Measuring celebrity appeal

Los Angeles:

Sean Connery need not worry. The former Bond’s days as a trendsetter may be behind him, but he is one of the most recognised, trusted and appealing celebrities in the world.

This less-than-startling news comes courtesy of the latest scheme to help the advertising industry sell things to the masses: the Davie-Brown Index. The entertainment agency’s index puts former Edinburgh milkman Sir Sean at No 9 on its ranking of 1,500 celebrities.

But another Brit in Hollywood, Kate Beckinsale, does not have quite the same cachet. The star of Pearl Harbor, Underworld and a Diet Coke commercial comes in at 784. But while she is only at 888 in the awareness category, many people consider her to be someone to follow. Beckinsale is at 49 in the trendsetter category.

The top two places in the index are taken by Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey. Others at the top include Tiger Woods (the face of American Express, Buick, Nike and Tag Heuer) and Dennis Haysbert, who played the fictional President Palmer in the television series 24. Recently he appeared in advertisements for a US insurance company.

The brainchild of Davie-Brown Talent, a 20-year-old entertainment agency that books celebrities for corporate advertisers, the index aims to bring scientific know-how to the subjective world of celebrity appeal. Using a research panel of 1.5 million people, the company evaluates the worth of 1,500 celebrities based on eight criteria: appeal, notice, trendsetting, influence, trust, endorsement, aspiration and awareness.

“Our clients were asking us for feedback and for recommendations,’’ said Jeff Chown, president of Davie-Brown Talent. “There weren’t any indicators, so we thought we should do something.’’

The index aims to help advertisers calculate the suitability of a celebrity for a particular product. “A bank or financial services company is looking for someone who is strong on trust, like Connery,’’ said Chown. “It’s probably not important to them if they are trendsetters.’’

Trustworthiness — and Scottishness — also appeals to whisky makers. Connery has long stumped for Japanese whisky Suntory, and has also lent his name to Dewar’s Scotch whisky, for a price of $1million.

The index will be available to advertisers and corporate clients for a $20,000 annual subscription.

Davie-Brown also offers an express service, mapping the fortunes of celebrities in the news. Thus tracking of Winfrey showed that her trustworthiness rating went down by 8 per cent during the recent controversy over her endorsement of James Frey and his book A Million Little Pieces.

Research by the advertising and marketing giant WPP shows the number of celebrity advertisements has doubled in the past 10 years. One in four advertisements features a celebrity, compared with one in eight in 1995.

According to Chown, the index is monitoring the fortunes of Oscar hopefuls. Best actor nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman will be hoping that an Oscar will boost his flagging awareness rating. The celluloid incarnation of Truman Capote is recognised by 24.7 per cent of the US population, according to the index.