Actors who play outlaws can be good for endorsing products: The unexpected power of negative character endorsers

Negative, or outlaw, characters, such as the drug dealer Walter White from the television drama series “Breaking Bad,” have appeared in advertising campaigns endorsing actual products, despite their fictional status and questionable traits.
Jeffery, Thomson, and Johnson

Management Slant

  • Using fictional characters as endorsers is a novel tactic that is growing in popularity, but little is known about whether or how it works.
  • Negative characters can be as effective as traditional actors in product endorsements, despite audiences liking and trusting them less.
  • Pairing a negative character with an appropriate—and possibly controversial—product enhances effectiveness.
  • Actors who appear in character to promote controversial products are perceived as more ethical than when they appear as themselves.
  • Using negative characters as endorsers provides advertisers with a fun and creative way to differentiate a brand, raising the...

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