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Lakshmi Narayan

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Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?

I am doing a dissertation on this topic and would like people to give an opinion on what they think of the question. I study PR so anything that relates back to media, how the publics attitude is swayed and what happens if the celebrity and the cause don't align, and does the cause push the celeb profile or the other way around. Case studies that I've looked at are- Bob Geldof-Live Aid, Joanna Lumley-Gurkhas , Sean Penn-Haiti and Angelina Jolie- any campaign she has been affiliated with.

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  • Apr 20 2013: The phrasing of the question - "the celebrity or the cause" - biases the discussion towards an either/or analysis. Is it not possible that both ultimately benefit?
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      Apr 20 2013: Thank you for your comment. In fact the conclusion that I'm coming to while writing this dissertation is that there is mutual benefit. The cause and the celebrity are pushing the profile of each other. Although the problem that is being faced is within media, whereby they are pushing the story of the celebrity rather than the cause, which is why the celebrity is gaining more attention than the cause itself.
  • Apr 21 2013: Hey Lakshmi,
    I think you should look at both 'Celebrity Activism' and 'Cause Promotion' by a celebrity as two separate things. For me activism is when a person truly believes in a cause and works relentlessly to further that cause and, is willing to take risks and put at stake his or her career and image. I don't know of any such real celebrity activists in India. There are a lot of retired celebrities who take to activism here, and very clearly to gain mileage out of such association. Most others are brand ambassadors - mostly film or sports celebrities for whom selling a cause is like selling any other product. There are few who genuinely believe in the cause and lend their name/voice/face. But most others support a cause if they see a definite benefit in the association. While it is a fact that their endorsement of the cause does help in reaching a large number of people, and helps raise awareness - it also goes without saying the celebrity gains a huge amount of public respect and goodwill - which is often more than the contribution they make to the cause. It is their PR or CSR effort since most celebrities have anyway turned themselves into brands. I think it would also be a good idea to look at the causes these celebrities pick up - you will find only a handful - mostly high-profile causes or causes with big money. There are more children who die of diarrhea or Mal-nutrition in India than HIV, but who is there to stand up for them? There are many many seemingly small issues, which have a huge bearing on our lives, but they don't get the support they deserve. Where are the celebrities?
    Prem Aman
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      Apr 22 2013: Thanks Prem for your comment. I think I know of an Indian celebrity who does philanthropy for the right reasons and that is Vivek Oberoi. Your idea about celebrities supporting HIV over other problems in India is interesting. I think because we're living in this consumer/ brand obsessed world that even causes are becoming very brand orientated so some of the causes are more 'attractive' (worst word to use when talking about awful issues) than others. Therefore there is no benefit for the celebrity to be attached to the causes that are less appealing. I think this is very much determined by the media too. The famine in Ethiopia only gained Bob Geldof's attention when BBC journalist Michael Buerk covered the story in 1983, before that it wasn't talked about.
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        Apr 23 2013: There is a established rule in powerful society, neither propose nor oppose real social cause just ignore. Use of celebrities is a kind of attraction. If Media, donor, academician like you pay attention to a cause and not harmful to criminal problem creators they are agree with drama. Economic distributive system is a root cause of all pseudo social cause if someone speak on it, he/she will be no more celebrity, LOL. Henry Ford in 1922 say - It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe, there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. How many celebrities or academician, media or donor are examining this statement or financing the issue?
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    Apr 17 2013: Oh, and BTW, if I get off track, off topic, or give feedback that isn't useful, feel free to let me know.
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      Apr 19 2013: No not at all...for me, the more I think about and the more ideas that are thrown at me the better as I can choose the right avenue to go down without worrying that I might have missed something.
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    Apr 24 2013: For Angelina Jolie and her current efforts to take action against rape in war zones, did Jolie "hop aboard" to show support, or did she go to the G8 to put pressure on the G8 governments to take action on the issue? From one perspective it looks like a PR stunt, but if she did the other, she could have been using her influence as a celebrity to put pressure on the G8 to take some kind of action. The sudden "materialization" of millions of $ could then be argued to be a "fair" result.
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    Apr 24 2013: For the Jenkins/Penn Haiti Relief Organization, appears to be legit. Do you consider Diana Sanela Jenkins to be a celebrity? I think the difference between how Penn publicizes his involvement compared to how Jenkins publicizes her involvement is interesting. Penn certainly gets more exposure in the headlines, but that could be because Penn is an actor and opts for a higher profile, while Jenkins could be opting to keep a lower profile.

