Celebrity Advocacy, Social Media and International Development

I have always wondered how much attention celebrity news and news sites like The VIP Roll get. But on the other hand, it isn’t always reflected on celebrity videos. I was preparing a lecture the other day on the use of social media by International NGOs. During my research I watched a lot 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 2 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 5 “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 on the UNICEF channel. 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. Maybe UNICEF are happy with the results? Again I don’t know the answer.

So after seeing these videos and plenty more I started to wonder – Is celebrity endorsement for International Development a good thing? I was then kindly sent a case study on UNICEF about their campaign #SahelNOW and how it was endorsed by Selena Gomez. Her video has had nearly 50,000 views. She has nearly 14 million followers on Twitter and each Tweet about the campaign was retweeted around 5,000 times. I won’t go into all the detail here but the campaign was a resounding success. If you want to see more stats there’s a great slideshare – #SahelNOW: Sound the Alarm, One Million Children at Risk.

So celebrity endorsement does work, esecially when you have an ‘A’ lister who’s dating Justin Beiber (at the time). There are plenty of other success stories about celebrity endorsement via social media. You just have to look at #Kony2012.

Anyway, today I was talking to my colleague about celebrity endorsement and he kindly guided me to some work by Dan Brockington who researches Celebrity and Development. His blog is well worth perusing. The research isn’t complete yet but there are some early findings, one of which is that celebrities are often the winners of charity advocacy. That’s a discussion for another day….

Development organisations and charities use Thunderclap to amplify message

Thunderclap describes itself as “the first ever crowdspeaking platform the helps users be heard by saying something together.” The online tool allows a single message to be shared at exactly the same time, “flash-mob style” via Twitter and Facebook. This amplifies the message and allows for a viral tidal wave of “sharability”. Generic advertising has been proven to be effective when everybody sees it at the same time, sometimes referred to as the Superbowl effect. However social media by nature is much more random with people sharing messages at different times of the day and often on different days. This means that the impact is often lost and the messages do not achieve viral status. Thunderclap is a very simple, but clever tool which enables organisations with enough initial supporters more chance of exposure through trends locally, nationally and globally. Thunderclap has been developed by a US advertising agency Droga5 and it’s currently FREE!

A few examples of international development organisations, NGOs and charities who have used Thunderclap

Possibly the most effective use of Thunderclap was by the UN to promote World Humanitarian Day. They aimed to reach one billion people with their campaign and achieved it in within 20 minutes of the launch. Like other Thunderclaps they had the backing of a celebrity, no other than Beyonce performing her song “I was Here” in the UN General Assembly. It was also supported by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Shakira and many more. You can read more about the success of their Thunderclap on Mashable.

The Royal British Legion recently used Thunderclap innovatively to promote a two minute silence, their message read “I’ll be remembering the fallen at 11 o’clock #2MinuteSilence #LestWeForget,” will be sent at 09:00 GMT on Remembrance Sunday.

Another success was Oxfam’s Stop #landgrabs campaign which had a social reach of 691,779 and aimed to raise awareness of land grabs and target the World Bank to stop funding them.

On 1st December for World Aids Day, Durex will donate one condom for each HIV message shared. Their target is to reach 2.5 million condoms. Read more about the 1share1condom campaign and see how you can potentially save a life with the power of one single tweet or facebook like.