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The Celebrity Trust Index

Sophisticated celebrity-ranking survey shows which famous people Americans feel most influenced by as brand-shills, and why. (New York celebs are usually less well-liked.)

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Just what’s wrong with the famous people of New York, anyway? According to what’s being touted as the most sophisticated metric of a celebrity’s “ability to influence consumer purchase intent,” the brand-new Davie-Brown Index, our local stars come up short.

The DBI, which was introduced February 13, goes a step beyond the 41-year-old Q rating—which is based on two factors, how many people have heard of Celebrity X and how many people name him or her as one of their favorites—by surveying 1.5 million Americans to score the boldfaced on eight key attributes: “appeal,” “notice” (their pop ubiquity), “trendsetter” (their position as such), “influence” (do they have any?), “trust,” “endorsement” (spokespersonability), “aspiration” (do we want his or her life?), and “awareness” (expressed as a percentage). The scores are then cross-referenced in a database that supposedly will help advertisers decide who among a list of more than 1,500 celebrities will help them hawk their wares. Access costs $20,000 a year.

“It provides a systematic approach for quantifying and qualifying the use of celebrities,” boasts Davie-Brown Talent president Jeff Chown. Thanks to the DBI, ad agencies can be reminded of that which we all know, that Tom Hanks (No. 1) and Oprah Winfrey (No. 2) rule the world, followed by: Bill Cosby, Michael J. Fox, Michael Jordan, Robin Williams, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and Tiger Woods. Or discover that Dolly Parton still ranks among the top-ten females. “I think it will be incredibly valuable when we look to marry various celebrities with various brands,” says BBDO New York president John Osborn, whose company has already subscribed. “This tool enables you to go much deeper” than Q Scores, he adds.

Local celebs don’t fare well. Michael J. Fox is our top male. And Whoopi Goldberg (last seen touting Slim-Fast) is our top female, clocking in at 21. Only Tom Brokaw and Bobby De Niro (who’s done AmEx) crack the top twenty of either sex. Even Donald Trump is stuck at 103, which he found outrageous. “I want to know who did this survey,” he says. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t agree with it. Give me a break.”

As for Paris Hilton (229): 84.8 percent of respondents have been unable to escape being aware of her—which doesn’t mean they like her (44.3) or trust her (36.7). But Carl’s Jr., who had her wash a car in their ad, has no regrets. “It was a hot, spicy burger; she looked hot in the ad,” says Brad Haley, executive vice-president of marketing. “Her tagline was ‘That’s hot!’—that was pretty much the thought process behind the ad. I don’t think you want to make too much of a science out of this kind of thing.”


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