In the world of celebrity endorsements, age is not just a number.
Stars in their teens and twenties don’t enjoy the same consumer trust as their older counterparts, according to new rankings of TV and film actors from Spotted, a data and research provider focused on the celebrity endorsement space. Spotted ranked actors with brand partnerships from best to worst in terms of the success of their campaigns and found that while the average age among the best was 40, the worst was just 28.
Topping the list was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, 46, for Under Armour, whose shoe line with the athletic apparel brand sold out in only 30 minutes in June. Mark Wahlberg, 47, for AT&T clocked in at number two, with third place going to Kristen Bell, 38, for Old Navy. Following close behind them were Reese Witherspoon, 42, for Crate and Barrel and Drew Barrymore, 43, for Crocs.
In contrast, the least successful campaigns came from Bella Thorne, 20, for BUXOM Cosmetics, Shay Mitchell, 31, for Toyota, and Ansel Elgort, 24, for Polo Ralph Lauren. Other notably low performers were Millie Bobby Brown, 14, for Cisco, and Lady Gaga, 32, for Bud Light.
To arrive at these rankings, Spotted surveyed 300 U.S. participants of all ages with questions concerning the likability, relatability, attractiveness, trustworthiness, authenticity, and facial, name and voice recognition of 400 actors who had brand endorsements between January 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018.
Campaigns featuring non-actors (such as Colin Kaepernick for Nike) are not represented on the list. Kendall Jenner was on the survey — but despite public outcry in response to her controversial Pepsi ad last year, consumer opinion of her was not low enough to land her on the laggards list.
One reason older performers are resonating stronger, according to Spotted CEO and co-founder Janet Comenos, is the sheer volume of their work gives them greater exposure to different subsets of consumers. “If you’ve only been famous a few years and starred in a few films, the types of consumers you’ve been exposed to are smaller than if you’ve starred in 50 films and people have gotten to know you over time,” she says.
However, there are exceptions to the rule.
Jennifer Lawrence, for example, is an outlier — despite being just 28, her campaign with Dior scored well in consumer trust and authenticity. Comenos says she has her good reputation to thank. “She does not present meaningful risk to the brand and has high resonance with Dior’s customers.”
Thorne, according to Spotted data, is seen by consumers as a controversial figure. The 20-year-old’s recent single, “Bi**h I’m Bella Thorne,” and linkage to 35-year-old ex-boyfriend Scott Disick may indicate why consumers associate Thorne with risky behavior.
“Stranger Things” superstar Millie Bobby Brown had low scores when it came to believability around her brand-pairings. Pairing a 14-year-old English actress with the multinational technology conglomerate Cisco may not have been the most intuitive choice. The same could be said for avant-garde pop singer Lady Gaga endorsing Bud Light, go-to beverage of the frat-boy-next-door. Though Brown and Gaga are arguably two of the biggest A-listers of 2018, their lack of personality match with these brands is a deal breaker when vying for consumer trust.
“It’s counterintuitive in a way, but marketers have to stop making decisions based on what all their competitors and other brands are doing,” Comenos says. “The better approach to take is to align with someone who truly embodies all the qualities of your brand, someone who is very appealing to your target consumers and not polarizing to your existing consumers, and someone who they trust. But these things are often not considered.”
Busy Philipps, on the other hand, was among the laggards at No. 11 on the worst list. According to Comenos, there are two factors to consider: not only has Philipps gone a tad overboard with the frequency of her endorsements, but consumers also perceive a lack of shared values between Philipps and the brands she represents.
Here are just a few of Phillipps’ partnerships since the beginning of 2017: Michael’s Craft Store, Campbell’s Well Yes! Soups, Tropicana Kids, Kind Snacks, Godiva, Levis, Hidden Valley Ranch, and Red Baron Pizza. “Consumers just don’t believe in [the] relationship she has with brands,” Comenos says. “For Red Baron, people found it to be odd and jarring.”
Philipps is known for her success with sponsored ads on Instagram, and recently admitted to having made more money from brand partnerships than from her acting career last year.
It may seem surprising that such objectively likeable stars have such low consumer trust, but Comenos says otherwise.
“Generally, people think, ‘ugh, that person’s slapping their name on so many different brands at once,’” Comenos says. “People think that she’s a little bit of an endorsement sellout because of the quantity of work she does.”
Below, a look at the best and worst actor-lead brand endorsements of the year:
- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for Under Armour
2. Mark Wahlberg for AT&T
3. Kristen Bell for Old Navy
4. Reese Witherspoon for Crate & Barrel
5. Drew Barrymore for Crocs
6. Chris Hemsworth for Hugo Boss
7. Justin Timberlake for Bai
8. Gabrielle Union for New York & Company
9. Zoe Saldana for Campari
10. Gal Gadot for Reebok
- Bella Thorne for BUXOM Cosmetics
2. Shay Mitchell for Toyota
3. Ansel Elgort for Ralph Lauren
4. John Cena for Hefty
5. Millie Bobby Brown for Cisco
6. Chloe Grace Moretz for Jimmy Choo
7. Lucy Hale for Degree
8. Cara Delevinge for Burberry
9. Priyanka Chopra for JBL
10. Zac Efron for Columbia