism about the introduction of NIKE to the golf market. Indeed, the image of NIKE was not consistent with the image of the elite sport of golf. It is through the use of Tiger Woods in the marketing strategy that NIKE could successfully position itself in the golf market. Nike is one of the many multinationals which makes use of "celebrity endorsers' in its marketing strategy.

Other famous brands that call upon a celebrity to endorse are Pepsi with David Beckham. The famous advertising commercials of Nepresso where we admire a charismatic George Clooney.

For companies it is very interesting to make use of celebrity endorsers since advertisements with celebrities, creates more attention than ads or commercials without celebrities. 

The celebrity endorser is not necessarily an actor or a movie star, there may for example also be considered athletes, musicians, artists and politicians. Although he passed away a long time ago, in this ad we see one of the United States most popular president, John F. Kennedy for an Omega advertising.

However it is not so that celebrity endorsement guarantees success. The success of using this marketing strategy depends on the values ​​that the celebrity endorser gives to the product. It is even possible that the celebrity's own image and values ​​can be transferred to the product. Not only theory but also practice has shown us that the use of celebrities generates a lot of publicity. Yet these endorsements can cost a lot of money to companies. For instance Venus Williams has signed a five-year contract worth 40 million dollars, to promote and endorse Reebok.

Back in the days when he was the most popular athlete in the World, Michael Jordan had signed a contract for 20 million dollars with NIKE. This proved to be very lucrative for Nike, because the AIR Jordan was for a long time very famous and every teen on the block bought the shoe. All of these celebrities gain more from endorsement contracts than from the sport they practice. That is why celebrity endorsements increase every year. In 2007, celebrities in the United States were used in 25% of all TV commercials.

What is marketing communication?

A company has many audiences. Consumers and other customers are only a small part of the target groups. Marketing communication can be described as getting in touch with trade and or consumers to influence their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in a direction that is favourable for the marketing policy.

The different marketing communication tools are used to influence positively the choices of the (potential) consumers. These marketing tools can be deployed at different levels. A distinction is made between the cognitive, affective and conative phase.

Within the cognitive phase, the goal is to familiarize the customer with the product or the company. The affective phase is aimed at the emotions. Within this phase the customer needs to develop emotions and feelings towards the product or the company. The conative and affective phase can often be combined. In the conative stage, the customer actually makes a purchase. It is obvious that all companies aim to fulfil the last phase.

A little bit of marketing strategy

In this part of the paper I will dig a little bit deeper in the marketing strategy. The celebrity needs to match the brand, they are not randomly chosen by companies, just for fun. It is a whole strategy and a detailed process that comes along. I will also talk about what is important to guarantee the success of the brand and on what companies focus when choosing their celebrities.

It can be said that celebrity endorsement is widely used because research indicates that the impact of celebrity endorsement is a positive investment in the marketing of a brand. However, it is not always successful. It is important for companies that they use celebrities in an efficient way in their strategy. The question is whether celebrity endorsement is the way to go when introducing new products into the market. Research indicates that about half of the marketing budget is spent on marketing when launching new products. Companies are willing to spend a lot of money, because on average 40% of product launches fail. Because so much money is spent on the marketing of new products, there is a greater chance that many companies will opt for celebrities in their commercials and ads (advertisements). This is one of the most expensive options within marketing communications. The focus is therefore on the impact of celebrity endorsement in marketing strategies of new products. With the introduction of new products, consumer uncertainty is relatively higher than the existing products. This consumer uncertainty should be removed with a good marketing policy. With high consumer uncertainty, new products should be brought more to the attention of consumers than already existing products. So that the consumer's uncertainty is no longer present. It may also be noted that consumers dealing with new products still have no awareness of the product and thus no positive attitude is yet developed. This is necessary because it leads to purchase intent.

Two dimensions: Attractiveness and credibility

If companies want their brand to be successful throughout the help of a celebrity, there are two dimensions that they must take into account. The two dimensions of interest are namely the attractiveness and credibility of the celebrity. Several studies indicate that these two dimensions may be crucial for the success of celebrity endorsement in marketing strategy. In addition to these dimensions they also take a look at the match-up principle and the ability to use multiple celebrities in an add or advertisement. The match-up principle will be treated in this paper as this is a generally accepted principle in the choice of celebrity endorsement.

Attractiveness of the celebrity

The first dimension is to take into account the attractiveness of the celebrity. If an attractive celebrity is used, it is more likely that awareness is created among the target audience than when using an unattractive celebrity. This awareness is eventually to be transformed into a positive attitude of the brand. The attractiveness of the celebrity has namely a positive effect on the attitude of consumers towards the brand or product advertising .The dimension attractiveness of the celebrity is formed by the physical appearance, intelligence, athletic ability and the lifestyle of the celebrity. Based on these factors the company should decide which celebrity is suitable for his or her product or brand.

