Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bye, Bye, Buy Buy (Baby Goodbye)

The demand for celebrities to sell their bodies for quick cash by associating themselves with huge advertising campaigns is one of the saddest and most damning indictments of our celebrity-driven capitalist culture of consumption. Perhaps most saddening because the proliferation of these types of campaigns means they're obviously working, and people are actually more likely to buy stuff they don't need with money they don't have just because they see a familiar face endorsing it. Worse still, it seems to be inconsequential who is doing it. Any talentless oik who's never done anything for the advancement of the human species, and never will, can get a well-paid gig swilling a cold drink on TV and looking happy about it, or falling onto a DFS sofa giggling with gay abandon in a way that nobody ever does in real life.

It would all be more understandable if heroic and well respected people were advertising stuff; I'd be more likely to sit up and take notice. For instance if they managed to digitally manipulate George Orwell to appear in TV adverts for foot spas, I'd think long and hard about getting one (so long as his script assured me each foot spa wasn't an instrument of government surveillance). Or if Morrissey showed up claiming that Churchill was the best option for car insurance ("and if a double decker bus/crashes into us/to claim with Churchill/is such a heavenly way to claim"), I'd be in raptures. But that's not the way it works. Instead, they just pay lots of people I, justifiably, have little or no respect for to try and sell stuff. Sharon Osbourne (estimated worth: £100m) parading up and down the aisles of ASDA and frittering away her money at Gala Bingo. Duncan Bannatyne (estimated worth: £200m) posing with a Blackberry. Footballers are often the worst culprits: Steven Gerrard (reportedly on £100,000+/wk at Liverpool) replaced Michael Owen (£100,000/wk at Newcastle, who'll pay anything to anyone) as the face and monotonous drone of Persil; Gary Lineker and his pissing crisps; and, of course, David Beckham (estimated worth: £87m) who's advertised too many products to list on these pages and whose advertising philosophy begins and ends simply with the word 'yes'. All of these people are clearly of such low fibre and self-worth that they see nothing wrong in what they're doing.

I'll agree with by far my favourite dead or alive comedian Bill Hicks on this: "by the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising - kill yourself" (this clip is required viewing). Although, when I was reading the most recent Hicks biography, Bill Hicks: Agent Of Evolution, his best friend and the book's author claimed that when Hicks was dying of cancer he said he would do an advert for Aloe Vera gel. This was because he convinced himself one of the reasons he had cancer was that he'd never exposed himself to enough sun, so started sitting outside, getting sunburnt, and then needing Aloe Vera (I wonder if she ever says hello back?). He genuinely thought the product was brilliant, and believed in it. This is an interesting new slant on advertising endorsements. If you fully believe in a product and think it advances humankind, is it OK to advertise it? The emergence of Stephen Fry's adverts for Twining's Tea must be a case of this, and I'm willing to go with it. There are a few things I'd agree to sell if I ever get offers on the back of the immense fame and notoriety I'm building through this blog. I'd certainly do adverts for Bourbon Creams, and could easily be tempted to sell wet wipes if the terms were right. I think both of those things make a positive difference to people's lives and even have a hand in progressing our evolution. Asda, Gala Bingo, Persil, Walkers Crisps et al don't, that's the difference. I rest my shaky case.

22 Comments:

Blogger Gez said...

As a marketing professional I have to say this: the members of general public are so moronic that they are more inclined to buy something if Kerry Katona appears in the advert instead of a professional actor. This is not the fault of either the "celebrity", the product owner or any intermediary marketing/advertising agency and they can't be blamed for capilatising on this widespead stupidity.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

October 04, 2007 6:41 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

that's capitalising, not capilatising

October 04, 2007 6:43 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

I don't know how much of a sway the likes of Katona genuinely hold: do you know anyone who has opted to purchase three for a tenner frozen party snacks because the erstwhile wife of some Irish beefcake told them to do so?

More likely, people eschew the chain for her involvement (one bloke even mugged her in her own home because he hated the adverts so much).

I think, so-called 'Gez', you will find that Iceland shoppers are driven to Iceland by motivations espoused best in Marx's theory of the link between the forces of relations and production, best embodied in his theory of base and superstructure. Read more about this in Walker & Gray, 'The Historical Dictionary of Marxism' (Scarecrow Press).

October 05, 2007 9:12 am  
Blogger Gez said...

As much as I respect your unfounded, anecdotal marketing theories (ie not at all), I think you'll find that people DO buy things from Iceland because they are endorsed by the drunken slag who used to be in atomic kitten. Rightly or wrongly, her involvement has a value attached, otherwise they would pay any actress a great deal less to do a better job. In turn, as well as getting paid, Katona's worth as a "celebrity" increases simply due to the airtime she gets from appearing on the telly. It's an upward sprial of inanity and cash. The sad thing is, people are that stupid. It's best to think of the public on mass as a big herd of sheep and for that reason, I couldn't trust them enough to be equally responsible for the society I live in.

In fact, in my brave new world people would have to apply for breeding rights.

October 05, 2007 12:57 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

And I'm going to watch City stuff your beloved Middloesborougho on Sunday - how do you like them plums?

Also, do you think we should take this recurring, 5 year old debate away from Paddy's blog?

October 05, 2007 1:08 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

No, I think it should stay here, like we were round at his house having a fight in the kitchen while he watched telly in the lounge.