    And in relation to the main question "Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?" in the case of Penn-Haiti, both sides appear to be benefiting equally.
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    Apr 24 2013: Lakshmi,

    You're right about those figures... it could be better to document the achievements of your case studies and reference that instead. It could save you time and communicate more information.

    "I think I need to compare charities that rely heavily on celebrity with others that don't."
    How about for this idea you had, (say for J/P HRO as an ex) maybe you could show what the Redcross achieved/raised in funds. Then to show the "effectiveness" of the celebrity backed charity, state what achievements the charity, in this case J/P HRO, did in addition to what the Redcross raised. Instead of just comparing the two, you might be able to use "this" to prove or disprove the "effectiveness" of the celebrity charity. (Note: This could only apply to some of your cases and not all of them.)
  • Apr 23 2013: God save me from the inane celeb culture.
  • Apr 23 2013: Celebrities prove that even negative publicity is still publicity.. they gain either way by creating controversy that brings them exposure or by appearing benevolent and charismatic.

    The Cause itself might lose or gain credibility depending on the celebrity and their form of involvement but in most cases the cause does gain exposure and credibility from having a celebrity endorsing it..
  • Apr 22 2013: Thanks for the reply

    Is your Naomi Campbell supported PETA example supports the thesis?

    PETA may have been damaged by Campbell's endorsement - but was Campbell damaged or was her reputation/brand reinforced?
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      Apr 23 2013: I'm not sure I'll be using that example in depth but honestly I don't think Naomi Campbell cares about her reputation much as she seems to do 'bad' things all the time, but is still a successful albeit ageing model. She has a good publicist, even with the blood diamond issue at the Hague, she was in the papers for that time and now everyone seems to have forgotten about it. PETA is an organisation that doesn't choose it's celebrity affiliation carefully as they realised early on that a celebrity in their ad campaign would make a huge statement and they've carried on with that PR/Advertising model. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, that's their motto!
    • Apr 23 2013: Pity she (Campbell) doesn't treat her staff better, but i suppose peta dont care about that.
  • Apr 22 2013: Thanks
    I don't know what is your exact topic for dissertation but If its limited up to other World except India then results may be exactly what you feel, but if you are including India also then definitely you will meet strange data.
    You can ask for any related topic I will try with my friend in University to study practically.
    dinesh
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    Apr 21 2013: This is a tricky question. On the surface of it, you have the question of "Does the celebrity gain more publicity and fame for supporting a cause? Does the cause gain more recognition from the celebrity which brings in more support?" But beneath that lays another question that needs to be answered: "Does the charity, aid group, or activist organization do things that actually alleviate the problems they claim to be about solving? Or do they make them worse? Even if the celebrity who is endorsing an organization is sincere in their desire to help, to gain nothing for themselves, is their support of the cause detrimental in that the group they have chosen to support, even those with good intentions, are doing things that only result in making themselves and their supporters feel good about themselves and do not actually solve the problem?

    There is at least one TEDtalk that I am aware of, on the value failure and learning from it, David Damberger's talk about learning from failure does highlight this problem (http://www.ted.com/talks/david_damberger_what_happens_when_an_ngo_admits_failure.html). Michael Marin's book "The Road To Hell: The Ravaging Effects Of Foreign Aid and International Charity" talks about the same problem, where groups is good intentions go in to a village, do their project and either never come back to maintain it, or the project itself causes greater problems (in one story villages fought over control of a well.)

