It wasn’t that long ago, it really wasn’t. I’m not even 30 and I can remember the days when Hollywood celebrities had a kind of off-limits class about them. I use the word class loosely. It was kind of an unwritten rule that when you got to a certain level of fame and accomplishment you didn’t diminish your aura by doing anything tacky, like television commercials.
The only acceptable way for the stars to make a few extra advertising bucks was to go to Japan and do it there. They hid their moneymaking shame in a culture that has a very different interpretation of ‘tacky’. That’s how Brad Pitt came to do this:
Then Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller and Britney Spears decided being kitschy was beneficial to their bank accounts:
There are literally hundreds of those all over the internet now, all hilarious. Sometimes in the 90s a friend of a friend would actually visit Japan and come home with stories about all the screen queens they’d seen pop up on TV waggling gimmicky products around in an effort to SELL SELL SELL!
Or maybe one of your mother’s women’s magazines would run a feature article about the secret ads that celebrities were doing in Japan, complete with photos, though it would usually end up being padded out with pics of celebrities in ads they’d done before they were famous, possibly because they couldn’t get the rights to publish many of the Japanese ones.
Anyway, my point through all this is that though it was widely known and accepted that big name American stars in Japanese commercials was a thing, it was also accepted that this would never be tolerable in the west. Turns out that the stars shouldn’t have worried. The west is nowhere near as classy as we thought we were (big surprise there, huh).
Now I can turn on my television in London and see major celebrities hawking all kinds of random crap in a single ad break. What the hell happened? Why did we all become so accepting, instead of just laughing this ridiculousness out of town?
Let’s go back. Pepsi was one of the few brands that it was always admissible to associate with, even for A-list celebs. All the major popstars partnered with Pepsi – Michael Jackson, The Spice Girls, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, the list goes on. Everyone did Pepsi commercials.
Similarly, it was ok to advertise sports gear if you were an athlete. Got a Nike contract? Then we’ll embrace seeing you in Nike commercials. Fine.
After that it began to get a little fuzzy. Classy perfumes and make up brands started using famous actresses in their campaigns. Ok, still acceptable as long as it’s classy, right? I think the real dent in the “classy” armour came with the Proactiv infomercials. Sitting around the house on a Saturday morning in 2006, I remember being shocked when Lindsay Lohan popped up on screen talking about zit cream. Wasn’t she too famous for this? It could have gone either way, but I think we as a society definitively jumped on board with this celebrity consumerism when it started to involve hot athletes selling underpants.
From there it was a definite downward spiral. Now I can’t get through 3 hours of Friends reruns without being subjected to George Clooney’s thoughts on coffee machines, Eva Longoria’s cat food recommendations, Shakira’s contributions to oral hygiene and some frigging awkward nonsense with Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey peddling perfume.
Bah! I’m not angry. Just disappointed.