Andy Warhol famously said forty years ago “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” And everybody today really does have the opportunity for fame or infamy. You don’t need any special talent or skill nowadays, you simply have to be present, in the right place and at the right time, and often on the right reality TV show. The rest, well, you just leave it to the PRs whose job it is to squeeze out every single dollar or pound from the fifteen minutes of fame.
Fame today has become cheap, anybody can be famous. You just need to post something online, a ‘Paris’ video, email, whatever. You can make yourself famous quite easily in fact. But, being famous doesn’t mean that you will be a star. Celebrity today is throwaway gossip, it keeps tongues wagging, that’s all. The stars are the ones that can pick and choose how they wish to be seen. They are the ones that have a certain skill or talent – actors, sportsmen and women, models, musicians, artists. Just think about it, it is their talent first and their celebrity second. And for us PRs they are the ones that we want to work with when promoting something.
Yet celebrity culture has made us PRs quite lazy. I mean, a client comes along, they want to promote a new product, something for a specific age- group. Hmmm. Difficult that, I mean, what can we do to promote this product well and effectively. Ah, I know, let’s sign up a celebrity, somebody that everybody recognises. Perfect, it’s done, after jumping through a few hoops with publicists, agents and so on, we have a deal. And generally we have a product launch where media have come to see the celebrity that is endorsing the product that we’ve been asked to launch. But that is the problem, more often than not PRs think of the media coverage for the launch, and sell this as a success to the client. Yep, paparazzo’s were there, tick, so were journalists – who were more mainly interested in the celebrity rather than the product, oooh, better spin that to the client, tick – broadcast media, yep. In all a success.
But do we think of the brand of the celebrity? Is their stock rising or falling? Do we have a strategy? What do people like us think of them, and I mean really think of them? Does the partnership make any sense? Will it enhance and generate sales? And have we maximised every single second from the partnership?
It’s all very different to the early 20th century when the culture of celebrity was born. Back then celebrities were people that appeared on the silver screen. The A-list celebrities were US actors that worked in Hollywood. It was their lives that were followed by newspapers and photographers. UK actors aspired of featuring in a Hollywood blockbuster and until they did so they knew that they hadn’t really made it. But you didn’t need to be an actor to become a celebrity, even sports personalities had the opportunity to secure fame, like Baseball’s Joe DiMaggio who married the biggest celebrity of them all Marilyn Monroe. And today, footballers and athletes make their money from celebrity and endorsements.
Thanks to the global mass market media today everybody can be somebody. And if you manage to make it, if you get your fifteen minutes, you work hard to remain a celebrity for longer than fifteen days, or months or years. You’ve endorsed some hair straighteners, opened a few stores, written a biography or two. That kind of thing. Sadly, for many, it is a quick bite of the cake and a few scrapings in our life books for the future.
And for us PRs, well, some are lazy and just think of the cuttings book for our client, the glamorous launch party, the free drinks and so on. Celebrity has dumbed down PR, with people thinking of our job as just media relations. Yep, brand management and development, reputation management, event management, promotions, etc, etc, etc, well it isn’t seen as PR. Yet that is what we do and what our job offers, strategy and management.
Just remember, if your business is throw-a-way then use a throw-a-way celebrity, if it is more, then choose yours with care.