    So if a celbrity is using their fame to generate awareness for a "cause" that is the project of an aid group, and that aid group gains large amounts of funding for their projects, you still have the question of "Does what they Charity Aid Group actually does alleviate the problem? Or is it merely a fascade to make contributors and workers, and administrators, and celebrities feel good about themselves?" If if turns out to be the later, then it definitely benefits the celebrity more, because the problem is not solved, it's perpetuated.
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      Apr 23 2013: Thanks for this idea. This would be good for my conclusion I think. Even if the celebrity is involved is the cause doing enough action to solve the issue at hand? The answer to that is tricky. More often than not people who donate are not told where there money ends up.
  • Apr 21 2013: To sort out the genuine from the most self interested will be difficult. Even people such as Mother Teresa, with great contributions to the poor of India, had in fact ? secrets lurking in the closet. Such things as political biases, power, self interest, conflict of interest, race or religious biases are never ever apparent. Sometimes it may the thing that clinches a big contracts . Not every one operates with a transparent profiles. I am sure there are some really genuine souls who want to help because they themselves have made it big. e.g Warren Buffet
    The Mahatma ( Gandhi) was the most self less human being any century has ever seen . He may not have been a celanthropist in the true sense of the word , yet any publicity or marketing globally, he attracted brought India its independence. His was based on very severe personal scarifices, He was without a doubt a visionary leader who asked nothing for himself. He was exemplary . He was not dressed in Armani suits etc, but a dhoti for which he suffered ridicule in Britain from the then prime minister who called him a ' naked fakir.' Imagine walking around in a dhoti half frozen just to regain India's diminishing cotton industry which had been diverted to UK. One may or may not agree with all of his philosophy or concepts etc, yet one has to acknowledge that he himself personally courted no real advantage politically, materially or in any other way. He was a true spiritual leader, a highly developed soul perhaps, which would explain the reason for his selfless scarifice. All free Indians everywhere owe him a lifetime of gratitude and thanks for what he achieved, independence for 'FREE INDIA.' All that through non violence and passive movement . He was a great man and he was an Indian.
    Unintentionally perhaps Gandhi achieved a kind of 'global brand in leadership'. It was not in a commercial sense but rather in a spiritual sense and no less worthy.
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    Apr 21 2013: a true act of charity has no face, expects nothing in return but to do good for another.
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    Apr 21 2013: Hey Lakshmi,

    Taking a look back at some of the ideas you expressed earlier:

    "I am looking at celebrities who have a bad reputation in the eyes of the media being associated with charities e.g. Lindsay Lohan- child trafficking in India, which seems like a complete PR stunt to raise her profile..."

    and more recent

    "I agree that in the end both the celebrity and the cause benefit, but yes I am trying to figure out if one tops the other slightly."

    I've been thinking, do you think there is any way to quantify any of this stuff? I'm not guaranteeing that it would help any, but would it be possible to find out how much money or donations the "child trafficking in India charity" raised before and after Lindsay Lohan's involvement compared to how much name exposure and movie/TV offers she received before and after "announcing" her support for "child trafficking in India charity"?
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      Apr 22 2013: This is exactly what I need to find out for my through my research and then analyse this but those figures are always kept so quiet. I think I need to compare charities that rely heavily on celebrity with others that don't.
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        Apr 22 2013: Yes, good. Hmmm... "those figures are kept quiet..." at first I wondered "why?" and I thought maybe some charities think it is in their best interest to not share that information. Hmmm... sounds shady. And really, a charity, which is supposed to be a for a "good cause" shouldn't have anything to hide. Anyways, I'll see what I can dig up, if I can dig up anything!

        And I think you are right to "compare charities that rely heavily on celebrity with others that don't." Comparing the results between the two should be worth it. You'll see what you find when you get there! :-)
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    Apr 21 2013: Both.
  • Apr 21 2013: It's all Appeal to Illegitimate Authority. If people could think, celebrity endorsement wouldn't make any difference. I'm surprised no one here mentioned http://www.charitynavigator.org . Perhaps many TED users expect government to solve problems rather than them actually personally giving to charity. CN has a celebrity list - http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=topten.detail&listid=22
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      Apr 22 2013: Thanks for the links, they are really helpful. I think society generally wants the Government to solve problems. In England the political parties always say they are going to solve them therefore there is a reliance on them to do it. That is why we are in a bad economic state, due to the benefits schemes and the NHS. I also feel like people can't think for themselves because we are bombarded with media, and a lot of imagery and unfortunately we are living in a society where celebrities are considered to be opinion leaders.
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    Apr 21 2013: It is a matter of flow of energy. If celebrity voluntarily join the action it will support the movement. If organizers hire a celebrity and spend money on him/her to attract people it mean that is not a real cause. Sponsors are forcing to attract society to a false cause.
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      Apr 22 2013: Thanks for your comment. I don't know how the public can ever know if someone is hired. A lot of these celebrities are actors and they can 'act' very well for the cause if there is money involved.
  • Apr 20 2013: Very good question. Mutual benefits of course for major causes such as Action Aid. However are there many true philanthropist amongst celebrities who will do this without something to gain? I doubt it. They get short and long term benefits from world wide publicity, status, credibility and popularity which serves as their marketing tool They become household names some of them overnight as global brands . That's a lot of rewards for very little in some cases. Some of them have little sympathy with ethical , moral issue indeed EHR without naming names. Of course there are exceptions to the rule always.
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      Apr 21 2013: Thanks for the addition to the conversation. The only example of a true 'celanthropist' (celebrity/philanthropist) is Bill Gates. He doesn't need to gain notoriety. I think you've hit the nail on the head with celebrities needing to be a global brand to be successful and being a charitable person is just one facet that they need to deliver on to gain the status and credibility. I wonder how society can figure out the genuine from the not so?!
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        Apr 21 2013: "I wonder how society can figure out the genuine from the not so?!" Another great question.