Credibility of the celebrity

The second dimension concerns the credibility of the celebrity. Credibility is divided into two factors: expertise and trustworthiness. Expertise of the celebrity is perceived by consumers on the basis of the allegations that the celebrity is doing in advertising. Reliability, however, is perceived as to whether the celebrity can achieve the results from the advertising or ad in his 'real life'. Research shows that companies with good credibility factors interact within the advertising, as the celebrities generally are regarded as credible. This is crucial because the credibility of the celebrity can affect the opinions, attitudes and behaviour of the target group.

The match-up principle

The success of the collaboration between celebrity and the brand or product depends to a large extent on the match-up principle. The match-up basically revolves around the congruence (being suitable and appropriate) between the celebrity and the brand or product. With congruence, I mean the consistency between the characteristics of the celebrity and the product attributes. This is particularly important because the celebrity can convey its values on the product or brand without changing the product or brand image. A good match-up creates a more positive attitude of the consumers. I personally hate to see ads that use celebrities when it is obvious that the celebrity does not match the brand at all. To explain the match-up principle better, I will briefly discuss the three phases:

Phase 1: In this stage, a number of values are associated with the celebrity. These values occur on the basis of the celebs appearances in the (mass) media. Consumers understand the significance and reflect it on the celebrity.

Phase 2: In this phase, the values and image of the celebrity are associated with the product, through an official "endorsement".

Phase 3: During this phase, the values, by working with the brand or product, clearly belong to the consumer. Because the consumers associate the values of the celebrity with the values of the product they will proceed to purchase and consume the product.

Multiple celebrities in an advertising or promotional

One way to merge the above factors is the use of several celebrities in an advertisement or promotion. The company must then choose celebrities who complement each other within the advertising or ad. This could be, for example, the attractiveness of the celebrities chosen for an athlete and someone with an intelligent mind. To ensure credibility, a knowledgeable person and a trustworthy person can be used. Gillette, for example, is a company that applies several celebrities in its ads by using Roger Federer, Thierry Henry and Tiger Woods. An important argument for the choice of several celebrities in the marketing of a company, in these ways different audiences can be reached on the basis of a celebrity who fits in this group. When using multiple celebrities, multiple values will be linked to the product.

The risks of celebrity endorsements

Although there are examples that indicate that celebrity endorsement can be a good idea, there are the necessary risks. When it is assumed that all conditions of the right person for the right product are satisfied, there are two points to worry about.

The greatest risk is the celebrity itself. Celebrity branding is all about transferring the value of a person on a product. The two concerns are: How long will the fame remain, and can the celebrity retain its status? The second concern is the life of celebrity, his personal integrity. If he is embroiled in a scandal, that could destroy the brand. Before Michael Jackson ended in a scandal, he had a successful deal with Pepsi. Naturally Pepsi had to stop the contract in order to prevent damage to the brand.

Also O.J. Simpson was once the face of a car rental company. After the accusations of the murder of his wife, his contract was also stopped. It is very bad for a brand to be associated with an alleged murderer or paedophile.

Although there are brands that hire intentionally stars with a "wrong" image, this is a risky step. Pepsi made again a wrong decision, by taking this risk to use hip-hop star Ludacris in its campaigns. Ludacris' disrespectful attitude and his rap songs full with cursing did not match-up with the brand. After a campaign was started by a conservative politician against this endorsement, Pepsi was forced by public pressure to stop the deal with Ludacris.

Although one should avoid bad publicity, it is a fact that on the international market celebrity endorsements are very suitable to create a distinctive brand. That the rules of celebrity endorsement in Japan differ from those of the West is largely due to the difference in culture, more on that later.

Brands must be careful with the choices they make. When they choose a celebrity with the right personality traits, these characteristics will also be awarded to the brand and the brand will take advantage from it. If the wrong person is chosen his or her personality traits will be awarded to the brand causing the end of the brand.

Very well accepted and attractive super stars like Bruce Willis and Whitney Houston failed in turning their endorsements into success. Simply assuming that a person just has to be famous to represent a brand is incorrect. A considerable number of failures prove the opposite. In the figure below you can see some of the endorsements that turned out to be a success or a failure.

Let's go Asian: Japan and its celebrity endorsement

In East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, many celebrities are used in advertising. In Japan, 70 % of TV commercials use a celebrity from the sports, music, film, and fashion or entertainment business.

