In the world of advertising, television and movies serve as a multifaceted platform. When characters exist in a realistic setting, they live in a world with products, clothing, and cities that reflect ours. The things they wear, foods they eat, and products they use are intentionally chosen by the show creators and can therefore offer partnerships to different industries. While the idea of product placement is nothing new, the role television and movie characters play in real-world marketing and production is constantly evolving with the rise of reality television and social media. Not only does Bart Simpson endorse Snickers, but we now also see our favorite reality stars endorsing their favorite teeth whiteners and detox teas on Instagram. Reality stars’ popularity comes from their “real” life documentation and authenticity, so we are eager to trust their judgment regarding their favorite things. We often forget that stars can be paid upwards of thousands of dollars to endorse products online when integrated marketing is executed smoothly.
Left: Image via Wetpaint. Right: Image via Smart Tan.
Even more artificial than poorly integrated marketing is the rising trend of self-titled branding. So-called stars who have reached infamy due to drunken antics and catfights are now able to create personal empires by branding anything with their name. Jersey Shore’s Snooki rose from MTV infamy to a businesswoman and entrepreneur through a variety of self-branded products, ranging from self-tanner to dresses to several books. In some ways, this is an admirable trajectory and can inspire others to make a similar career shift. It does, however, prove the disparity between those who are in the public eye and those who are not. I’m sure that there are many Wake students who dream of being published authors but do not have the connections or other means necessary to achieve this, but the moment Snooki decided it would be a lucrative endeavor she was able to complete it. Further, many of these products have little to do with the endorser past their name on the product. They do not participate in the grueling process of design, production, and collaboration, but show up at the end to become the brand. Those who commit their lives to a trade or field only to become a ghostwriter or nameless designer lose their identity behind a more famous and less qualified face. While many people happily accept this tradeoff to reap the monetary benefits, others prefer to maintain their integrity and identity. This creates a convoluted market that favors fame and reach over talent and authenticity.