        I think part of the answer to this question involves how much "time and effort" (ex: time spent promoting/raising awareness, fundraising/money raised, amount of donations given, etc) celebrities put towards the causes they are supporting, and the "consistency" of the celebrity (ex: Naomi Campbell was not very consistent, while Bill Gates on the other hand appears to be more consistent). There is definitely more to the answer than just these two aspects, but I believe they play an important role in how society determines which celebrities are being genuine about their support for causes and which are not.
  • Apr 20 2013: Both benefit of course

    But is the word Ultimately a substitute for Most?

    I believe Bob Geldof held affection with the public by pushing his cause till it nearly made him bankrupt - an obvious example.

    Less obvious might be Jamie Oliver (top TED talk) who pushes causes just a little past the point where accusations of "self serving" could reasonably be thrown at him. Jamie also risks failure, picking tough marginal causes rather than causes easy to get behind.

    A risk to reputation is a good indication that the cause benefits more than the celebrity
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      Apr 21 2013: Thanks for your input. I like your idea of the risk of reputation, but this could be the other way around too. Celebrities can damage the reputation of the cause they are supporting when they make wrong personal choices. For example when Naomi Campbell supported PETA and then a few years later wore fur in public.
      I agree that in the end both the celebrity and the cause benefit, but yes I am trying to figure out if one tops the other slightly.
  • Apr 19 2013: Dear Lakshmi

    You are doing dissertation - good.

    It depends upon the celebrity individual & cause behind as well the most important thing is - what sort of person a celebrity is in real sense, his Personality should not contradict the cause.

    If Activism is from heart & for heart or have a sense of moral cause it will effect both here it is directly proportional to each other in this case.

    It also depend if the celebrity is hired or he voluntarily came forward for the cause.

    Being a road or stage performer I felt like this way. At present definitions are changed, the people with moral ethic are no more now what we are looking in our surrounding if it has charismatic factor we impress. Every celebrity has an impact on society (less or more depends upon his image).

    IF cause don't align it will not work or laid much effect on the cause rather cease to proceed further. In India
    when serial Ramayana came quickly after the serial the
    Character like Sita, Ravan becomes the MP in India.

    But at present I don't think it will happen again.

    The strength of Celebrity has also increased since last many decades so the definition has shun its grace also.

    Oh sorry its too long.
    dinesh
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      Apr 20 2013: Thank you for your comment. Your ideas are interesting!
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    Apr 19 2013: I think it depends on how you define the the benefits that are on offer for the celebrity. If the benefits are of monetary type, then you may find it harder to convey that idea; celebrities, especially the ones you've listed, wouldn't seem to be in need of financial reward from such a campaign, whether directly or indirectly. Hence I think the discourse maybe more of a culture of idolatry; the self obssessed need from the celebrity to attain an even higher celebrity status. It could be interesting to reseach the psychology of such a subject and the impact it has on mass popular culture (as they clearly would have no effect on the situation they are temporarily representing) and then distinguish whether it has a knock on effect of pop culture morality, i.e. Angelina Jolie supported gun ownership, would her fans take the same stance, and if so, would this is put them in opposition against a different celebrity fan base who took the opposing view? I'm sure you could tie this in with a lot of political and religious rituals and hence making the essay a lot more aesthetically encompassing.
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      Apr 20 2013: Thank you for you suggestions on research. My main research headings are Celebrity Activism and Celanthropists (Celebrity/Philanthropists), Celebrity culture in modern society and Persuasion theories as they all relate back to my PR degree. Psychology comes into the persuasion heading so I have taken a look into that topic.
  • Apr 19 2013: Attaching a celebrity to a cause is a great way to gain exposure, obviously, the trendier the better.

