Corporations of America, listen up! Please stop giving awards and free stuff to celebs in an effort to get us to buy. It doesn't really work. To wit, consider this post on Reveries.com's Cool News of the Day about celebrity gift bags, Bag Swag:
Lavishing gift bags on celebrities may be doing more harm than good to brands and stars alike, suggests Hilary de Vries in a New York Times essay (1/14/06)... it’s now at a point where celebrities “expect to receive thousands of dollars worth of merchandise — jewelry, perfume, sunglasses, cosmetics, vacations, electronics and other assorted bling — in exchange for even brief appearances at glamorous events.” Problem is, “the gift bag industry has become so over-saturated that it no longer works as advertised.”
... what are the chances that swag will stimulate sales? Not very good, apparently. Even if the celeb likes and uses the product, what are the chances consumers will care? Not that good, either. As Hilary observes: “You don’t need to look at the dismal state of the movie industry, the declines in ticket sales and the growing ennui among audiences to know that stardom has undergone a serious devaluation, that celebrity has become another commodity and a pretty cheap one at that.”
Amen. The only people this kind of marketing really benefits are the stars who get lots of nice free stuff when they are in the best position of anyone to be able to afford it. It drives me crazy to watch multimillion dollar heiress Paris Hilton poring over the gift tables and picking out opulent goodies like she's at some rich person's version of Goodwill. Check out this video to see swagness in full swing right now at the Sundance Film Festival (click on the "Sundance Swag" video and watch Rob Lowe and Terrence Howard with armfuls of merchandise -- can you believe they're promoting this?).
I can see every now and then that getting products in the hands of celebs can help their cool factor. But celebrity marketing seems to have hit the apex of silliness. Wait, no. There's even more silliness to attain. The new genius is the presentation of fake awards by brands to celebs at award shows. At the Not Billable blog, Irene Done observes:
"How was your People's Choice Awards watching party? Mine was fantastic! And in case you missed it, these were the big winners:
-- Crest Whitestrips Fans Favorite Smile: Cameron Diaz.
-- Nice 'N Easy Fans Favorite Hair: Faith Hill.
-- Olay Total Effects Fans Favorite Look: Jennifer Aniston
So seamless, so integral to the content -- it's like you couldn't even tell it's a Procter & Gamble production! And even though they have to admit that the winners are notified in advance, the whole thing was still filled with suspense and genuine excitement. Right?
Right. "Entertainment Tonight" (yes, I'm shallow and am sheepishly willing to admit I watch Entertainment Tonight) has been doing this with the brand Pantene. A cheesy announcer comes on the show and informs us that so-and-so won the Pantene Award for shiniest hair or whatever -- Charlize Theron was lucky enough to win for her tresses at the Golden Globes. I wonder if she displays her Pantene Award right next to her Oscar.
Please stop the madness. For more information on this, check out Grant McCracken's great piece on product placement as marketing malfeasance.