In today’s world, it seems a new celebrity emerges every minute. But in surveys of ~1,100 Americans conducted weekly by E-Poll Market Research, the same old names keep popping up as the celebrities that are the most appealing.
And I do mean “the same old“: For the third year in a row, E-Poll Market Research reports that the most appealing celebrity is … Betty White. She’s the nonagenarian who’s been gracing the TV screens of America ever since the 1960s.
Who are the other celebrities who top the list of “most admired?” Reading the list is like taking a trip down Memory Lane:
Michael J. Fox
You might wonder which celebrity is gaining most in appeal when compared to the previous year’s surveys. That would be Aziz Ansari, the Parks and Recreation star who has also had quite a successful run in stand-up comedy.
Several other “up and comers” include Andy Samberg, Aaron Rogers and Melissa McCarthy. Clearly though, it’s the “old bulls” that maintain their sway over the American public.
The big takeaway from the research is this: However difficult it may be to accomplish, for those who do manage to break into the top ranks of celebrity appeal, it’s likely they’ll stay there for years to come.
What’s happening these days with Twitter? The micro-blogging service continues to light up the newswires every time there’s a civil disturbance in a foreign land, because of how easily and effectively it facilitates planning and interaction among the dissidents.
But what we’re also finding out is that Twitter is overwhelmingly dominated by just a small fraction of its users.
In fact, Cornell University and Yahoo recently published results of an evaluation of ~260 million tweets during 2009 and 2010, which found that ~50% of the tweets were generated by just 20,000 Twitter users.
That is right: Fewer than one half of one percent of Twitter’s user base accounts for fully half of all tweet activity.
Just who makes up this “rarified realm” of elite users? It turns out that they fall into four major groups:
Media properties (e.g., CNN, New York Times)
Celebrities (e.g., Ashton Kutcher … Lady Gaga)
Business organizations (e.g., Starbucks)
Even more interestingly, these “elite” users aren’t interfacing with the rest of us “regular Twitter folk” as much as they are simply following each other: Celebs follow celebs … media companies follow other media companies … bloggers follow other blogs.
The Cornell/Yahoo research report, titled Who Says What to Whom on Twitter, can be found here.
But one wonders if the report should be retitled Much Ado About Nothing?
Christina Applegate takes motherhood … to celebrity status.
Zsa Zsa Gabor is a fabulous celebrity … and a panel of experts has been commissioned to find out why.
His very existence … makes Prince William a celebrity.
Because the public goes so (Lady) gaga over celebrities, celebs have been used to hawk products and services for decades. Often, they can add pizzazz to what is otherwise a pretty routine advertising campaign. But how effective are the added glitz and glamour in ringing up additional sales?
I’ve long suspected that the value of celebrity endorsements might be over-hyped. Now we have some quantifiable proof. Ace Metrix, a California-based ad measurement firm, evaluated ~2,600 television ads shown during 2010. The company tested 263 unique national ads featuring celebrity endorsements, spanning 16 industries and 110 separate brands. All ads were tested within 48 hours of breaking nationally in order to capture immediate rather than “cultivated” ad effectiveness.
The celebrity ads were then evaluated against a control group of non-celeb ads in order to determine their comparative effectiveness in generating ad “lift” (better performance).
What the Ad Metrix analysis found was that only ~12% of the ads using celebrities showed more than 10% lift over average advertising norms in their respective industries. Even more startling, ~20% of the celebrity ads yielded 10% or worse (net negative) performance over the average advertising norms.
Here are some of the celebrities who had a “net negative” effect on their clients’ TV advertising effectiveness during 2010 – worst listed first:
Tiger Woods (Nike) – I guess this hardly comes as a surprise!
Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack)
Kenny Mayne (Gillette)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.(Nationwide Auto Insurance)
Donald Trump (Macy’s)
Which celebrities managed to generate better-than-average scores? Queen of the heap is Oprah Winfrey for her 2010 spots for Liberty Mutual and Progressive Insurance. Ed Burns (iShares) and Carl Weathers (Bud Light) took the other top honors in positive lift.
