The UK is the 8th most connected country in the World in terms of Internet Connectivity according to the UN, with 80% of households having an Internet connection (Kelion, 2013). For companies harnessing the power of Digital Marketing this can be a complete goldmine, but for the Consumer and The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) (Langford, 2014).
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new, be it through traditional advertising on the television and in magazines, or product placement in Films and Music Videos. However, the difference is now that with the continual rise of Social Media and the continual creation of further platforms for endorsement it is no longer quite so easy for the consumer to determine whether they are being sold to or receiving a genuine recommendation.
This YouTube video from TFN shows just how lucrative a tweet endorsing a brand can be for Celebrities, and just quite how many well-known names are doing it.
In an article for LinkedIn Matthew Geiger discusses when a Celebrity endorsement crosses the line from a genuine recommendation to an ethically challenging situation. The biggest ethical concern he raises is the endorsement by Celebrities of Diets and Healthcare products. For many consumers an endorsement by a Celebrity has a greater influence than the advice of Medics or Industry Professionals (Geiger, 2014). In terms of Diet, exercise programmes and the use of meal replacements products and ‘shakes’ this patently has greater ethical repercussions than ‘Louise from Made in Chelsea trying to sell us the fact she has a Volvo’ as one of my friends put it!
The infographic above was created using data featured in an article on Brandrepulic.com featuring a study on what impact these ‘endorsed tweets’ have on the consumer (Langford, 2014). Interestingly, the data collected here suggests that the public is much more aware of what Celebrities doing in terms of ‘cash for endorsements’ than much of the literature I read suggested.
Whilst this doesn’t remove the ethical issues of promoting a product which you don’t use or simply because you’ve been paid by a Brand to tweet about them, it does at least suggest that we aren’t quite as simple as the advertising industry would hope.
The ASA is placed in a complex and continually changing situation, Celebrities and Brands are now required to make clear when a tweet or post is sponsored, and failure to do so results in both the Brand and Celebrity being liable. But while Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian earning a reported $20,000 a tweet, Celebrity endorsements are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Now if only I could be paid that much per tweet!
Geiger, M. 6th July 2014. “When Celebrity Endorsements aren’t Ethical”, LinkedIn Pulse. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140706221245-50642561-when-celebrity-endorsements-aren-t-ethical Accessed: 22/3/2015
Kelion, L. 7th October 2013. “UK jumps up internet scoreboard as Digital Divide grows”. BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24426739 Accessed: 22/3/2015
Langford, L. 17th January 2014. “Celebrity Endorsements on Social Media”, Brand Republic. http://www.brandrepublic.com/article/1227507/celebrity-endorsement-social-media Accessed: 22/3/2015