Should Your CEO Be in the Company Ads?

By George Farris
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Paid advertising has fundamental goals.  You want to stand out from other ads, differentiate your product, increase brand recognition, and add value to your brand.

You also want to move viewers to act – make an immediate purchase or seek more information.

Achieving these goals is no easy task. When it comes to TV advertising and/or video in digital and social media advertising, one strategy is to use the CEO as the spokesman.

Older readers might remember Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca introducing the K-Car, Frank Perdue guaranteeing the freshness of Perdue chickens, or Dave Thomas talking about the great food available at Wendy’s. 

One groundbreaking series of TV ads in the ’70s featured a lawyer who ended every spot with the catchphrase, “I’m Joel Hyatt. And you’ve
got my word on it.” Hyatt co-founded Hyatt Legal Services in 1977 as a low-cost legal service. He was featured in his firm’s nationwide television commercials and became a household name.

Today, it seems there are fewer CEOs ready to step up and put themselves out there as the faces of their brands. One notable exception is Jim Koch, CEO of Samuel Adams Beer, who is the on-camera spokesman and voice- over in TV ads.


But is using your CEO in ads a good strategy? According to research conducted by Ace Metrix and reported in Forbes magazine, the answer in many cases is “Yes.” The research shows that, in general, ads featuring CEOs outperform ads that don’t.

Ads that feature CEOs had considerably higher “Desire,” “Relevance,” and “Information” scores versus other ads in the same category.  Peter Daboll of Ace Metrix says,  “… open-ended comments about Samuel Adams ads indicate that viewers were impressed with the brand’s “real world” informative appeals. Moreover, CEO Jim Koch’s commentary and tour of the beer brewing process (a feature of many Samuel Adams ads) resonates well with viewers.”

Agencies are often put in a difficult position when a client CEO pushes to be in ads. That’s because not all CEO ads work. CEOs who are dull, boring, or fail to positively differentiate a brand, are the kiss of death in advertising. Viewers are looking for the CEO to be interesting, relevant, and truly understand consumer desires.

I’ve used CEOs in TV ads that my firm, Farris Marketing, has produced. For the most part, it has been very effective, especially in the nonprofit sector. But I try to be very careful about which CEOs I ask to participate.

Locally, our agency’s campaigns featuring Aimee Fifarek, CEO of the Public Library, and Joe Shorokey, CEO of Alta Behavioral Health, come across as authentic and genuine, because that is the kind of people they are – authentic and genuine.


Nationally, there seems to be a tendency to use celebrities instead of CEOs as spokesmen. Maybe that’s because successful CEOs job-hop. Or because successful companies are often bought out. After all, consistency is very important and a paid celebrity can be used for years.


Make sure he or she is willing to test the ads. And then be brave enough to supply the results of the test without spin. Not all CEOs are cut out to be on-camera spokesmen.  But if they are good communicators and come across as authentic and genuine, a person who understands your customers, your next campaign could be a winner. 

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing