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1.1 Background of the Study

Recent trends in advertising have revealed that marketers and advertising agencies prefer the use of celebrities in the design of advert copy for Billboard advertisements (Mukherjee, 2009). This situation was informed by the fact that companies want to associate their products with a particular celebrity or group of celebrities, with the argument that the likeness associated with a celebrity can be transferred to the product or service (Mukherjee, 2009). Pingle (2004) has argued that it is hardly surprising that up to 20 percent of all advertising employs celebrities and that all evidence reinforces the fact that these campaigns are very effective in promoting the corporate, product and service brands with which they are aligned”. Thus, studies have shown that such initiatives induce high profitability for companies and their brands (Kumar, 2012; Mukherjee, 2009; Pingle, 2004). No doubt, this underscores the place of celebrity advertising in marketing of products and services. 

Celebrities are people who enjoy public recognition by a large share of a certain group of people. Whereas attributes like attractiveness, extraordinary lifestyle or special skills are just examples and specific common characteristics that are observed and celebrities generally differ from the social norm and enjoy a high degree of public awareness. According to Friedman and Friedman,(1979 cited in Mukherjee, 2009, p.6) the term Celebrity refers “to an individual who is known to the public (actor, sports figure, entertainer, etc.) for his or her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed”.

Advertising is a form of communication used to promote products and services of a company primarily to generate sales and secondly to create a brand identity, introduce new products and services, communicating a change in the existing product line. It also helps in communicating social messages to the masses (Kumar, 2012). Advertising is one of the major tools companies use to direct persuasive communications to target buyers and publics. The spenders include not only business firms but museums, professionals and social organizations that advertised their causes to various target public. Today, advertising is a multi-billion industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people and affecting billions of people’s lives worldwide. Yet, seeing as advertising clutter has increased tremendously and is more intense than ever, it is vital that companies differentiate themselves from competitors by creating even more powerful, entertaining and innovative advertising messages, as well as sponsoring different events (Narty, 2010).

In simple terms, advertising is a promotional tool for motivating and persuading consumers to buy consumer goods on sale by an agency or a business establishment. As consumer goods invade the market, so are various advertising strategies evolved to create public awareness of the latest goods in the market. In some senses, it may be said that advertising is a means of corporate image making, for advertising, while a visual point, and electronic means of sale promotion of consumer goods, is at the same time, a means of advancing the corporate progress of establishment outfits. Advertisement, according to APCON, is “a communication in the media paid for by an identifiable sponsor and directed to a target audience with the aim of imparting information about a product, service, idea or cause” (Ukwueze, 2008: 272). Kotler and Armstrong (2003) define advertising as any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or service through mass media such as newspapers, magazine, television or radio by an identified sponsor. Advertising is the best-known and most widely discussed form of promotion. Marketers use advertising for its cost-effectiveness with large audience and it also creates brand images and symbolic appeal for a company or brand. It has been established that customers are more likely to consider buying and using certain brand of what they can remember, the brand name and something about its attributes or benefits (Nartey, 2010). Kumar, (2012, p.44) defined Advertising as a form of communication used to promote products and services of a company primarily to generate sales and secondly to create a brand identity, introduce new products and services, communicating a change in the existing product line. It also helps in communicating social messages to the masses. However, other scholars have argued against advertising noting: “the problem with advertising isn’t that it creates artificial longings and needs, but that it exploits our very real and human desires”. Advertising promises women the one thing they truly want: that it will help them look the way they “should.” The concern is, this is a false promise because the “ideal” is both unrealistic and unhealthy (Kealbourn, 2000, p.60). Other scholars like Pingle (2004), have argued along this line noting that, “there is a welcome element of escapism and fantasy as consumers put on a style made famous by a particular star and in so doing they join the fan club and identify with the celebrity’s lifestyle” (pp. 32-33).

A billboard is a large outdoor advertising structure. Billboard advertising remains a very cost effective way to reach a large audience. Advertising style of Billboard advertisements are designed to catch a person's attention and create a memorable impression very quickly, leaving the reader thinking about the advertisement after they have driven past it. They have to be readable in a very short time because they are usually read while being passed by high speeds. Once the Billboard Advertising method is decided, there are three very important elements left to deal with Proper Design, Print Quality of billboards, Installation etc (Kumar, 2012).

In an age of mass media and complex new technologies, advertising has reached a new level of sophistication. Markets are saturated with consumer goods, while the target audience is equally saturated with the bait of media information geared towards the sale and promotion of consumer goods. Advertising occupies a special position within the economy of the modern society. It is not just an economic entity since it deals with ideas, attitudes and values giving them “cultural forms through its signifying practices. Advertising as a symbolic design, gives meaning to words and images. Through this process, advertising diffuses its meaning into the belief systems of the society. The advertising culture has a lot of impact or influence on what we read, what we care about, the ways we raise our children, our ideas of what is right and wrong, conduct, value. (Schudson, 1984 cited in Kang, 1997). However, advertising in the modern society significantly reflects a country’s standard of living. It helps create and sustain the demand for products and services (Olise, 2007:840).