    I recently discovered the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media:
    http://www.seejane.org
    I think this cause has found a good balance between 'utilizing' the celebrity and making a strong point without the use of a famous name.

    Your question also made me think of the story of Marylin Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald. Marylin led a cause on her own, by her own initiative, which was dependent on her celerity status. It seems a small price to pay for a great cause.
    http://groovenotes.org/2012/03/22/how-ella-fitzgerald-and-marilyn-monroe-changed-each-others-lives/
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      Apr 19 2013: Thanks for your comment and the links Lizanne. I think the above examples are celebrities who are doing something for a cause because they are passionate. There are a lot of celebrities that use a cause to enhance their image to elevate their credibility like the Kim K's and Lindsay Lohan's of the world.
      • Apr 19 2013: I tend to see the silver lining in just about everything... which isn't always a good thing.
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          Apr 19 2013: That's better than being a cynic, like me. I've been tainted by working and studying in media and public relations.
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    Apr 16 2013: Lakshmi,

    As how to view "does the cause push the celeb profile or the other way around?" it might be beneficial to view this as a positive or negative feedback cycle.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feedback
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    Apr 14 2013: What about activists who become celebrities from their activism? I'm thinking of Jacqueline Novogratz.

    Last month or so Forbes magazine had an article on her and the Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture capital fund she started and is CEO of. She is also here on TED. She has a number of talks that might be worth looking in to.

    But this got me thinking... which is more productive: to be a celebrity and to "participate" in activist causes, or to create your own activist organization and become a celebrity from the activism you have done?
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      Apr 16 2013: That's interesting Casey. This reminds me of 'Kony 2012'. The person behind it Jason Russell became an overnight sensation after the youtube video went viral. Both him and his son gained such excessive media attention that I feel that the message got lost although I'm sure everyone knows Joseph Kony's name now but maybe they can't tell you what his crimes are. Russell became a 'celebrity' of sorts overnight and resulted in him having a breakdown from all the attention (which obviously reached the headlines). However I think both America and Africa have some sort of plan to capture Kony which shows that action is taking place but there has been no media follow up.

      So in answer to which is more productive, I couldn't say really, because there are pros and cons to this as with anything.
      I interviewed a PR professional yesterday for my dissertation and their thoughts on Celebrity Activism were positive because society is looking for someone to relate to and to give a more human side to all the brands that are being thrown at us everyday.
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        Apr 16 2013: "So in answer to which is more productive, I couldn't say really, because there are pros and cons to this as with anything." Good answer!

        And also, productivity could be determined by what the goal is. Being more productive could be to build up ones image, as you mentioned with the case of Lindsay Lohan because that is the way it appears, or with the case of Angelina Jolie on the issue of war zone rape, I honestly believe she is trying to push for support for the cause, but the media "dropped the ball" and is more interested in selling a story (in Jolie's case coverage from the media has been less or not productive at all).

        It doesn't seem to matter whether the celebrity is a seasoned veteran (Angelina Jolie) or new to stardom (Cameron Russell) and what they're intentions are, the media appears to want to focus on the celebrity for their (the media's) own benefit.

        That PR professional's views are interesting...
        How many more interviews from PR professionals are you going to do? I don't know how PR professionals do business... I guess some work within corporations, are there PR agencies? Are some PR professionals for-profit, are there some that do non-profit?
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          Apr 18 2013: I have interviewed one PR professional so far and have one more to go next week. I have interviewed someone who is director of a charity and I have interviewed a former BBC news editor and have two more journalists to interview. It's so good to get anyone else's opinion on this matter. Would you mind me using some of your ideas for my dissertation? I would obviously make sure that you are completely anonymous.

          In answer to you question about the PR industry, it's such a broad industry that a lot of people aren't that aware of because it's a relatively new profession that stems from marketing. There is corporate PR as you said which does all the daily PR stuff but also has to think of crisis and issue management. There are PR agencies, so for smaller companies or ones that don't have the budget to spend on in house PR outsource the work. These agencies have diversifies as well. There are agencies that are more strategic, ones that are creative and now more and more digital PR agencies that focus on social media communication etc. There are agencies that do non profit work too. I used to work in Fashion PR before I started my degree but now I want to go into consumer PR and then specialise in creative/experiential events.

