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Tag Archives: Paula Deen

Step Right Up And See The Show!

tent

Is there anyone so decent as to not enjoy watching the mighty slip and fall? Schadenfreude; it’s not just fun to say! There is nothing shameful in experience just the tiniest thrill when celebrities’ true colors are flown in full view. It’s not that we’ve been campaigning for their demise or even giving it a moment’s thought. It’s just that sooner or later we grow tired of the monsters we’ve created.

A celebrity is nothing more than someone who has orchestrated our interest. They could not exist were it not for our buy-in. Playing a sport well does not make you a celebrity (as anyone who’s played an obscure sport in the Olympics) nor does proficiency in the arts (quick: who’s the ‘2013 Face of Oboists’?) Being a celebrity means we know who you are. That’s all. Sometimes the phenomenon is accidental; say, the result of landing an airplane safely in the Hudson River. But statistically speaking far more celebrities are self-created.

Most of us, even while queuing up to see the latest blockbuster or buying the latest gizmo or gadget, mildly resent being manipulated. We don’t mind it enough to stop buying what’s being sold but on some level it rankles just a tad. Which is why it makes things a bit entertaining when they go awry. Our pleasure is less distasteful due to the fact that these people will rise from the (artfully placed) ashes. Anyone who has come from a blue-collar New Jersey town, or sold sandwiches or window treatments door to door is going to bounce back just fine. These are scrappy and ingenious self-promoters who will not go gently into obscurity. Sure they might put a Kmart contract at risk while in the slammer, but don’t you shed a tear. They will figure out how to get the biggest publicity bang out of the experience. That’s the beauty of celebrity. Who you are and what you can do are immaterial; it’s all about your barker skills. Placing gourds around your home in the fall, adding mayonnaise to every meal or using ‘really good vanilla’ are not unique or even mildly interesting techniques. But describing these endeavors with proper lighting, condescending tone or good-ole girl twang, is a great gimmick. (And you know, it really is best to get a gimmick.)

So when these celebrities who have cultivated a brand of ‘don’t you wish you were me?” have their underbelly exposed it’s just a tiny bit satisfying. We are not disappointed and distressed as we are when elected officials or society folks show their worst selves. Instead we have just a nanosecond of ‘no, I really don’t wish I were you.’ We still buy the junk they’re selling of course. But for at least a moment we will be aware of the ingredients. And being aware of what we consume, even if it’s only for a moment, is never a bad thing.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Wessonality

I hear that taxi receipts are going to be emblazoned with advertising soon.  In theory, that passes the laugh test, no?  For anyone who has ever been handed a mangled 2-inch receipt with blurry ink, it sounds ridiculous.  Unless it’s an ad for a better receipt mechanism, we might want to rethink this initiative.

Advertisers for the most part are hitting the right note in placement.  The industry has matured and is adept at following (and even predicting) trends.  Traditional platforms are still in the game, but new media has prompted creative delivery initiatives.  With our hand-held devices, web-based platforms and the like, we are bombarded with new forms of ads.  Only the most rural of us leave our homes without entering a technicolor world of advertising.  Those taxis about to get the smudgy receipt ads?  Most of their roofs are festooned with a large (illuminated) table tent of an ad.  Almost all cabs now have advertising (posing as network news) playing on a monitor in the backseat.  There really isn’t much to malign about the ubiquity of advertising.  If it hurts anyone, it’s the product/client not the user/consumer.  How in the world do you make yourself heard above all that noise?

One of the oldest ways to get noticed is celebrity endorsement.  Since there were celebrities there was celebrity endorsement.  If anyone had thought to market apples, I’m guessing they would have approached Eve.  Throughout the years most endorsements and advertisements have been quite obvious.  But what happens when advertising not only becomes more ubiquitous but more embedded?  What happens when a celebrity is famous for selling themselves as a brand (versus being a performer?)  There is a potential for conflict of interest as well consumer confusion.

Let us take a recent example of Paula Deen, a woman whose gimmick has been selling mayonnaise and butter laden dishes.  She is a southern woman who got her start making sandwiches for local workers.  With no culinary training but an innate understanding of showmanship, she is a perfect example of today’s celebrity brand.  She announced her (three year old) diabetes with her drug company endorsement in hand while declaring that her diet has nothing to do with her disease, thereby protecting her brand.  When asked on air if she was a paid spokesperson for the drug company she retorted; “I’m compensated just like you are.”  Well, not exactly.  The newsreader is being compensated by the network to do a good job for the network (and probably to cross promote the network’s other programming.)  Not many people watching the show think he is doing it for free.  The issue with not declaring (in a big black box) that “Miss Paula Deen is a paid spokesperson for this company” is that we are not the most educated of consumers. Sometimes public health has to trump capitalism.  Our country is just getting heavier.  Miss Deen has a loyal rural and southern following who may very well be suffering from diabetes themselves.  To hear a (very healthy looking) famous person declare that “diabetes has nothing to do with what you eat and if you take this lovely drug like I do there’s nothing to worry about,” is troubling.  Miss Deen is allowed to sell whatever she chooses, and the drug company is allowed to hire whomever it pleases.  Hence, the black box.  The drug company could also do themselves a big public relations favor by prefacing all their messaging with “maintaining a healthy weight is proven to have a positive impact on diabetes management.”

Users/consumers are becoming increasingly inundated with advertising, and may be a bit numb.  A million years ago, the novelty of Judy Garland selling Max Factor was so unique the consumer would think; “Look it’s Judy Garland selling Max Factor!” (and most fans knew that Max Factor was the make-up artist for the movie studios.)  Now that everyone is famous and ads are everywhere, being intuitively savvy is a challenge.  The harm is not to the product or advertisers but to the consumers.  Regulating advertising to protect consumers is not new.  You may remember when some paperback books had full-age cigarette advertisements.  Liquor and cigarette advertisements were once on television all the time.  Public health concerns change over time and in my estimation will always trump profit.  A simple black box hurts no one, not the product and not the paid spokesperson.  All it will do is remind the consumer that they are in fact experiencing an advertisement.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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