It is clear that celebrities affect people in many ways – On a broad level via the advertising media (movies, TV, newspapers, radio and magazines) and how the media feed off the cult of celebrity, and on a more personal level, celebrities influence how people, especially women, look, dress, and live. One key criticism of celebrity- advertising in billboards in recent times is its tendency to misrepresent the celebrities that offer themselves for these advertising packages. This misrepresentation may create wrong perception of the celebrities used in these adverts which may in effect, reduce patronage for the product. This study therefore, seeks to examine public perception of the use of celebrities in billboard advertisement in Nigeria. See below examples of billboard adverts:


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1.2       Statement of the Problem

In today’s competitive market, the use of celebrities in billboard advertisement can make a difference. Using celebrities in billboards is on the increase and this can be seen in most of the commercial cities in the country. In Nigeria, most of the organizations now make use of celebrities in billboard advertisement to aid the sale of their products/services.

            However, various scholars have argued that the use of celebrities does not have any positive influence on the sale of goods/services, while others have argued that advertisers believe that using celebrities to market a product/service will foster in the mind of the consumer(s) a match or connection between the celebrity endorser and the endorsed brand. Yet, others have argued that using celebrities in adverts can enhance consumers’ buying decision and their loyalty to a product or service; they further argue that the pictures of celebrities have a psychological effect on consumers and their patronage of a product or services. On the other hand, Edegoh, (2013) have argued that the use of attractive models in billboard advertising sometimes creates distraction as audience focus their attention on the models rather than the advertised product. These contending positions have remained unresolved. As a result, there is a gap in the literature regarding public’s perception of the use of celebrities in billboard advertising. It should be noted that, an understanding of the public’s perception of the use of celebrities in billboard advertising is critical to a discourse on the differentials in outcomes of adverts that use celebrities and those that do not and may also be useful in examining the influence of the use of celebrities in bill board advertising.

It is based on these divides in opinions that this research is set out to examine how audience have perceived the use of celebrities in billboard advertising among people in Southern Nigeria which means the cluster of Igbo speaking states in Nigeria.

1.3       Objectives of Study

The main objectives of this study are:

1.      To ascertain the extent to which Nigerians are exposed to billboard advertisements with celebrities as part of the copy design.

2.      To identify what actually attracts the public to billboard advertisements that have celebrities as part of the copy design.

3.      To find out the perception of the people concerning the use of these celebrities in billboard advertising.

4.      To find out whether the use of celebrities has any influence on consumers’ buying behaviour.

1.4       Research Questions

Based on the above objectives, the following research questions are formulated to guide the study:

1.      To what extent are Nigerians exposed to billboard advertisements with celebrities’ as part of the copy design?

2.      What actually attracts the public to billboard advertisement that have celebrities as part of the copy design?

3.      What is the perception of the people concerning the use of these celebrities in billboard advertising?

4.      What influences have the use of celebrities on billboard advertisement has any on consumers’ buying behaviour?

1.5       Significance of study

The professional significance of this study is that it will help advertising agencies to understand what the public perception is concerning the use of celebrities in billboard advertisements in Nigeria. By this, advertising agencies would be well informed in subsequent copy designs depending on the outcome of this perception study.

            Academically, this study will serve as an empirical base for future researchers who would want to use this in development of related studies.

            Theoretically, this study will provide the empirical explanation, understanding and application of the theory used in this study.

1.6       Scope of Study

This work focuses on the perception of the people concerning the use of celebrities in billboard advertising in Southern Nigeria. This excludes other types of advertising.

1.7       Definition of Terms

The following terms are operationalised within the context of this study:

Public Perception:

This refers to organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to fabricate a mental representation through the process of transduction, which sensors in the body transform signals from the environment into encoded neural signals.

Billboard: This is a large outdoor advertising structure, typically found in high traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. Billboards present large advertisements to passing pedestrians and drivers. Typically showing large, ostensibly witty slogans, and distinctive visuals.

Advertising: It is an act or activity of marketing and promotion; promoting, drawing attention to (generally in order to sell goods or services); act of publicly announcing

Southern Nigeria: Is the division of Nigeria into North and South. Southern Nigeria comprises southeast, southwest and south-south. The southeast region is occupied by Igbo speaking group in Nigeria. This region is made up of five states which are Anambra, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu States. The southwest is made up of Oyo, Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Ogun States. They are the Yoruba ethnic group. The south-south is made up of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, and Delta States. The are occupied with diverse ethnic groups like Efik, Itshekiri, Ijaw etc.

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