Celebrities are used as endorsers with a statement about the quality of the product / brand or are shown only in relation to the brand /product. The idea is that the values and associations of the celebrity will be transferred to the brand and the brand by the user. Moreover, it is a form of product differentiation as other awards from competing brands is not possible or desirable.

But why is the use of celebrities in Japan so much greater than in the United States and Europe? In Japan they do not only use Western and Japanese celebrities, but also 'talents'. These are young Japanese who are on their way to the top in the worlds of fashion, music, film and entertainment. Advertising for these 'talents' is their way to fame. Japanese advertising does not only use the reputation and associations of established celebrities, but also creates celebrities. And this goes a step further than the ads in the States.

Japanese 'talents' are normal people like you and me. They are slightly good looking, pretty much the girl or boy next door. They form a peer group with which one can easily identify. In a collectivist culture belonging to a group or identifying with that group is very important.

In Japanese advertising values ​​related to 'face' and harmony lead to an indirect communication style. They feel uncomfortable with a commercial that takes that emphasise on situations or facts. A direct approach is seen as an insult to the intelligence of the consumer. The goal of advertising in the Japanese ads is to make the consumer your friend, to win his trust and respect. This goal can be achieved by entertaining the audience. Identification of the brand, the company name or product in the commercial is less important than the pleasant voices of consumers. Japanese advertisers generally use much of the time in the commercial

for building trust, understanding and dependence. The result is a kind of advertising that appeals to the imagination and few to the facts. Advertising show usually no product attributes, the 'fun' of advertising is more important. In Japanese commercials you see serenity, and nature symbols. The tone of voice is indirect, subtle, with lots of symbolism. Comparative advertising is a confrontation and is therefore seen as denigrating the competition. This is in conflict with the Asian value of harmony. The style and manner of presentation is important. A pretty picture, a story or a poem can be important parts of the advertisement. Values ​​and appeals found in their advertising are respect for elders. The relationship of man with nature / the unity with nature is often the subject of advertising. Japanese are crazy about celebrities. A product is often associated with celebrities, who often represent the target. If Western models, celebrities or situations are used, it is only as a symbol of prestige and status: they are not intended to illustrate the western values. In Japan, a part of television and popular culture is strongly linked to the entertainment world. Songs are often especially composed for use in commercials.

Differences between Western and Asian cultures

There are several cultural differences that may explain the use of celebrities. While the American culture is characterized by individualism, in Japan it is more the collectivist culture. In a collectivist culture they emphasize on conformity, adaptation and obedience. We, the European and American see this as negative values, but in Japan, this is well appreciated. Celebrities fit better in a collectivist than an individualist culture. In Japan they highly look up to celebrities, especially a Western celebrity. You will also see many Western celebrities in Japanese advertising, which I will explain later on. The power distance is quite large. The statements of celebrities are followed uncritically because they are not famous for nothing. Their values rays on the brand that they support, and also on the user of that brand. Power distance and individualism-collectivism are the key explanations for the difference between East Asian and Western countries. These are two of the four Hofstede dimensions of culture. For the other two dimensions (uncertainty avoidance and masculine-feminine) there is no large difference, even though

Japan is the most masculine country in the world. In a masculine country performance and success are central, in a feminine country caring for others and quality of life is more important.

Advertising is strongly influenced by culture, especially in comparisons between East Asia, Europe and North America. But even between Asian countries there are cultural differences. Some campaigns may be used in several countries, but in most cases adaptation is necessary to make an effective campaign. And in many cases adaptation is inadequate and separate campaigns must be developed for each country taking into account the national culture.

View of Western culture on celebrity endorsement

Celebrities and marketing go well together. There is indeed a lot of money to distribute. A study of GMI revealed that consumers, especially in the Western world are almost insensitive to the advertisements with celebrities.

The celebrity endorsement, according to the agency GMI might not be as effective as many believe. In certain western markets, the strategy used did not succeed to increase the value of the product nor to persuade the consumer to buy the product

The researchers note that the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement in promoting brands depends on the local culture. "In the Western world they are the most indifferently towards the use of celebrities in advertising," tells GMI. "In the United States 79% of the respondents indicated that a celebrity has no effect on the way they think about a product. Only 13% admitted that through celebrity endorsement the value of the brand increases. "But in Japan, it is a completely different situation," said GMI. "In Japan, 60% thinks that celebrities give a product more value. The study also shows that consumer find other techniques such as free samples, mouth-to-mouth are more efficient than celebrity endorsements. These techniques influence their buying behaviour slightly more. In the United States 34% of the consumers think this way.

