Dynamic duo or desperate divas?

I am not a fan of celebrity endorsements. Never have been and never will be. I’m Meat-dress-lady-gaga-02 anti-endorsement for two fundamental reasons:
1.)    I’ve seldom seen one where a celebrity’s image and reputation perfectly aligns with those of an organization.
2.)    There’s simply too much organizational image and reputation downside in this age of naughty celebrity behavior (think: Tiger, Brett, Mel, Lindsay, Britney, etc.). I realize some of those celebs don’t double as product endorsers, but you get my gist.

So, I winced when I read the AdWeek article about Lady Gaga’s unholy alliance with the Polaroid Corporation. The legendary, if beleaguered, brand apparently inked a deal last year with the train wreck of a pop star to have the latter endorse Polaroid’s new line of digital cameras and trinkets. She was also ‘appointed’ Polaroid’s chief creative officer. To which I respond, Ha! Could you imagine attending a brainstorming session with Lady Gaga in which target audience demographics and psychographics are discussed? I think even Snooki could provide more coherent input.

For Lady Gaga, though, the Polaroid gig provides some much needed, real world credibility. Indeed, her statement says as much:

"The Haus of Gaga has been developing prototypes in the vein of fashion/technology/photography innovation – blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era – and we are excited to collaborate on these ventures with the Polaroid brand. Lifestyle, music, art, fashion: I am so excited to extend myself behind the scenes as a designer, and to as my father puts it – finally, have a real job."

The Haus of Repman doesn’t buy this collaboration at all. For one thing, Gaga is a ticking time bomb. And, no matter how badly Polaroid needs to re-position itself and appear cool to Millennials, partnering with Gaga is anything but authentic. Desperate, yes. Authentic, no. I could see Polaroid partnering with, say, Keith Richards. But, Lady Gaga? C’mon.

In fact, if memory serves, Polaroid had great success in the 1970s partnering with actors James Garner and Mariette Hartley for a long-standing, highly successful advertising campaign. Garner and Hartley were established, trustworthy and, unlike Gaga, highly professional. More importantly, the campaign ‘rang true’. It represented the Polaroid that consumers had come to know and love.

This past week, Lady Gaga was on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show to help Polaroid launch a new product. Her appearance created enormous buzz, but she dropped the F-bomb right in the middle of her remarks and the Polaroid CEO was actually booed when he appeared on-stage before the pop princess. Do the brand guardians at Polaroid actually enjoy seeing their boss booed and hissed before a major press conference? I know I sure wouldn’t. And, I’ve known more than a few CEOs who would fire an entire marketing or communications department for anything that disgraced him or the brand.

Polaroid’s unholy alliance with Lady Gaga may be driving a momentary sales spike. But, based upon her outlandish ways (a la her dress made of raw meat), I predict this is nothing more than an accident waiting to happen. Soon enough, we’ll read reports of Polaroid and Lady Gaga parting ways because of ‘creative differences.’ What that will really mean is someone at Polaroid finally woke up and said, “Why in god’s name do we want to entrust the brand’s image and reputation with a celebrity train wreck who’s gone off the tracks in the past and could drag us along with her in the future?”

11 thoughts on “Dynamic duo or desperate divas?

  1. I’m going to be a typical empty suit marketing guy and side both with Julie and Lia and RepMan. Lady GaGa is terrific, both in her music and in marketing herself. She may have stolen tricks from Madonna’s Eighties guise, but so what? For the right brand, she may be perfect. I think she deserves lots of props for that. And we don’t know if she’s an Amy Winehouse-style ticking time bomb, are that’s just another calculated part of the Lady Gaga image.
    But as dead-in-the-water and “me too” as the Polaroid brand is, this is bound to end in disaster for the reasons RepMan points to. It’s simply not the right brand for her. It may end up as well as Lindsay Lohan’s “creative” stint for Versace at the Paris fashion shows a few years back.
    But the what is the right brand? An energy drink, perhaps, where her antics aren’t out of place.
    Two other things, by the way:
    – Those Garner/Hartley Polaroid ads really were terrific. Last year the Museum of Television and Radio did a retrospective with the ad agency talent. They were so realistic that people thought Garner and Hartley were married. When Hartley did have a baby, she had a t-shirt made for the kid saying “I am NOT James Garner’s Baby!” I’m sure that made her husband happy.
    – I recently watched season 6 of my all-time favorite TV show, “The Rockford Files.” An episode with Hartley called “Paradise Cove” had much of the same kind of banter. One of the writers on that series was David Chase; watching it, you can see where elements of “The Sopranos” came from.

  2. Thanks, Lia. I do understand where you and Julie are coming from. My point is more of a corporate reputation one. How far out on a limb is an organization willing to go to risk short-term gain for long-term reputation damage. There’s also the issue of authenticity. Is Polaroid being authentic to its mission, values and vision when it partners with a ‘chief creative officer’ who’s just as likely to expose herself in a management meeting as she is to pony up cutting-edge ideas. It’s a very slippery slope indeed. Bottom line: choose your partners wisely. Just ask Nike about Tiger Woods.

  3. Perhaps, Julie. I’m pleased to say my knowledge of Gaga’s intellectual prowess is virtually nil. But, I am aware of her antics (a la what she did this past season at CitiField while sitting in Jerry Seinfeld’s seats). She’s a typically boorish, in your face pop star whose X-rated antics spell eventual trouble with a capital T for Polaroid.

  4. Sorry to say, Rep – I’m with Julie on this one. Gaga is on the other side of the spectrum than Snooki. In fact, most pop culture writers and watchers praise her for exploiting the attention-getting system. Her antics, rather than random, are actually quite calculated. (As opposed to Snooki, who just is drunk all the time, as you know.)
    With that said, having her as your creative director is going to come with some waves because she does need to maintain this “image” but I suspect Polaroid knew that and is willing to go along for the ride. If even 1/100 of Gaga’s fans buy Polaroid as a result (I went to a concert of hers, her fans are SERIOUS) – they’ll be riding those waves all the way to the bank.

  5. Sorry, Rep, but I must disagree with you on this one. You wrote:
    “Could you imagine attending a brainstorming session with Lady Gaga in which target audience demographics and psychographics are discussed? I think even Snooki could provide more coherent input.”
    I have seen Gaga interviewed many times on TV. She is smart, articulate, and extremely creative. The comparison to Snooki is unfair. Plus, Gaga has real talent — she can sing, play piano, and is a solid songwriter. Meat-dress notwithstanding, I think Gaga gives the music industry a much-needed jolt.

  6. The one thing we know about Favre’s unfortunate situation with those massage therapists is that, if nothing more, there will not be a happy ending.

  7. Nice idea, Lunch. Personally, I laugh out loud every time I see one of Eli Manning’s endorsements of Omega Watch (at least I think it’s Omega). Eli has to be the least dependable, easiest to spook, slowest QB in pro football. Why in god’s name that company still uses him as their shill is beyond me.

  8. Sadly, this is a ‘snapshot’ of things to come as pop culture infiltrates our lives more and more each day (and with each new reality series launched).
    Maybe you should write a “company & spokesperson” post (again?) and nominate the worst of the worst and draft a release for the industry rags.
    I would be happy to think of a few. For starters – “Doc Gooden and Coke.”
    Oh, and by the way, I have to give props to Gaga for a dress made of bacon. Everything is better with bacon, Rep.