‘Proper celebrities doing rubbish adverts’ is a fairly clear description of what this is all about, I’d hope, but before we begin, just a wee bit of clarification. There are only two rules, really:
1. Proper celebrities
I want to start by saying I can totally forgive normal people, like you or me, who do some work in advertising or marketing. Several of my friends do it; Salman Rushdie did it (before he was a proper celebrity, I mean); hell, I’ve done it myself from time to time. That’s fine. It pays the rent, just about, and if you enjoy writing or design, ad agencies actually can be a good way to sharpen up your skills and you might even get to have a bit of fun along the way – I liked sneakily inserting references to the excellent John Ruskin in bits of copywriting for the UK’s second largest bank for grins. Sure, you feel a little dirty, a little used at the end of each day, you might wish you’d never had to find out what a ‘balance transfer’ even was so you could write 500 words about it – but it means you can afford to eat tonight, have a shower and wash off the greasy sheen of lucre you’re sure you can see on your skin, maybe even push the boat out and drink enough at the weekend that you can forget you ever did it (and what a balance transfer is to boot).
So, this isn’t about vilifying everyone who works in advertising, it is a place for Proper Celebrities only – people who are wealthy and famous for doing something entertaining or even useful. If you can’t remember what they did before they were on adverts – not a proper celebrity. If you think maybe they were married to one of Westlife or maybe it was Blue – not a proper celebrity. If they were on Big Brother – not a proper celebrity. (Heck, if they were on Celebrity Big Brother they’re almost certainly not a proper celebrity either, but we’ll decide that on a case by case basis). I don’t care what some z-lister, you know, like, the runner-up from Britain’s Next Top Pop Factor Apprentice chooses to do with their empty little life, I’m talking about people you’ve never met, you were probably never going to meet, but you had some measure of respect for. Once.
2. Proper adverts
I’m not about to malign anyone for doing publicity campaigns for charities or other non-profits – I’m not a monster! It also doesn’t count, obviously enough, if someone’s shown in an ad for a film, piece of music, book, or festival which features them. These have to be proper rubbish adverts for products and services otherwise unrelated to the celebrity in question – bonus points may be awarded for utter incongruity, like sportspeople advertising fatty foods and sugary drinks, or aging rock stars advertising insurers who refuse to cover professional musicians.
I was considering putting a caveat in here about some kind of minimum level of rubbishness I wanted to see either in the advert itself, or the product being sold – but I don’t think it’s workable, that stuff is all just too subjective. However, this does seem like as good a time as any to mention my pet theory that there seems to be a significant inverse correlation between volume of marketing material and actual desirability of any given product. Insurance is a great example: think about it – how many adverts for insurance, and equally boringly, websites where you can price-compare various types of insurance, do you see every day? Absolutely loads. Could this be because insurance is possibly the single least enjoyable, rewarding or interesting thing you can spend money on, and nobody, not one person in the entire history of the human race, has ever wanted it?
Now, how often do you see adverts for, say, motorbikes? I don’t believe I recall ever seeing one, except maybe in a specialist publication about motorbikes. That’s because motorbikes are de facto fun, cool and exciting. You see a motorbike in the street: you want it. I guess that means you have just been advertised to, my friend, and nobody got hurt. You did not want to throw up. A little piece of you did not curl up and die inside like it did when you saw that Iggy Pop ad. Car manufacturers, on the other hand, feel they need the huge marketing budgets they use to advertise the hell out of cars, because it turns out cars are actually pretty rubbish, honest, I’ve tried one. They smell weird, they look stupid, they pollute everything, they’re really heavy and you can’t do tricks. BOOO-RING. You can’t feel the wind in your hair when you’re driving a car. You can’t even drive them in cool places, like the park or the beach, and thank heavens for that. Car manufacturers have to spend millions and millions of pounds desperately trying to convince us that their products are in some way enjoyable, hip, stylish, or capable of making us more attractive to potential mates, simply because, well, they’re not.
Okay, I realise I could go on about this and consumerism and stuff all day, so lecture over. But have a think about it.
With that out of the way – let dissing commence!