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Minor Celeb Endorsements Trip Up Sony, BMW

Posted by Abe Sauer on September 23, 2009 01:33 PM

Use of minor or would-be celebs is a durable advertising trend. Aspiring "fameballs" -- well-known, if at all, simply for wanting to be famous -- are generally poised, presentable, and vaguely familiar, and don't bring the serious costs of using big names. In the era of Facebook, Twitter, and "lifecasting" blogs where wannabes stream their daily activies hoping for fans, there is a steady supply of talent.

But as Sony is now finding, one pitfall to using endorsements from these oversharing attention-seekers is that when you live your life in public for all to view, people can see when you're lying.

In new web ads for Sony, writer Julia Allison -- a notorious victim (or beneficiary) of media gossip blog Gawker's pump-and-bash approach toward intrepid self-promoters -- gushes over the "portabler" Vaio Lifestyle PC that "goes everywhere she goes." In a subsequent ad, she claims a different Sony model does "all the things I do everyday."

But not long ago, Allison publicly begged for a Macbook Air, then gushed ecstatically when she finally got one for her birthday. Her online show “NonSociety” highlights her heavy use of the Mac. And then there's the promo photo she had done of herself, Sex And The City-style, with her Mac.

And then there is BMW’s new spokesman Brian Unger. Many who know Unger as the acerbic satirist and cultural critic from National Public Radio and the original Daily Show may find him difficult to swallow as the painfully earnest pitchman for BMW’s environmental friendliness.

Of course, there is a paradox for both the BMW and Sony brands. The media-savvy hipsters who might recognize the oddness of using Unger and Allison aren't really the targets of these commercials. But the wider target audience has no idea who these people are, which begs the question of why to use either in the first place.

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