How E-Score Rates the Stars for Marketers

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Who: Gerry Philpott, president-CEO of E-Poll Market Research.
Gerry Philpott, president-CEO of E-Poll Market Research.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Philpott’s company provides marketers with a rating to gauge the value of celebrities used in an ad campaign or entertainment programming.

Credentials: Mr. Philpott started E-Poll in 1997, “to capitalize on the ability to reach large groups of entertainment consumers and deliver meaningful information to an industry that was facing dramatic changes,” he said. Before that, he worked for ABC Television as director of affiliate relations in New York, and then ran the West Coast sales operations for Multimedia Entertainment as VP-sales in Los Angeles, selling such shows as “Donahue,” “Sally Jessy Raphael” and “Jerry Springer.”

What does your celebrity database provide clients? “E-Score gives clients a single resource for in-depth celebrity ratings by consumers 13 and over. It offers online access to over 2,300 celebrity profiles. Our key measurements are awareness [name and face], appeal and up to 46 personality attributes respondents can select from. In addition, clients can view very illuminating open-end comments from respondents about each celebrity.”

Why is there a need for such a service? “Our clients use E-Score to select a spokesperson, make casting decisions, identify emerging talent, track their current talent over time and compare celebrities to their peers. With the ability to reach respondents quickly and easily via the Internet, we can collect and store a wealth of information and provide clients’ low-cost, subscription-based access.”

Does it provide a measurement like a Q score rating? What's the difference? “E-Score provides an awareness and appeal score as does Q, but that’s where the similarities end. Our service goes much deeper. We provide two dimensions of unaided awareness -- name and face. You can’t view celebrity awareness in a vacuum. There are often dramatic differences in scores based on face recognition and name recognition. The same applies to attributes assigned to the celebrity by the consumer. For instance, respondents can select descriptors such as ‘trustworthy,’ ‘overexposed,’ ‘influential,’ ‘funny’ and ‘insincere’ that they feel best describe each celebrity. The attributes allow us to find out why or why not a celebrity is appealing. The other key difference is that we are in the field every week as the public’s perception of a certain celebrity can change on a dime if a positive or negative event happens.”

Who are your clients? “All the broadcast networks, major studios and many top tier advertising and PR agencies. In addition, many consumer brands want to get directly involved in the process of identifying the right celebrity for their brands and purchase an annual subscription to the database.”

What works best when integrating a celebrity in a campaign? “When the targeted consumer immediately gets the connection between the celebrity and the brand. Essentially, when it makes sense and they hear the message. The bonus comes into play when the celebrity component lifts the perception of the brand.”

What doesn't? “When it makes no sense. How many times have you seen a spot with a celebrity endorser and said, ‘What the heck was that?’ It just detracts from the message and, at worst, it makes the celebrity more noticeable than the brand and gives them the spotlight.”

Do you have different measurements for voice or appearances? “We could easily measure awareness and appeal of voice by integrating a sound file into a custom online survey. Also, our clients have the ability to sort celebrities by category such as ‘voice-over talent’ or ‘newsmakers’ to see how their picks line up with others in that category. You can then line the top picks up side by side and compare the attributes that work best with the voice-over message or the event where they will appear.”

How about different demographics like age, race, gender? “Each E-Score report breaks out results along key age breaks, income, education, race and gender. In addition, clients can search online across any of these components to identify specific celebrities that have awareness and appeal with particular groups.”

Do foreign territories value celebrity involvement differently? “‘Celebrity’ is a universal language. Look at what they pay talent in Japan as an example. Also, I just heard Bob Geldof speak at a conference and he told of how he saw kids in the most remote parts of Africa listening to and wearing the t-shirts for Eminem and 50 Cent.”

With celebrities now appearing in numerous campaigns, is there a chance for oversaturation and celebrity involvement becoming less valuable? “Celebrities and brands have been tied together since before radio. Again, it goes to the underlying point of how you are trying to position your brand or message. If you want to humanize it and make it relevant and noticeable, then the right celebrity can impact the message. Again, as in the what doesn’t work example, the perception of oversaturation comes into play when consumers see something too often that just doesn’t fit or annoys them.”

How do you measure success when using celebrities in a campaign? “From a market research standpoint, ad recall and perception. From the brand managers standpoint, ROI.

Have you been surprised at which celebrities connect more with consumers than others? “Not really. Celebrities become famous because they put it all out there. What some put out is a lot more attractive and interesting than what others do. What impresses me is longevity. For instance, Oprah continues to amaze me with her continued ability to inspire and influence, and at the same time, stay fresh. The same could be said for Johnny Carson.”

Who ranks highest on your list? Who's the most appealing among consumers? “It really depends on what you are ranking. If we are talking about awareness, naturally our President Bush scores high as do Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise. For appeal, it’s people like Tom Hanks or Robin Williams who score the highest. If we look at an individual attribute like ‘influential’ you have people like Russell Simmons, Bill Cosby, Lance Armstrong, Donald Trump and, of course, Oprah Winfrey.

Branded entertainment can take many different forms. How do you define it? “When a consumer is given a chance to make the mental connection between some element in a TV program or movie and a specific brand. Whether it is a Coke glass in front of Paula Abdul or a Heineken in ‘Austin Powers,’ a situation was created so that someone might remember that association after the event. What works and when and with what brands is a whole 'nother Oprah.”

What do you do on your downtime? “Deprogram my kids.”