13 June 2012

Celebrity Squares: What is the value of the right profile?

The Guardian has a nice piece by Marina Hyde on celebrities and charitable giving based on a recent report from the UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM), co-hosted by IDS.

Ms. Hyde says the UKPOM findings show that "most people claim not to be swayed by celebrity-fronted campaigns, but they do think that other people are swayed by them. Which suggests that celebrity campaigns are popularly believed to be popular – but falsely so."

This is indeed what the data show but they also show that, while less popular than we would think, celebrity endorsements are effective in some domains. For example, 14 out of 100 people report they give more money to a cause than they would have without the celebrity endorsement. That seems like a very high number to me.

It would be interesting to compartmentalise this result. Is this 14% number higher for wealthier people? Older people? Poorer people? Particular ethnic groups? A recent econometric study from the US found that the donations of certain groups responded much more highly to celebrity endorsements than others.

The article by Ms Hyde then goes on to say that the UKPOM data show that Kim Kardashian is the best celebrity to help a child in extreme poverty (although I could not find this in the report) and she "We're all poorer when we seek Kim Kardashian's take on poverty."

OK, first of all I did not know who Kim Kardashian was, and after 2 minutes of internet searching I can understand why she is not exactly a role model. This is certainly an example of Maureen Dowd's quote (she of the New York Times) "Celebrity distorts democracy by giving the rich, beautiful, and famous more authority than they deserve."

But some celebrities deserve respect for their charity work, surely. I'm sure there are many celebrities who know that celebrity is luck-fuelled and needs to be worn lightly but used weightily. They use their celebrity for the charity in an intelligent way--my sense is that there is not much box office in it (although that could also be researched).

Perhaps the main worry about celebrity advocates is that they might endorse the status quo, or not sufficiently challenge the systems that generate the need for charity giving in the first place. Again, I think it depends on the celebrity. The singer Billy Bragg (he of "A New England") certainly does not fall into this category.

So the answer seems to be: select your celebrity as carefully as you select your CEO.

The irony is that the UKPOM itself needs some help in staying funded. We are running it on fumes.

Would I mind if Billy Bragg gave UKPOM an endorsement? No. (Although I would need to do my due diligence!)


Unknown said...

Well, it can certainly enable them to buy enough silver bars to make their dazzling jewelries, or hire an agent to make them more popular.

Anonymous said...

I know some celebrities whose also good Samaritans, even if they buy jewelries from gold store like marinelli jewelers, they still manage to give money to the charity.

Hugh Parizeau said...

I don't need to be a Hollywood actor nor some rich guy to help other people. As long as I can help others, I will do it without waiting for any return.