Print ads that include a company’s founder or chief executive can be more effective than alternatives that feature celebrities if they leverage the right approach, according to a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Arpita Agnihotri (Penn State Harrisburg) and Saurabh Bhattacharya (Newcastle University Business School) discussed this subject in a paper entitled, The relative effectiveness of endorsers: The identity badge of CEOs and founders versus the attractiveness of celebrities.

They reported that “when the identity of CEOs and founders is signaled through their identity badge (i.e., their title and designation), consumers find an advertisement more effective than an advertisement with celebrities”.

One of their studies that supported this learning involved 40 participants who had frequented a cafe chain in the UK at least twice in the 15 days before the study, to ensure their familiarity with the brand.

Various members of this group picked an existing product (black coffee), a possible new product (a latte flavour) and a preferred endorser from a list of actors (with Hugh Grant being the final choice). The results formed the basis for mocked-up print ads, some of which featured a celebrity, while others featured the company’s CEO.

A second study involved 27 participants who frequented a British pub chain. Members of this group chose an existing product (a burger), a new product (a double-beef taco burger) and a favoured endorser (actor Jude Law) for another slate of print ads to compare with those featuring the firm’s chief executive.

Then, a total of 374 people – none of which were students, and all of whom had visited one of the chain’s pubs in the last 15 days – completed usable surveys in three different locations run by the pub company.

“This study’s findings indicate that CEOs and founders with their identity badge derived from the job titles raise the effectiveness of advertisements compared with celebrities,” the paper said.

“Because of differences in traits, CEOs are better endorsers for existing products, whereas founders are a better fit for launching new products.”

Clearly identifying the CEO in ads, the analysis continued, is essential. “Per the study’s results, the presence of job title along with the image of a CEO or founder is enough to capture the interest of consumers,” the authors wrote.

Such identifiers are especially important in print ads, too, as “consumers are provided with relatively fewer cognitive resources” than in other media channels.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff