4 Shameless Uses of Dead Celebrities by Marketing Campaigns
One of the great issues to fly under the political radar since the turn of the century has been necromancy. Just a few short decades ago, conducting a dark ritual and signing a blood contract to infuse a rotting corpse with a bitter facsimile of life was frowned upon, if not outright forbidden, in most civilized societies. But these days, you can do the same thing with a computer and normal, not-blood contracts, and no one bats an eye. If you don't believe me, then here's a computerized wax ghost of Audrey Hepburn, and she'd like to sell you a chocolate bar.
Right now, half your brain is sorta impressed at that CGI, while the other half is curled in the fetal position on the floor of your skull, weeping in existential dread. So that first half thinks he's a tough guy, huh? Don't worry. I'll break him.
Kurt Cobain's Goofy Statue
Nirvana was a band that was great at making punk rock accessible to a broad audience without ruining the punk part. They also gave really funny interviews.
The Marketing Campaign
With someone like Kurt Cobain, it's super tempting to project closely held punk-rock ideals on him, because he died young and most people get into his music when they're teenagers. But regardless of what he said when he was alive, people grow and change, and maybe he would've been fine with Doc Martens using his image for their campaign in exchange for a castle of money.
Although it wouldn't have made much sense if he were still alive.
But I feel like I can confidently say that he wouldn't have been OK with this freaky statue they just erected in Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, because no one in their right mind ever would be.
Or should I say "resurrected." Oh, wait, no -- they already did.
Seriously, what the hell? What am I looking at? Were I the Internet, I would be so overcome with emotion that I would only be able to cry "I can't even!" But lo, I am not the Internet, so instead I shall exclaim, "Dude, that looks like fuckin' Play-Doh Jesus dicking around on an inflatable guitar." And I haven't even gotten to the tear thing yet.
Pictured: the tear thing.
To say that I don't like this monument, that I find it crass and insulting, does a disservice to the feelings in my heart. I'm being completely honest when I say that if a young, bright-eyed child -- say, my cousin's kid -- came to me to share his joy at having discovered the sublime ecstasy of creation and then showed me this fucking statue as his symbolic first step on the journey to becoming a true artist, I would have no choice as to what to do next. I would tearfully inform him that he had no future, creatively. That he must burn his unholy abomination, as well as the tools he sullied by fostering it, and then go to college to become an accountant.
The monument is part of a tourist campaign centered on the Aberdeen History Museum, complete with a Kurt Cobain tour that promises to show you all the buildings Cobain drunkenly stumbled by before moving to Olympia and actually doing the stuff he's famous for. By far the saddest part of this whole thing is the mayor's boyishly optimistic hope that Aberdeen will be the next Graceland -- something that's pretty unlikely unless he can figure out how to work a vampire love triangle into this dead guy's biography.
CGI Bruce Lee Wants to Get You Drunk
Bruce Lee is known for doing every cool thing you've ever seen a person do in a movie, but significantly better. He's basically the reason we have kung fu movies as a genre, and he also once punched a guy so hard that he became a cartoon.
The '70s were a different time.
The Marketing Campaign
Working Bruce Lee into your marketing campaign is tough, because all his accomplishments were based on inner strength and discipline, which are things advertisements are actively trying to destroy. But that hasn't stopped people from trying -- usually by saying, "Hey, remember Bruce Lee? God, he was rad. Oh, and while you're paying attention to us, please buy our shit." In this ad for Johnnie Walker, a CGI Bruce Lee explains that you can be more than a success -- you can be a game changer, if you drink really overpriced blended scotch.
The problem here is actually pretty straightforward: Lee didn't freaking drink, because binge drinking had driven him away from his family. Also, he's speaking the wrong language. Finally -- and perhaps even worse -- let's not forget that Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch. Blended scotches are lame. Bruce Lee is not.
But the worst part of that ad is the inclusion of the phrase "walk on" at the end. For those who don't know, that's not Johnnie Walker's catchphrase -- that's an excerpt from a key moment in Lee's life. After suffering a debilitating back injury, Lee wrote "walk on" on the back of one of his own business cards to motivate himself to keep working, even though doctors had told him he'd never practice martial arts again. Eventually, he overpowered the laws of medicine with the same muscles he'd already used to punch physics into submission, and later ended up developing his own martial art, Jeet Kune Do. That's ridiculous. And he did it all without touching any goddamn blended scotch. I feel strongly about this.
