"Celebrity endorsements should be used to push more than brands and politicians should be using them to engage voters in the political process, a marketing academic says."Yes, you read that right - "marketing academic".
So, Dr Ekant Veer, you think that these are just the sorts of voters we ought to be getting out? Because whenever there is an election I know that I always wish that there were more people cancelling out my vote because they thought they were actually voting for celebrity ballroom dancing. How else do you explain Rodney Hide's continued presence in parliament?
"However, in research to be published in the European Journal of Marketing, the former Waikato University student has found good reason to turn that assumption [that celebrities lacked credibility with voters] on its head. Using advertisements which featured celebrities and non-celebrities, he asked 316 participants whether they would vote for the British Conservative Party.
He found that while endorsements did not work on those who rated themselves as having a high level of political understanding, for those who knew or cared little about politics the effects of having a celebrity on board made them more likely to vote for the party."
The justification for using celebrities, Dr Veer says, is that they will help to raise historically low voter turnout rates. Now, I have my suspicions about his methodology; it's all very well people saying they will vote Conservative if there are celebrities, but will they bother to leave the house on the day, especially if there's good telly on? But that aside, is seeing Valerie Vili or some All Black or Edmund Hillary's corpse on TV a good reason to vote? Are the kinds of people who will be motivated out of their chair by some gurning celebrity responsible citizens? Democracy isn't a contest that countries win when everyone shows up - it's a means to an end, the least bad way of finding out what a country's government ought to be doing. Dr Veer says that figures showing only 62 per cent of people registered in Maori electorates voted in 2008. Yes, that's bad - but maybe it means we need to do more to actually connect those people with political processes and society at large, not lure them out with promises of a glimpse of a Shortland Street 'star'.
I repeat: a "marketing academic".