Sunday, January 16, 2011

So, Venus did not help sell Tide?

There was a time when the industry assumption was that signing on a celebrity was an automatic no-brainer for selling a product. Indeed, a September 2010 article by ‘Advertising Age’ states clearly that celebrity endorsements still push product. But a new study has compiled data refuting this notion. Turns out that tennis celebrities like Venus Williams may not be as effective at selling us products as advertisers are led to believe.

Early in 2010, Tide launched a partnership with Venus Williams to help sell its stain and odor-eliminating products, with the tag-line: “Style is an Option. Clean is Not”. Display ads appeared in several popular women’s health magazines. Playing on the whole notion of Venus as sports clothing designer, visitors to Tide.com/Venus were encouraged to design an outfit for Venus, or could look at videos of Venus talking fashion. Venus in turn was expected to use her Facebook and Twitter to sell Tide products. (And I for one am pleased that this whole business of tweeting for profit is finally getting some legal scrutiny).

So how effective do you think all of this was? Well, it turns out that Venus’ ads were among the one-fifth of celebrity ads that actually hurt advertising effectiveness. In a must-read document titled “Celebrity Advertisements: Exposing A Myth Of Advertising Effectiveness”, the company acemetrix.com analyzed 2,600 ads, and concluded that their compilation of data showed that “contrary to popular wisdom, celebrity ads do not perform any better than non-celebrity ads, and in some cases they perform much worse.”

For the average consumer, it seems to matter little whether a celebrity or an ordinary Jill or Joe is endorsing a product of interest. Indeed, very few celebrity ads managed to push a product above industry averages. Tide, with Venus’ help, was not one of those products. In fact, Venus’ input may have been costly to Tide.

The only reason I’m focusing on Venus is because hers was the only tennis name in the lengthy list of celebrities associated with product damage. But Venus was not by far the worst celebrity whose name negatively impacted product.

That dishonor was reserved for Tiger Woods followed very closely by Lance Armstrong. Surely the parade of whores during the implosion of Tiger’s personal life must have played a part in his disrepute. And with that Danish journalist making increasingly bold statements that Lance Armstrong cheated during his Tour De France rides, well maybe Armstrong’s days as a media darling are numbered as well.

But it turns out that even seemingly harmless folks like Drew Barrymore were also ineffective. (Really I could have told Cover Girl this. Who uses a twisted-face ordinary-looking woman to sell make-up when the cameras can’t even spend more than a second on a close-up of her bizarre face?) And Julia Roberts also sucked at selling Lancôme. (Of course she did, girlfriend is well past her shelf-life). Diddy did not manage to persuade anyone to switch to drinking Ciroc. (How could he when the ads seemed more like vanity pieces showing off his lavish lifestyle than any attempt to inform you of the product?)

So Venus really should not feel badly for not helping to push Tide. Turns out Snookie also sucked at selling pistachios despite also being plump, round, and dressed in green.

There were three reasons suggested as to why so many celebrities were ineffective at selling products. First, it wasn’t always clear what product the celebrity was endorsing. (Um, Venus was clearly selling Tide. And perhaps also her fashion line). Second, the ad itself was perceived as boring. (Yes, they were). Finally, the celebrity was just disliked. (Hard to call Venus has both fans and haters).

I’d like to propose a fourth reason. In an era when the label ‘celebrity’ can be equally applied to Drew Barrymore, Venus Williams, and Snookie, I think that this word has become meaningless. No wonder its impact appears to be equally so. The good news is that companies can stop shelling out large sums to celebrities, so that the price of many products will become more affordable to the average person.


6 comments:

Kim at TennisFixation said...

I think you nailed it in Reason No. 4 - the average consumer no longer cares what detergent Venus endorses or what mascara Drew is trying to sell. None of us believe that these people use these products or have any clue as to their effectiveness. I'm pretty sure Venus isn't overly concerned about the great Tide vs. All (or whatever their nearest competitor is) debate and I doubt very seriously that Drew is using Cover Girl products on a regular basis. Besides, what does Venus know about detergent anyway (or what does Drew know about mascara)? And surely, after the Tiger Woods debacle, advertisers will see how these kind of endorsements can quickly blow up in their faces. I'm sure we'll see less of this type of stuff in the future.

tennischick said...

Thanks Kim. I agree with you. I did not think of the angle of whether these "celebrities" come across as credible (i.e., that they actually use the product). In fact we know that many of them don't because so many get busted using a competitor's brand instead the brand they're being paid to push. lol.

TennisAce said...

I have been meaning to comment on this post for some time but my post would have been one where I was going to be defensive about Venus and point out that with the economy the way it is, it is hardly surprising that products are not moving as fast as manufacturers would want. Then I saw this tweet by GVGirl and I just had to post it. I hope it comes through here

http://tinyurl.com/4zxsf4b

tennischick said...

I also linked to data to back up my points. Thanks for offering a different perspective although I am not sure that I consider Nielsen to be an unbiased source of data. Yes the economy sucks but some endorsers still managed to push product.

Really, you should always feel free to comment on anything I write even it it means defending a player. I don't understand why you should feel a need to restrain yourself when I clearly don't. :-)

TennisAce said...

I know I should not be afraid to comment, even if I disagree, but in the last couple of days I find myself defending a player that I really admire and respect. I have been sick to my stomach about all the negative press that she has been getting, whether it has been her designs, the way she screams when she hits the ball (the fact that she has been doing it since her debut on Tour makes no mind to people); the fact that she was booed for finally seeing sense and retiring from a match.

And then the good things about her no one harps on it. I wrote to Jon Wertheim recently recounting my experience of finally meeting Venus at one of her book signings in my neck of the woods and how charming she was. This prompted him to write about a similar experience that he and his students had with her.

All the time you hear the PR versions of this and that player and how wonderful they are, but with Venus you never do. Statistics can tell you whatever it is you wish to hear but sometimes it takes someone with a personal experience to really relay how some people are.

tennischick said...

Again thanks for your comment. I felt that I was being honest about my ambivalence about Venus, acknowledging the tremendous work she has done for the WTA while admitting that I think that she contributes to the dumbing down of the conversation about women's tennis. I was at no point impugning her character or saying that she wasn't a nice person.