Peter Daboll, head of Ace Metrix, had this to say about the findings: “This research proves unequivocally that, contrary to popular belief, the investment in a celebrity in TV advertising is rarely worthwhile. It is the advertising message that creates the connection to the viewer in areas such as relevance, information and attention, and this remains the most important driver of ad effectiveness.”
Interestingly, Oprah’s ads weren’t pitching products per se, but rather addressing current issue topics – in this case, warning against texting while driving. So one way to get through to the consumer via a celebrity is if the content is informational rather than a sales pitch.
But if the goal of the advertising is product sales, chances are the more the celebrity is truly “connected” to an advertiser’s product or service, the more successful he or she will be in engaging the target audience beyond simply the “curiosity factor.”
This past week, a living legend in the world of the arts has celebrated a birthday. When Risë Stevens was born in Bronx borough 96 years ago, New York City was very much like it is today … the largest city in the United States, with a rich ethnic diversity including many first-generation immigrants. A city of amazing contrasts, from dirt-poor neighborhoods to districts of fabulous wealth and style.
Miss Stevens’ background was typical of many. Her father was a first-generation Swedish Protestant, her mother a second-generation Russian Jew. Growing up on the tough neighborhood streets of the Bronx, the bright lights of Manhattan must have seemed a world apart rather than just a few short miles away.
In her rise to the top of the billboards at the Metropolitan Opera, Stevens would have her share of luck – the onset of World War II in Europe gave American-born soloists their best chance ever to star in the limelight. But it also took years of practice, sheer hard work and “paying her dues” on provincial stages in places as diverse as Prague and Buenos Aires. Much of those early years are recounted in her biography Subway to the Met, published in the late 1950s.
Miss Stevens’ rich mezzo-soprano voice, coupled with her highly attractive physical appearance, made her a natural for several femme fatale operatic roles such as Dalila in Saint-Saens’ Samson & Dalila, Giulietta in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmannand, most notably, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen. But early in her Met career, management seemed disinclined to cast her in this role, perhaps because several other stars were already filling the honors there. Not willing to accept this situation, Stevens did a true star turn, getting herself cast opposite Bing Crosby in the Hollywood blockbuster movie Going My Wayin which, as Father O’Malley’s erstwhile neighborhood chum and now star of the opera, she sang the famous Habañera from the opera Carmen.
That seemed to do the trick, as the American public now clamored to see her sing the role. Dutifully, the Metropolitan Opera cast her as Carmen within the year, and for the next two decades, Stevens would practically own the role at the Met. (And it was as Carmen that Stevens made her last performance before retiring from the Met stage in 1961.)
The number of people who were introduced to the world of opera through Miss Stevens during the 1940s and 1950s is astonishingly large. Her compelling portrayal of Bizet’s cigar-factory worker temptress has been cited as THE defining catalyst for opera lovers in countless postings all over the web (you can read some examples here, here and here).
But beyond the limelight and the marquee board, there is another reason why Risë Stevens has been loved by so many: she has always been true to herself, and to her art. You can see that in how, despite the fact that she probably made more money starring in just three Hollywood films than she made in her entire career on the opera stage, she left Hollywood and returned to opera because it was her true love.
… You can see it by her loyalty in promoting the art of opera and her beloved Met Opera company. Even today, she remains on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, making her association with the company more than 70 years running.
… You can also see it in her compelling “up-from-poverty” personal story … and in her long and loving 65+ year marriage to her Viennese-born Hungarian husband, Walter Surovy.
And you can see it in the genuine interest she takes in people of all backgrounds and generations. Unlike so many stars who, once they are famous, become absolute personality horrors – full of arrogance and snobbery — Risë Stevens has never lost her connection to the “real world.” My own two daughters have carried on a correspondence with their “Miss Risë” for 15 years, who they’ve come to regard as a kind of special relative who lives far, far away and is larger than life in some respects.
From them, and from so many others: Happy Birthday, Risë … and may you celebrate many more!