A sign of a celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services.
- Daniel J Boorstin
You’ve spent your entire lives listening to what Celebrities say about endorsements. Here, Pilipino Kuno weighs in on what endorsements have to say about celebrities.
It’s an interesting little fact of life that not many give serious thought—a good fraction of the products you buy have someone selling them. The celebrity makes an amusing substitute for a salesman. For one, they’re no longer physically talking to you; for another, their biggest selling point is reduced to a winning smile over anything substantial on the product’s utility. But after marketing research, talent negotiations, and a multi-million peso contract, that celebrity sold. 25 pesos lang! Oh. And, 25 million pesos for the celebrity.
And then there are celebrity endorsements that boost something a million times more relevant than sales—-politicians that might not have been elected otherwise. The following is more an editorial than an opinion-free piece. Before you’re half way through reading, I hope you let your own opinions run free and nail down the research that makes them unkabogable.
Even good opinions are worth very little unless we hold them in the broad, intelligent, and spacious way.—John Morley
The Good—Kris Aquino
To date, YES Magazine has published the only recent public information on the Top 20 Filipino Endorsers. They gave you the biggest money makers out there, an explanation as to why, and the list. (1)
Kris Aquino topped the list and kahit ang isang banyaga ay makakapagsabi kung bakit—she is completely believable. Live television is a beautiful thing. Just knowing everything happening is happening here and now makes way for an undeniable “kilig” factor. “Walang “take two”; walang “take three.” There is just here and now. The obvious downside: the singer/performer just lost all room for mistake. The upside: the audience appreciates the mistake-free that much more. And, this is where Kris Aquino shines brightest.
While watching Kris Aquino myself on Gandang Gabi Vice Jan 8th 2012 via TFC of course, Kris Aquino had a passing moment that stuck with me (2). When Vice had brought up some past memory they both shared, Kris corrected the sequence of events discussed. Vice naturally raised a candid eyebrow and questioned the “Queen of All Media”. Kris’ immediately quipped back something to the paraphrased-effect: “hello? wala akong commercial na bitamina? Itong memorya ay gumaganang malinis gaya ng pito”
I bow to you Kris. You make me smile, laugh, and wish I was part of an award-giving body only so I could rightfully give you one.
If Kris Aquino were playing devil’s advocate against her own success, I can already hear her saying, “in fairness, matagal na ako sa industriyang ito, bata. Kung ano ang nakikita mo yun ang makukuha mo.” I wouldn’t expect anything less.
The Bad—Overpaid Celebrities &Underpaid Salesman
The most embarrassing and publicized celebrity endorsements gone wrong are definitely the scandal-ridden—drug abuse, sexual assault, and mindless, politically incorrect comments. Books could be written on the subject. People don’t only make brand to celebrity associations, they can make brand to celebrity scandal associations. This freaks out the marketing world to no end.
But there is another category of celebrity endorsements I found more interesting—those that didn’t quite fit to begin with and by virtue of lazy salesmanship lost respect for both celebrity and product. These are just as prolific and occasionally headline-worthy. Actress Helena Bonham Carter told the world she rarely wears make-up while the face of Yardley Cosmetics. She went on to say she didn’t know why they even chose her. The examples are there [Suze Orman, (3A), (3B) (3C)].
In some situations, the celebrity didn’t ever particularly care about what they were selling; serving only to remind the public: money was the only motivation. Everyone gets paid in one currency or another. Not everyone deserves it. To this I can only say: The masses can forgive an over-paid celebrity sales rep for being over paid; but don’t expect forgiveness when you, the overpaid celebrity, failed to do what the underpaid salesman does every day. Now, let’s get ugly.
The Ugly—Celebrity-Endorsed Political Campaigns
You would think this category would be reserved for the likes of celebrity scandals. No, I have much more respect for celebrity scandals than what follows.
Paid political celebrity endorsements are an insult to human intelligence, an insult spanning too many decades and political campaigns to deserve sugarcoating. It is one thing to endorse a brand toward company sales. It’s another thing to endorse a politician and bypass the substance behind one political platform after another. If the act itself weren’t sickening enough, the exorbitant amount of money “top celebrities” have made from these endorsements is down-right dirty.
In some forgivable cases, celebrities campaign for the politician they believe in. Who can blame a sincere celeb for starting relevant discussion? The same very same influence we’re talking about can fit anywhere on this simplified scale of “the good, the bad, & the ugly.” A celebrity has so many possibilities at their disposal; there’s a responsibility too. But in many cases, “top philippine celebrities” campaign for jaw-dropping figures between 20-50 million pesos. And even after all those zeros, there’s still no relevant conversation coming from the celebrity’s end (PCIJ article source here).
Even when ill-informed, a single celebrity is still a force to be reckoned with come election day. For those going skeptical, multiple economists point to the last American presidential election, possibly the highest benchmark of a celebrity-fueled election. Two well-respected economists believe Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama is responsible for one million votes, claiming Obama would have lost the election without her. As one institution after another are making acknowledgements (not limited to Freakonomics’ Authors and the NY Times), the claim of two economists is holding strong. Now, look a little closer to home. PCIJ via political strategist Ronald Jabal argued (4):
a large part of the victory at the 2001 polls of Senators Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan and Ralph Recto can be credited to their showbiz wives. Pangilinan is married to ‘Megastar’ Sharon Cuneta while Ralph Recto’s wife is ‘Star for All Seasons’-turned-politician Vilma Santos-Recto. Cuneta’s selling prowess is unquestionable. She can sell anything to the public – from burgers to milk to movies. Jabal is only one of many who believe she helped sell her husband’s candidacy.
Unfortunately, this is only one example of a long list of Celebrity Endorsed Philippine Politicians and the equally exhaustive list of tactics used. [Sources of public coverage: (4), (5), (6), (7)]
The Bottom Line
A political campaign endorsement is not a brand. A political campaign has too much at stake to justify distraction from what matters most, the issues. Every Filipino that cares the least about their country is already invested.
Ultimately, the modern-Filipino has social media down to a science. I swear Americans simply can’t compete with ang unkabogable trending super powers ng Pilipinas. Here’s where the creative Artist in me pops out.
Where Can You Be Heard
The next time you watch a celebrity endorsement that upsets you, speak up. Did it over simplify the situation. Did it ask you to vote for a popular politician with out so much as giving you a reason why?
Channel your thoughts where you think it’ll be heard most. Try directing your tweets at a couple new sources that make avoiding media bias their priority. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has impressed me time and again. But lately, Rappler has really taken off.
Come election season, remember to angle your thoughts with the same hash tag. Try hashtags: