‘Necro Advertising’ – the pros and cons [new study]

They are known, in advertising circles as ‘Delebs’ (deceased celebrities) . . .

“Unbeknown to them, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen and Gene Kelly, among others, recently presented products in ads for high- and low-equity brands.”

A new paper in the Journal of Business Ethics describes experiments which have, for the first time, examined whether deleb ads might be a good idea or not.

The investigators conclude that :

“The results of two experimental studies show that a low-equity brand is more likely to be perceived as unethical when using necro-advertising since consumers have limited knowledge about these brands. Conversely, our findings confirm how a high level of equity prevents from the aforementioned adverse effects since these brands’ assets send a credible signal about their capability to get approval from a deceased celebrity’s estate for the use of its image. “

See: An Ethical Perspective on Necro-Advertising: The Moderating Effect of Brand Equity, Journal of Business Ethics, April 2019, Volume 155, Issue 4, pp 1077–1099.

BONUS: A piece in the UK industry monthly Campaign recalls a 2007 deleb ad. for Dr. Martens boots (DMs).

“Dr Martens’ agency Saatchi & Saatchi took the ill-advised decision to used deceased Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in an ad that depicted him in heaven. Wearing DMs. The ad, which appeared in music mag ‘Fact’, led to the agency being fired by the client. Another execution featuring dead Sex Pistol Sid Vicious didn’t help.”