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Effective spokespersons in a public service announcement: National celebrities, local celebrities and victims

Mark Toncar (Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio, USA)
Jane S. Reid (Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio, USA)
Cynthia E. Anderson (Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 31 July 2007




The purpose of the paper is to investigate the consequences of using national celebrities, local celebrities and disaster victims as spokespersons in a public service radio announcement (PSA) soliciting contributions for victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Subjects were exposed to one of three public service announcements and were then asked to report their reactions to the messages. Differences in the self‐reported reactions of subjects were used to test a series of hypotheses regarding the effectiveness of the three different types of spokespersons.


The paper finds that the hurricane victim was the most credible and believable spokesperson. The national celebrity, Ashlee Simpson, was the least credible and the least believable. The local celebrity was more credible and believable than the national celebrity, but no more so than the hurricane victim.

Research limitations/implications

In this paper a small student sample was used in an experimental setting involving one set of stimuli and one set of spokespersons. It cannot be said that the results would generalize to other celebrities, non‐celebrities, video formats, or non‐experimental settings.

Practical implications

The paper shows that nonprofit agencies considering using celebrity spokespersons in PSAs should do so with caution. There is no evidence that they increase their effectiveness and, at least in the case of the national celebrity, the use of national celebrities may reduce the effectiveness of the PSA.


The paper applies the concepts developed in the study of celebrity spokespersons in advertising and applies them to PSAs. The effects of celebrity spokespersons in PSAs are not the same as in conventional advertising messages.



Toncar, M., Reid, J.S. and Anderson, C.E. (2007), "Effective spokespersons in a public service announcement: National celebrities, local celebrities and victims", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 258-275.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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