Alcatel Wireless Takes Credit for Martin Luther King Jr.
I think Martin Luther King Jr. is a lot like Hitler. Hear me out. Both are frequently the subject of comparisons that are absolutely outrageous: For every Internet debater you've ever seen call someone a Nazi because they didn't like My Little Pony, there is someone out there who secretly believes in their heart of hearts that they are just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights hero. I once met a woman who said to me -- and this is a direct quote -- "I'm humble, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." I did not say, "No you are fucking not, and that sentence is the reason why," but every day I wish I had. Because I know that it's what Martin would have wanted.
The Marketing Campaign
A few years ago, an Internet company called Alcatel released this advertisement, which seems to imply that King never could've had a major impact on the world without the Internet. That seems somewhat dubious to me, but hey, I don't work in marketing.
He didn't just fail to connect, he cleared the entire National Mall.
Their conceit is that before you can inspire a marginalized and vulnerable class of people to assert themselves and claim their human rights, you must first reach them -- and luckily, they provide that service, because they are an ISP. Unfortunately, just like my friend, they have set up a comparison that just doesn't favor them.
Let's do some quick MLK history. King attained the massive audience of listeners he did by working with violent gang members to earn their trust and convince them to join his cause of passive resistance. ISPs let me download porn. King was subject to constant threats against his life for everything he stood for, but kept fighting until someone actually made good on those threats -- turning him into a martyr, a hero of American history, and someone we can all learn from. Alcatel's customer support is closed on Sunday.
King had a hell of a "come hither" look.
ISPs, on the other hand, don't even have faces. No fuckin' contest.
Here's the great irony of this commercial: Everything that makes this ad offensive also makes it a really bad piece of marketing. If you're trying to make yourself look good at something, don't compare yourself to someone who completely redefined the way everybody does that thing. And definitely don't act like they couldn't have done it without you when history says that's exactly what they did.
Bob Marley's "Low Energy" Drink (Among Other Things)
This may come as a shock, but it turns out that the guy who wrote "Get Up, Stand Up" and other songs about chasing white people with sticks was actually kind of a radical. Bob Marley viewed racial inequality as just cause for war, openly advocated for a unified Africa, thought Jamaica should have a "black, Marxist government," said that trying to make money off his music would rob it of its value, and believed so strongly in his message that he once performed a concert after being shot in the chest by machine guns.
Teddy Roosevelt comparisons notwithstanding.
The Marketing Campaign
I'm really tempted to say that Bob Marley was a political revolutionary whose memory has been co-opted by a bunch of stoner kids with trendy faux-dreadlock haircuts that make them look like poorly thought-out Kurt Cobain statues, so I will. That's exactly what I'm saying. I just said it.
Aside from the obvious irony of throwing his face on the front of a Walmart T-shirt or using "Three Little Birds" to close out senior prom in a gated community, Marley's music has posthumously shown up in Budweiser commercials (even though, as a Rastafarian, he didn't drink) while the people who own the rights to his name have worked to distance him from the word "reggae" because of its "negative connotations," which is like trying to distance Wes Anderson from movies people pretend to like because they're afraid that admitting they fell asleep will make everyone think they're an idiot. But one of the worst examples of his memory being utterly misapplied has got to be Marley's Mellow Mood, which I bought at a gas station a few weeks ago for $1.49, because I am dedicated to my research.
Mellow Mood is an all-natural beverage designed to promote relaxation and dead-eyed zombie vomiting. Its existence proves that at some point in his life Marley ended up pissing off a dark wizard, because memorializing an anti-capitalist revolutionary with a trendy homeopathic sedative is the kind of cruel irony that they design entire circles of hell for.
I'm not pointing this out as part of an anti-capitalist crusade -- I'm fine making money off stuff I create, since my Aviator sunglasses and potato gun parts aren't going to pay for themselves. I'm just talking about basic human fucking decency. Whether or not you agree with the guy's politics, it's sleazy as shit to use the spoils of his work and life to take a big steaming shit on everything he ever believed in.
JF Sargent is gonna go take a big steaming shit on Twitblr, Blogface, and Tumblebook. He's also writing a sci-fi adventure novel called The Wreck of the Joanna Ng that you can read for free.
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