          I like your thought about the 'media dropping the ball'. So even if the objective of the communications plan was to get the story out there through various media outlets, you can't control how the media might manipulate what you have given them for their viewership/readership benefits.
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        Apr 16 2013: In regards to Angelina Jolie, because she has been involved with multiple activist causes, it would be interesting to note whether or not she uses the same approach to building a support for a cause. It could bring into play the idea of a "learning curve" on the celebrities part. Did the celebrity use the same strategy for promoting a cause, did they try different strategies for different cause they have supported, and which was most effective at supporting the cause, and which were better at building image?
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        Apr 19 2013: "Would you mind me using some of your ideas for my dissertation?"

        Thank you for asking! :-) By all means Lakshmi, please do. The ideas I provided are for you to use however you see fit and are intended to help you and your research. ;-)
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    Apr 14 2013: Further proving your argument "the cause is always secondary and never makes it to the title headline."

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/04/11/angelina-jolie-addresses-g8-summit-london/2073351/

    USA Today Headline = Jolie + G8 + 0 mention of cause
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      Apr 16 2013: Not only that, there is no mention in the story about what they are going to do to help. Again just an awareness building exercise.
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        Apr 16 2013: "Not only that, there is no mention in the story about what they are going to do to help."

        I noticed that too! In one article I read it was brought up how much money governments were going to "dump"on the issue. But there wasn't much on how the money would be used. Hmmm... maybe someone will right something up on that in the opinions section...

        or...

        because I am interested to hear what people think, I might just go ahead and post a TED conversation on "this".
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    Apr 14 2013: "This pursuit of awareness for its own sake works well for the establishment of personal celebrity, but it is deleterious when it comes to the causes celebrities promote. When existence is mistaken for action, then being aware of someone's existence feels like taking action. When attention is its own goal, nothing else gets accomplished." - Towards the end of the article, at the beginning of "Short memories".

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/08/20128287385825560.html

    What do you think?
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      Apr 14 2013: This is one of the articles that I'm analysing for my dissertation! I completely agree, awareness is no substitute for action. This is why I feel unless the celebrity is doing an activity to get people to donate or volunteer then it is pointless. People can dismiss Bob Geldof's efforts but at least the Band Aid song and the concerts have allowed the public to contribute to the cause, making it a successful celebrity/cause association.
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        Apr 14 2013: Cool! This was one of the first articles to pop up from a quick google search. Reading through it, the author, Sarah Kendzior, makes some really good points about the "effectiveness" of celebrity activism. When i got towards the end of the article I thought to myself how well this resonates with the findings from your research. Good!
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        Apr 14 2013: And also, I couldn't agree more, awareness is not action. One should not be mistaken for the other.
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    Apr 12 2013: Lakshmi,

    Within your question "Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?" does "benefits" include consequences?

    As I see it, I believe there are benefits and consequences to celebrity activism. And I think there are sometimes when neither the celebrity nor the cause benefit at all! I think there is a really good example of this already posted here on this comment board. The example I am am going to use is from part of Pat Gilbert's contribution:

    "I look at Bono and he definitely talks the talk and definitely does not walk the walk and I get nauseated."

    From this comment and going on nothing else, I can deduce that:

    1) Bono is "trying" to do something good, but I don't know what it is because it isn't mentioned (Cause is Lost).
    2) In the latter half of the comment, as it appears to me, Bono gets "bashed".

    In this case neither the cause nor the celebrity benefit. And this is from "word of mouth." But, I think you could make the argument that the media's coverage and perhaps the lack of Bono's efforts/actions could be a route cause of this.

    In fairness, I am going to do some research (if and when people don't know enough about something to make an informed decision, I think they should do this) on Bono and the charity/charities he supports and then come to my conclusions afterwards.

    Very interesting question, and this research sounds fascinating!
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      Apr 12 2013: Thank you Casey, you've raised such a good point regarding 'word of mouth'. In PR we always say that word of mouth is a main tactic when persuading our priority publics and I completely forgot how important it is in this case as well. The media tend to cover the celebrity and the cause however I have been analysing headlines and the cause is always secondary and never makes it to the title headline. The media is pushing this celebrity culture on society however I just read something extremely interesting on why society is veering towards this obsession with celebrity culture and it has something to do with society being so diverse in religion, values, culture and ethnicity. You've given me a lot to think about. Thanks again!
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        Apr 12 2013: You're welcome Lakshmi,

        If I may, I would like to add more to the conversation.

