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Sir David Attenborough trounces young stars in Brandpool’s celebrity trust poll

Sir David Attenborough is the celebrity consumers would most trust as the figurehead for an advertising campaign, according to a survey commissioned by ad agency and creative content providers Brandpool.

However, it was Katie Price who narrowly beat John Terry and Ashley Cole to be voted the least believable brand ambassador, followed by Amy Winehouse, Heather Mills, Tiger Woods and Tony Blair – the latter raising questions over Labour’s deployment of its former leader as a ‘secret weapon’ in the run-up to the election.

The survey flies in the face of the Cebra study published last week by research agency Millward Brown, which indexed the appeal of celebrities in relation to certain brands. But Brandpool’s research suggests the popularity of young stars such as David Tennant, Cheryl Cole and David Beckham doesn’t always translate into trust.

The poll saw 46% of respondents name Sir David as one of their top three choices, with Stephen Fry second on 36% and Richard Branson third on 20%.

It was the elder statesmen of British broadcasting who dominated the top 10, with Michael Parkinson, Sir Terry Wogan, Sir David Dimbleby, Jeremy Paxman, Lord Alan Sugar and Jeremy Clarkson also highly rated.

These silver-haired stars were favoured despite almost a third of respondents being under 35. And although an even split of men and women voted, the only female celebrity in the top 10 was The One Show presenter Christine Bleakley.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Cary Cooper CBE, one of the world’s leading psychologists, said: “We mustn’t confuse popularity with trust – they are fundamentally different. Anyone can become a celebrity if they have sufficient media exposure. But trust is about credibility and substance, and these come from how people live their lives, what they say and so on. The danger is that brand managers will choose whoever is popular at a given time to front their campaigns.

Prof Cooper, the writer, broadcaster and Professor of Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University Management School, added: “What this survey reveals is that a septuagenarian could actually hold more appeal for a teenager than the latest soccer star or X-Factor winner.”

Asked to choose the three celebrities they would least trust as the face of a brand, 39% of respondents opted for Katie Price.
Footballers John Terry and Ashley Cole shared second place with 31% of the votes, indicating the immediate influence of negative publicity.

Amy Winehouse got the thumbs down from 30% of respondents, with Heather Mills next on 29%, while Tiger Woods and Tony Blair shared fifth place with 15% of the votes.

Other notable names in the least trusted 10 were David Beckham, Russell Brand and Cheryl Cole, proving once more that popularity doesn’t automatically generate trust, especially where there might be doubt over the life choices and behaviour of celebrities in private.
Brandpool chairman and creative director John McWilliams said: “Celebrity endorsement is a powerful marketing tool that can have a huge influence on perceptions of a brand. But there’s no simple formula for success and perhaps the public have more nous than advertisers give them credit for. A lot of thought and emotion goes into decisions about the principles and credibility of people in the public eye, based on the evidence they see before them.

“It’s interesting that the majority of the most trusted celebrities are in their fifties and sixties, indicating that it takes many years to build the trust of the public. The reputations of the younger celebrities in the survey seem to be far more sensitive to the ebb and flow of the public mood, often driven by negative stories in the media.”

Most trusted:

1. Sir David Attenborough 46%
2. Stephen Fry 36%
3. Richard Branson 20%
4. Michael Parkinson 19%
5. Sir Terry Wogan / David Dimbleby 16%
6. Jeremy Paxman 14.5%
7. Sir Paul McCartney 13%
8. Eddie Izzard 11.6%
9. Jeremy Clarkson 10.1%
10. Lord Alan Sugar / Christine Bleakley 8.7%

Least trusted:

1. Katie Price 39%
2. John Terry / Ashley Cole 31%
3. Amy Winehouse 30%
4. Heather Mills 29%
5. Tiger Woods / Tony Blair 14%
6. Piers Morgan 11.4%
7. Russell Brand 10%
8. Sharon Osbourne / David Beckham 8.6%
9. Simon Cowell / Cheryl Cole 7.2%
10. Tom Cruise / Jonathan Ross 7%

Other key findings:

• Sir Cliff Richard got more than twice the number of ‘most trusted’ votes than Cheryl Cole.

• Homer Simpson was more trusted than Tony Blair, Ant and Dec, Davina McCall, Peter Andre and Gordon Ramsay.

• Michael McIntyre was the second most trusted comedian, behind Eddie Izzard.

• Celebrities who received no votes in the ‘most trusted’ section of the survey included Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Piers Morgan and Vernon Kay.

• Erudite meerkat Alexander Orlov was rated more trustworthy than Churchill the bulldog.

Additional information

Brandpool are about to shake up the advertising agency world with the launch of their highly innovative new ad agency model, which works in much the same way as movie or TV producers operate, by drawing on the best talent from the whole industry, as well as their own in-house resources.

‘The Brandpool Heavyweights’ are the people who’ve created some of the most memorable and successful advertising ever seen.
As well as creative principals, John McWilliams and Chris Hill, the Heavyweights are Ann Binnie, Blair Jarvis, Graeham Preston, Jeff Suthons, Dean Turney, Keith Crook, Kevin Kneale, Don Barclay, Martin Cunningham, Phil Rylance, Leighton Ballett and Rich Ward.
They are the creative talent on pretty much all the most memorable and successful campaigns of recent times – Ford Puma starring Steve McQueen, ‘Lucky the dog’ for More Than, ‘Creature Comforts’ for the Electricity Association, Tesco, Virgin Atlantic and many more international award-winning campaigns.

Their heavyweight experience also includes campaigns for Dr Pepper, BMW, Heineken, John Lewis, Sony Ericsson, Bacardi, BBC, Coca-Cola, Dulux, Motorola, Warburtons, Skol, Kleenex, Red Mountain Coffee, Nestle, Unilever, Red Stripe, Lowenbrau, Toblerone, Eurostar, Sharwoods, Vauxhall, Friends of the Earth, Bendicks chocolates, Blackthorn Cider and BA.

‘The Brandpool Heavyweights’ have won many awards for their work including honours from BAFTA, British TV, Campaign Posters, Cannes, Clio, Creative Circle, D&AD, Direct Marketing, and One Show.

Brandpool is part of Loewy Group. John McWilliams, chairman and creative principal of Brandpool, was formerly MD of Arc Advertising Group.


For further information please contact:

Katie McBreen Nick Henderson or Richard McCann
Friday’s Media Group, 18 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QL
Telephone: 0845 500 1140
Email: or

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