To move it up a notch...

Enjoy watching your stunningly unethical football club, and don't let anyone tell you that City's summer has epitomised everything that is hideous about the Premier League. Oh no. Altogether now "blind eye if we're winning, we'll turn a blind eye if we're winning..."

October 05, 2007 2:50 pm  
Blogger Paddy said...

I was wondering what those raised voices from just round the corner of the L-shaped living space were all about (there's no wall dividing the kitchen and loafing zone, you see, so you're really quite audible).

The celebrity thing is a difficult one. I don't really understand why anyone would be influenced by the portrayed consumer habits of a celebrity, but neither do I understand why companies would pay vast sums to get them on board if it wasn't having an effect. Maybe there's no rationale and celebrity endorsements is one of those crazy things that just happens for no justifiable reason, like people spitting in the street or queuing for cous-cous.

I'll be at City on Sunday too Gez, but in the red corner, naturally.

October 05, 2007 3:03 pm  
Blogger Paddy said...

And even if nothing altogether good comes of this, at least Dan got in a plug for his book. Preserving a through-draught at academic institutions up and down the country. I'm sorry, that was massively nasty and simply not true, but it's Friday.

October 05, 2007 3:40 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

We sold 112 copies in the last tax year, I'll have you know. That's only 28,385 less than Kerry Katona's 'Too Much, Too Young', and 68 more than 'Bouncing Back'.

October 05, 2007 5:12 pm  
Blogger D.B. said...

Good post Paddy. Fab little debate too. Hope no one minds if I interject and venture forth with my opinion, comrades...

I think it's basically about brand-building and I feel we've entered into Naomi Klein "No Logo" territory. Celebrities give commodities added meaning (i.e. new brand attributes) which marketing men hope will go down well with an audience. It's not so much Kerry Katona as what she represents, which to most people is: young, northern, attractive, working class, glamorous but down-to-earth. Thus: shopping at Iceland becomes something that young, northern, attractive, working class, glamorous but down-to-earth people allegedly do. I think we're all "guilty" of this kind of signification to some extent, as Paddy demonstrates in his tongue-in-cheek references to Orwell and Morrissey.

In Marxist terms maybe it's a form of "commodity fetishism". Iceland products, or at least the experience of shopping at Icelands, suddenly assume all these fantastic characteristics when in reality they're just fish fingers. As Karl (or should that be Groucho) himself sarcastically put it:

The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was.

Comedian and visionary - what a guy.

October 05, 2007 11:52 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

Back to the football, we've had a difficult couple of years at City. Imagine the scenario if you will: Your club's inspirational and well-liked captain retires after a long and distinguished career as a no-nonsense central defender. He is thrust immediately into the managers role to fill the void left by his swiftly departed predecessor, despite no previous experience.

As well as the lack of experience, the new manager has next to no funds available for new talent and is forced to sell highly valued strikers.

The popularity ensures the goodwill of the fans despite a significant downturn in results and performances. The manager's lack of tactical knowledge - especially going forward - is quickly exposed and his response is to resort to containment and long ball tactics.

You have no idea what that is like.

October 06, 2007 12:12 am  
Blogger Paddy said...

Congratulations Gez: City had some decent strikers yesterday (not least Chris Riggott), we didn't.

You're correct of course D.B., and isn't it intensely sad? You'd have to be of quite a low level of self-esteem to think surrendering yourself to such commodity fetishism would improve your existence. I wonder if Iceland customers slide their trays of fish fingers into the oven in the mistaken belief that they themselves are actually Kerry Katona while suspended in that moment. Barking inanely while nobody's listening and waiting for the producers of 'Loose Women' to call back. Quite an existence.

October 08, 2007 5:25 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

"Blind eye if we're winning....". Actually my favourite chant from Sunday was to the tune of the Proclaimers' 500 miles.

"You can seize 500 mill and you can seize 500 more, cause Thaksin's got a hundred million underneath his bedroom floor
Shinawatra! Shinawatra! Da dum diddle um da dum diddle um da da."

October 08, 2007 5:51 pm  
Anonymous Toby said...

I don't think that it's surprising or indeed particularly bad that people try to ape (a very suitable word) those celebrities who endorse products. It's in our nature to take on those attributes that we admire in others, parental influence, peers etc. It’s logical therefore that the audience will take note of the decisions of those we admire or respect. The subtlety of this effect seems to be directly proportional to the value or perceived market which it inhabits. I think it is silly to suggest we somehow occupy a moral platform above such simple delights as giggling at a sofa, when we are constantly swayed more subtly by whatever cultural niche we inhabit. My argument is simply that yes it’s obvious that the masses follow tat, because they aspire to be those idiots on the TV, but there is a much bigger augment about more complex decisions and how they are made. At least celebrity endorsements are clear about their objectives. The prolific nature of these adverts may tell us something of the general population but nothing we don’t know already.

October 08, 2007 6:34 pm  
Blogger Paddy said...

It's not that surprising, no, but I still reserve the right to occupy a moral platform above it, thanks to my status as a grossly superior being to the majority of mankind.

It's similar to religion. People should realise advertising only survives because of questionable instincts and that anyone who subscribes to it is a simpleton, but they don't. You're right; it's human nature and a further symptom of herd instinct in the individual, as your man Nietzsche said.

October 09, 2007 11:52 am  
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