        In regards to "what happens if the celebrity and the cause don't align?" I think I know of a good example for this. Enter Colin Powell:

        http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_powell_kids_need_structure.html

        In this example, I personally believe Colin Powell's message gets lost within his presentation. And if you have the time, it's worth browsing through the comments on the comment board. The range and diversity of responses, I believe in some cases, is an indication that his message gets lost. At the very least, they're interesting.

        And also,

        have you considered up and coming celebrities, or celebrities that aren't that well known?
        Check out Cameron Russell. In her case, I believe she gets way more attention than her cause does. I have given some links in chronological order of Cameron and her story. And you might also want to take a look at her TED profile which has links to her online "art" blog, The Big Bad Lab, and may now also include a link to her alternative fashion publication.

        http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model.html

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTpEAqFjUXg

        http://www.vogue.com.au/culture/features/cameron+russell+speaks+out,21695

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isFmLuvvbtA

        http://www.politicususa.com/media-totally-missed-model-carmen-russells-point-tedx-talk.html
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          Apr 12 2013: Thanks ever so much for the links...this is all so helpful and as you say even if it doesn't make the final cut it's interesting nonetheless. I'm currently looking at Angelina Jolie's recent trip to Africa with our foreign secretary William Hague and even though 'one of the worlds most beautiful women' and a politician are fighting war zone atrocities together, the headlines proved that even with an 'intelligent man' by your side celebrity and beauty overcome the message of the cause. So poor Cameron Russell's message about the modelling industry doesn't stand a chance really! As for celebrities that aren't well known I haven't really touched on that too much but I am looking at celebrities who have a bad reputation in the eyes of the media being associated with charities e.g. Lindsay Lohan- child trafficking in India, which seems like a complete PR stunt to raise her profile and make her seem more credible than highlighting the sensitive issue at stake.
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        Apr 17 2013: "The media is pushing this celebrity culture on society however I just read something extremely interesting on why society is veering towards this obsession with celebrity culture and it has something to do with society being so diverse in religion, values, culture and ethnicity."

        This part is interesting, I hope you're getting a chance to look more into this. I would be curious to find out where within the "diversity in religion, values, culture and ethnicity" of society, does an obsession for celebrities or people society perceives to be successful, come from? Is that type of behavior something that is entrenched in our culture? And is it a new behavior, or is it a behavior that can be traced throughout history?
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    Apr 11 2013: I think more the cause. The celebrity benefits, but they give a lot of their time away for free, which is not easy.
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      Apr 12 2013: Thanks for your comment. I may be a cynic, probably because I've worked and I'm studying PR but sometimes I think the celebrity gets a lot more publicity than the actual cause!
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    Apr 11 2013: I would have thought that both the celebrity and the cause benefit. What does your research suggest?

    I remember reading something related about the We Are the World song/video- that only one of the performers actually brought professional benefit to herself by doing the video.
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      Apr 11 2013: I did a survey to find out which charity people associated with a specific celebrity (Bob Geldof, Sean Penn, Joanna Lumley and Angelina Jolie), and most people knew at least one charity that they were affiliated with.In the case of Bob Geldof it seems as though his celebrity profile was raised by his work with Live Aid. There are several celebrities who are quiet philanthropists, so if the media hasn't got a hold of those stories then one wonders whether some celebrities and their publicists purposely want the media attention for their benefit. Although it can be argued that the cause in turn gets noticed and the public are made aware of the issues.Is the 'We are the world' song the one made for Africa in 1985 or the more recent one for Haiti? I'd like to read that article where you read that! Thanks for your response!
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        Apr 11 2013: I meant the original We Are the World song. I read the article long ago and have no recollection as to its source.
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        Apr 17 2013: "There are several celebrities who are quiet philanthropists."

        How many examples of "quiet philanthropists" do you have? In the cases of "quiet philanthropists" does the cause benefit more than the celebrity?
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          Apr 22 2013: I have just done research on this and i would say the quiet philanthropists are the likes of Bill Gates and other such billionaires who have nothing to gain. Also Sandra Bullock and Shakira have given a lot of money towards causes and definitely do not get the media attention that others do. I wonder why this is? They are hugely successful and I would say relatable individuals (as relatable as an Oscar winner and a international pop star could be). Maybe they ensure that they don't get the media attention, I'm not sure. Thinking about it, without the media attention there is not that awareness and if there is not that awareness then there is not that small percentage of people who may take action which could benefit the cause.