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Evaluating the Effective CEO Spokesperson
Journal of Advertising

Companies have struggled for decades trying to pick the appropriate spokesperson for their brand. With the rise of the internet and prevalence of online video, there are more channels than ever before for spokespeople to gain visibility.

Many businesses explore the option of the CEO as their spokesperson, perhaps following Steve Jobs' lead. However, as R. Eric Reidenbach and Robert E. Pitts point out in Not All CEOs Are Created Equal as Advertising Spokespersons: Evaluating the Effective CEO Spokespersona CEO may not be the ideal spokesperson.

Reidenbach and Pitts explore the phenomenon of the CEO spokesperson and take an empirical approach to evaluating what factors influence a CEO's persuasiveness and how buyers respond to advertisements, products and the firm. They explore eight credibility items:

  • Well Known
  • Believable
  • Likeable
  • Integrity
  • Knowledgeable
  • Expert
  • Influential
  • Powerful

Using these items and measuring how likely advertisements with the CEOs are likely to be persuasive and how much people like the ads, products, and firms, Reidenbach and Pitts conclude, among other things, that most CEOs do not make effective spokespeople. In order for CEOs to be effective spokespeople, they must appear knowledgeable and as experts in their fields. "There appears to be nothing inherent in the title of CEO which automatically bestows high levels of credibility in on an individual(35)."

The decision to use a CEO in advertising should also be influenced by company image. Company perception, coupled with CEO perception, should be evaluated before determining whether the CEO would be a smart addition to a marketing campaign.

While Reidenbach and Pitts published their study in 1986, long before the arrival of interactive video spokespeople, their findings should still be applied today. When deciding whether to make a CEO the video spokesperson, consider the audience. Is the CEO delivering a message to her/his employees? If so, do employees view the CEO as someone who has integrity, is knowledgeable and an expert on the company's product and services and state of affairs? Ideally, the answers to all of these questions are yes, but sometimes the answer is no, and in tenuous situations it is best to spend time evaluating the most effective approach to reaching the target audience.

Is the CEO speaking to web site visitors? If so, is the CEO well-known in the industry, and does the CEO have a positive image that can contribute to the company's messaging? If the CEO is not known as an industry, it may be beneficial to explore an employee or actor the audience can relate to rather than the CEO.

To learn more about effectiveness of CEO, visit JStor.
To learn more about leveraging interactivity and video, read The Interactive Video Wave: Examples and Expert Tips for Using Interactive Video.

Reidenbach, Eric and Pitts, Robert E. "Not All CEOs Are Created Equal as Advertising Spokespersons: Evaluating the Effective CEO Spokesperson." Journal of Advertising. 15.1.(1986):30-46. Web. 4. March. 2010.
URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4622073

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