Is the head of a company or brand the most effective spokesperson? Not every CEO, after all, can be Richard Branson or "Papa John" Schnatter.
Ace Metrix’s latest white paper, “CEOs in Advertisements: What Happens When the Boss Steps into the Spotlight?” reveals that the CEO doesn't need to have a cult of personality and be a household name to help put a positive face on the brand.
The biggest CEO spokesperson success stories are John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s:
And Jim Koch, CEO of Samuel Adams:
“We found that CEO ads actually do work if done correctly—in general, direct, trust-inspiring messages communicate a no-nonsense style that gets viewers’ attention and delivers on Information, Relevance and Desire,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “The ads work best when the CEO is perceived as genuine and when the brand is completely committed to the ‘CEO as Front Man’ strategy (vs. occasional use of the CEO).”
That said, if the CEO is “dull, boring, or fails to communicate a differentiable message, he/she tends not to connect with consumers,” examples of this include Dan Hesse of Sprint and Jim Gillespie of Coldwell Banker.
The study reviewed 13,000 ads starting in January 2009, 76 of which featured CEOs from 12 different brands. Responses from 500 participants evaluating the effectiveness of an ad including criteria such as entertainment, desire and relevance, showed that CEO ads scored higher (950) on the Ace Metrix Score than other ads in their category (535).
Faced with the question of to-use-or-not-to-use CEO’s, Daboll advises “test the ad in advance– In the case of CEO ads, there is a lot more at risk because it is not only the ad that could fail, but the CEO’s image and reputation could be irreparably tarnished as well.”
"There's just this universal panic," Daboll told Business Insider. "It's almost akin to deciding whether you're going to put your client on the stand in a criminal trial."
All Sam Adams/Sam Adams Light ads use CEO Jim Koch as star, and the success of Koch as Boston Beer Company spokesman defies common logic that beer ads do best when featuring bosomy bimbos or adolescent antics.
In contrast, Bush's Baked Beans ads failed because the CEO failed at being slapstick with a talking dog... "and you saw the Super Bowl, usually talking dogs do well!” Daboll commented to BI. "It's almost like the CEO is the President. You don't want to see the President of the United States in some slapstick sitcom."
KFC scored at the bottom in the study with its 2009 ad featuring CEO, Roger Eaton, who apologized to customers after partnering with "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and offering a free meal to anyone who downloaded a certain coupon from Oprah.com, then fell millions short of delivering on the promise.
"It’s noteworthy that Eaton’s performance was considerably worse than (former) BP CEO Tony Hayward’s “Tragedy That Never Should Have Happened” apologizing for the Gulf spill, notes Ace Metrix.
Click here to see the data on why CEOs make the best ad spokespeople and download the paper “CEOs in Advertisments” here.