Sunday, 6 May 2007
More life in PR perils - this time, the Z-list
I recently commented on an interesting post on Believe the Spin regarding the ups and downs of celebrity. I say interesting because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am tragically obsessed with the cult of celebrity; heat magazine is my Bible (if I can prise it out the hands of my flatmates!) and celebrity is my religion. 'Tis sad but true.
The author was commenting on the demise of the celebrity endorsement, arguing that, since anyone can be a celebrity these days (you can even be famous for not being famous, a la that dumb blonde from 'Celebrity (barrel-scraping) Big Brother'), the public has become entirely disillusioned about what celebrity actually is and no longer trusts what these so called role models have to say.
I entirely agree. The explosion of celebrity was a by-product of the 1980's, when materialism ruled and all we wanted was to be like the rich and famous. In the 21st century, the tactic of celebrity endorsement has been exposed as the cynical ploy that it always was. And it reeks of cheese! There is a much greater awareness in this personality-soaked world of the 'publicity seeker', perhaps a result of Britain opening it's eyes to the culture of spin, so wonderfully brought into the forefront by Blair's excuse for a government.
I think Americans buy into celebrity endorsement to a greater extent than us Brits because their celebrity culture is so different to ours. While our celebrities come and go in the blink of an eye, their A-listers tend to be the ones which have endured the test of time. Think about it. The afore-mentioned Chantelle Houghton was, for a brief time, gathering more column inches than any of your Victoria Beckhams. But in the States, it's the big personalities that people are interested in, and they always will be interested in them.
I'm researching my dissertation just now on the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005, which has raised entirely different issues when it comes to celebrity hi-fives. There was mucho in-fighting at the time about the perceived 'hi-jacking' of the campaign by Bob Geldof, with coalition members becoming concerned that the involvement of high profile celebrities would detract from the main messages of the campaign. So far, it looks like this is what happened. A great deal more column inches were devoted to the who's who of Live8 than to the three main campaign aims. Additionally, the stand alone campaign managed to gather only a smidgen of coverage compared to what exploded after Geldof got involved, even before Live8 was announced. The question is, how many celebrities got involved because they actually cared and how many jumped on the bandwagon to get in the spotlight? Call me cynical, but if they were that worried about Third World poverty, couldn't they have given up two of their annual holidays in Mustique and a small fraction of their weekly cocaine intake and donated the money on the quiet? On the other side of the coin, how many teeny boppers turned up for the gig at Hyde Park becaue they wanted to listen to Nelson Mandela and how many just wanted to see Madonna, Robbie and co living it up in the name of Africa? I know, I'm generalising, I'm sure there were plenty of people there who cared but there are other ways to show support besides just turning up for the party. And I am well aware that there are plenty of celebrities who use their advantageous position in society to gather support for good causes. It's just that they don't have to make a song and dance about it. Doing so, to me anyway, reeks of publicity seeking and opportunism.
On the other hand, some argue that Geldof's involvement gained some much-needed publicity for the campaign, which is correct; as long as the campaign message appeared alongside the list of do-gooders, that was still something wasn't it? It may appear buried somewhere in the middle, but at least it appeared.
So, the perilous trek through the alphabet-coded list of the stars, eh? Looks like a bit of a tightrope. Now give us your f***ing money.