Celebrity Advocacy, Social Media and Development

28/02/2013 12:06 | Updated 27 April 2013

I was preparing a lecture the other day on the use of social media by International NGOs. During my research I watched a large number of videos on Youtube and I noticed how few views many of the celebrity videos had received.

One good example is a group of videos called "What could you buy with 50 pence" made by ActionAid with celebrities including Gabby Logan, Katherine Kelly, Sarah Alexander, Fay Ripley and Mark Watson. Now I'm not big on celebrities and I don't even know who two of these people are, however, what I noticed was how each video had received hardly any views. Mainly the early hundreds, some lower. I wondered to myself - how much does it cost to produce these videos? I don't know the answer. I presume that the celebrities offer their services free of charge. I'm sure they do. But do they get expenses? If so, how much does it cost to get five "celebs" into a studio? How much did the film crew get? How much was editing etc. At the end of the day - was it worth it?

I then found a video by Robbie Williams. (I've heard of Robbie Williams). I was amazed that it had less than 5000 views (at the time of writing). Surely with Robbie's fan base it would attract more views and shares than this via social media? Obviously not. Again, how much did it cost to shoot? Don't get me wrong it may be very cheap. But what is the return on investment (ROI)? What is the main objective of the video? Robbie's film has a clear call to action to donate money to Soccer Aid. The film is also educational. Did it meet it's objectives?

A study by Thrall et al (2008) believes that the "make noise - make news - make change" model of celebrity advocacy is no longer successful in reaching a substantial proportion of the population due to fragmentation of media. The spectacular growth of social media has only added to this fragmentation .

So, in a world bombarded with social media messages I've started to wonder - does celebrity endorsement for International Development have the same power any more?


Thrall, A T et al (2008) Star Power: Celebrity Advocacy and the Evolution of the Public Sphere, International Journal of Press/Politics 2008 13:362