In Japan, 29% of those surveyed found advertising after the free samples the most efficient way to convert to a purchase. It took word-of-mouth advertising only 12%. Celebrity endorsement has proved most successful, implying that celebrities played an important role in their purchasing decision. Global media can create global stars. But consumers are much more sophisticated and less inclined to swallow simple, uniform marketing messages. The great indifference of consumers in the West may even be a sign that celebrity endorsement can have the opposite effect and repel consumers.

American finest celebrities head to Japan

Many American stars earn large sums of money by linking themselves to brands as a spokesperson by recommending certain products. Others appear nowhere in advertising because they do not want their fans to think they are selling out. However, many of these stars cannot resist the temptation to go abroad and appear in commercials and ads. Nowhere is this truer than in Japan. Even the richest and most famous people do not just say no to advertisers who pay them one to three million U.S. dollars for a couple of hours of work. And this is for a commercial that lasts 15 to 20 seconds. Mega stars like Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford received millions to appear in a Japanese commercial. Meg Ryan makes recommendations for cosmetics and tea, Brad Pitt promotes tins of coffee and jeans, and Demi Moore tries to persuade the Japanese audience to purchase protein drinks. Ford received several millions to appear shirtless on ads and commercials for Kirin Beer (see below). Sometimes stars are even forced to change their image and personality to better suit the style of advertising, this is needed to fit the Japanese companies. Even the Japanese public has a different flavour than people in the West are used to have. What we, in Europe and the U.S., perceive as cheap is seen in Japan as a very normal and effective way to advertise. In a commercial for shampoo, famous actor Dennis Hopper appeared in a bathtub player with a rubber duck. There are several reasons why Japanese companies are willing to pay large amounts for these stars. Many Japanese are fascinated by the American culture and American stars. It also gives a brand an American international star status. In Japanese commercials, style and atmosphere are more important than dull product information and testimonials. Japanese are very sensitive to entertainment. Because a commercial in Japan only last 15 seconds, a western star is easily recognized and the attention of the viewer is directly captured, which is more worth than money.

American film studios also encourage celebrities to appear in Japanese commercial lay. In this way it is easier for American films to attract the Asian population. Often the release of a new film and the appearance of the star of this film in Japanese ads fall together. While many stars go abroad for advertising, they all try to protect their image at home. There are even clauses in the contracts stating that the commercial must not be shown outside of Japan and sometimes even be discussed. With the growth of the Internet it is possible that stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger secrecy about their advertising activities are likely to remain unnoticed for the American public. Above you have just read why Japanese are less picky when it comes to match-up than for example in America. Also it seems that the credibility aspect is less of an issue in Japan. If you are a celebrity, you're in Japan, by definition, credible, match up or not. Yet it is true that these endorsements in Japan are indeed profitable. The public in Japan is in the long term a lot more loyal than the audience in the West. If a celebrity in Japan is loved, this will remain even if the celebrity has disappeared from the spotlight. The website '' made an index with all of American celebrities that appear in Japanese advertising.


I can now say with proud that I have chosen the right countries to tackle this difficult but at the same time interesting topic. I am sure that many students would think that it is easy to discuss this subject, because there is a lot of information on the internet and in books. Well I can tell them that a lot of information makes it harder to write something, because it is up to the writer to eliminate unnecessary information and to write in a way that is readers friendly. My hardest task was to make sure that I removed what is not relevant and to dig deeper in the part that was relevant. Thanks to experienced authors such as Grant McCracken, Stanley and many others it became easier for me to understand what I was writing about. Their view on culture and celebrities and the way they explain it was a relief to me. This paper taught me that celebrities take a big bite in the budget of a company. Nevertheless this kind of technique in marketing is increasing and will remain because study does show us that it is very profitable for a brand to use a celebrity.

Even though in Japan they do not strictly follow the rule of 'match-up', I strongly believe that a match-up is needed to make an advertisement successful. Commercials, advertisements and endorsements where the celebrity has got absolutely nothing to do with the product is for me a no go. And in that match-up, according to me the most important aspect is credibility. I am not the first one to go and buy a product once a celebrity tells me to do so, but I could slightly get more interested in the brand if I notice a strong credibility in the ad.

After reading several studies, information and documents I can conclude that the use of celebrities, when respecting the two dimensions I discussed in the paper, could have a very positive impact on the brand and the reputation of the company.

I know I am supposed to thank in the beginning, but I have decided to do it know. I rather want the teacher to read my paper, so she could notice for herself what I am capable of, before I thank her for the support and counseling throughout the school year.



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All of the images were copied from Google





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