Last Updated May 6, 2011 9:22 AM EDT
That quantification is done by E-Poll Research, a market research agency dedicated to ranking celebrities and brand icons so that, er, you know who's winning and who's losing. E-Poll continuously asks thousands of consumers to rank stars and icons on a seemingly endless list of attributes and then slices and dices that info based on the demographics of the respondents.
The "least-appealing" celebrity list is somewhat surprising: Spencer Pratt comes out on top, beating killer and convicted robber O.J. Simpson. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich comes third. Even though Blagojevich is currently a spokesperson for Wonderful Pistachios, few companies would consider using Nadya "Octomom" Suleman, Jon Gosselin or Heidi Montag in campaigns.
Retaining Sandra Bullock to front your brand is likely an expensive prospect, so advertisers will probably pay more attention to those rankings that show stars who are gaining appeal fast or who are not that well-known but nonetheless enormously appealing to anyone who encounters them. (Think about Progressive's Flo -- she was an unknown when the campaign started but is now regarded as a sort of national treasure.)
Biggest recent gainers in likability are skier Lindsey Vonn, Betty White (again, following her stint on Saturday Night Live), and Nathan Fillion. If you said "who?" to that last one, it's because you don't watch ABC's Castle, but you would recognize him if he appeared in a commercial. That's the sort of metric that makes him perfect as an adman.
Mel Gibson had the biggest decline in appeal following his domestic abuse/anti-semitism scandals. But pity poor Susan Boyle and Dennis Haysbert -- both were big decliners following months out of the spotlight. And Hayes has been all but displaced from the AllState campaign by the newly popular Mayhem.
The real sweet spot for advertisers will be the stars with lowest awareness but highest appeal. Alexander Skarsgard, who plays a sexy vampire on HBO's True Blood, leads that poll, followed by America's Got Talent contestant Jackie Evancho and Kirsten Vangsness of Criminal Minds. (Don't worry, I had to look up the last two as well.)
Although he didn't come top, I'd keep an eye on Eric Stonestreet, who plays the chunky gay dad on Modern Family. He steals every scene he's in.
Another underutilized celebrity -- if you regard having two cable TV shows as "underutilized" -- is Mike Holmes. If you haven't heard of him, that's because you're not into DIY and home improvement projects. Holmes hosts HGTV's Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection, in which Holmes shows up at the house someone who has been ripped off by contractors and put things right. It's strangely appealing stuff, even though the "drama" of many shows revolves around rotten drywall and sinking foundations. Holmes is top of the "most appealing" list among baby-boomers, who would probably buy any product he asked them to.
Easily the most voyeuristic part of the E-Poll survey is its time-tracking of "competing" stars' reputations. Here's E-Poll's comparison of the highest-paid actresses' "like a lot" since 2003:
Sandra Bullock clearly received a bump after Jesse James cheated on her; Reese Witherspoon remains consistently popular down the years; Jennifer Aniston is like a rock but Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker just aren't as popular as the media thinks they are.
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