Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

I’m a Celebrity: What Do You Want to Hear?

By Peter Bowditch

Most celebrity endorsements are benign, but dangerous consequences can follow when celebrities promote their own ill-informed ideologies.

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Celebrity endorsement has been a part of advertising since the first advertising agent thought: “This will sell if we get someone famous to say they like it”. It relies on the halo effect, where success or skill at one thing is assumed to transfer to some other thing. It’s perfectly acceptable when the celebrity has some relationship to the product through what they are famous for, like tennis stars endorsing racquets and shoes or motor racing drivers telling us that some company makes the best tyres in the world. People quite rightly assume that the celebrities are being paid to say what they say, and again there is nothing much wrong with that.

Sometimes the product can eclipse whatever it is that the celebrity is famous for, and I would expect that many people of a certain age could easily tell you what brand of cigarettes actor Stuart Wagstaff smoked but would have great difficulty naming any theatre, film or television production that he had appeared in. (The cigarette company continue to pay him for 17 years after cigarette advertising was banned on Australian television, because they believed that his identification with the brand was enough to bring it into people’s minds.)

A series of advertisements currently running on television feature a very well-known actor telling us how a medical device “may assist” in relieving certain conditions. The ads...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.