Channel 4’s big expose on Monday night? Apparently it was to be a major shock to us that sometimes celebrities promote things they are given for free, or even get paid to promote things. The first half of the programme, about companies buying Facebook likes, YouTube views or Twitter followers, did reveal some pretty shoddy behaviour, but even that is probably small fry compared to other corruptions and misdemeanours amongst the same corporations. But to be surprised that celebrities aren’t always completely honest about what they are promoting seemed to be rather naïve.
Surely we all know that Oscar's or other awards dresses are loaned or even given for free, on the condition that somewhere along the line the celeb mentions the dress’s designer. Then of course there are the bulging goody bags the guests/nominees/award winners receive, which perhaps they could just casually mention is their new favourite scented candle/Champagne/whatever. They may even be given cars for goodness sake! And don’t even begin to think that any specific product which crops up in a film from the 1980s onwards or on TV (even UK TV now) hasn’t been very carefully put there, label very much to the fore. No-one could have missed the Sony Vaio overkill in Mission Impossible 3; or Coca Cola in Friends!!
The freebies are of course not confined to Hollywood, and even the lowest level reality ‘celeb’ will receive a multitude of ‘perks’ in hope they will mention them in conversation, or even better interview, or perhaps they could just send the odd ‘cheeky tweet’ here and there. These people’s followers are not naïve enough to believe they are talking about the items out of the goodness of their hearts surely?! And no-one really believes that Jennifer Aniston or whoever genuinely uses the hair product or whatever they are muttering rapturously about on television, surely?
Anyone who has ever opened a glossy magazine must surely have noticed that the product mentioned in the editorial as the best ever nail varnish/moisturiser/eye shadow, will be followed a few pages later by a nice expensive advert for the same brand. Coincidence? Really?!
Even us lowly bloggers are being continually used to help promote products, services and events, that’s all part of what we do*. We get invited somewhere, or get given something, oh and could we just tweet/write about/mention etc etc. It’s all part of the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ world of promotion, and personally I assume my readers know that. Unfortunately some see this as good reason to not be completely honest about the products they review, or are taken to task (as a bloggy friend of mine was recently) by companies when their reviews are honest. This is a shame. Honesty should be a pre-requisite to any review, surely?
Perhaps unlike some celebrities, most bloggers pride themselves on their 100% honesty in promotion or review, and most will declare how the item they are promoting was acquired, but promotion it is, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. We have chosen to work with certain companies and they have chosen to work with us, both sides benefit. My family has benefitted enormously from the lovely events we have attended, products we have been sent, and money we have been paid. When I first started blogging 18 months ago I had no idea about any of this, and personally I am delighted to have stumbled upon it!
There really is no such thing as a free lunch, and anyone who believes that people are eager to promote commercial products without any kind of recompense (financial or in kind) must be very happy living under the proverbial rock. In the real world, and especially the very fake world of celebrities and media, including social networks (surely the greatest marketing tool to date!), we must all take everything we hear and see with a very big pinch of salt, especially if there is no honest indication of how the promoted product was acquired.
Perhaps some people will be swayed by the number of followers Fred's Automobiles has on Facebook, will set out to buy the home hair colouring kit that Davina McCall supposedly uses, or be desperate to visit the bar Russell Brand goes to, but surely we are all grown up enough to research and carefully consider how we spend our money. In making those decisions myself, I am grateful for online reviews and recommendations, the more honest the better!
As for the celebrities, well as long as our society continues to set so much store by these people, and to care what they eat/do/talk about, good luck to them!
* A very few bloggers avoid all reviews, promotions, and paid content.
I have been under my rock and only just caught up with Facebook. This article was written after the Monday evening programme, and is not a response to a certain current furore in the world of blogging. However, if it fits as a response, then so be it! Lx