Ross’ Rants: The value of “celebrity” endorsements
Ron Burgundy’s recent 180 on Dodge leaves us to ask if celebrity endorsements can be trusted
Ron Burgundy — who for the sake of this argument will be treated as a celebrity — may be one of Hollywood’s most trusted reporters, but buyers beware if they trust his endorsements as much.
Will Ferrell’s character from the 2004 hit movie Anchorman has seemingly been all over any media outlet who will have him, doing promotional work and stunts to promote his upcoming film, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
One of the earliest spots you could catch Ferrell in character as Burgundy was doing a series of promotions for the new Dodge Durango. He ended up doing several commercials and online spots, which is a considerable amount for just one product. Granted, with Burgundy appearing with Daft Punk and even calling curling for TSN, it seems as though he’s grabbing as much of the spotlight that he can.
It’s almost as if he needs to ensure audience numbers before the movie. Could it be because the sequel will not live up to the expectations? Probably… but that’s beside the point.
After enough time had passed that most people had seen at least one of the ads, Burgundy appeared on Conan, and his stance on the Dodge vehicle had changed dramatically.
“It’s a terrible car,” Burgundy revealed in a moment as candid as the fictional, narcissistic character could have. “They gave me one for free, and I drove it four feet and the thing cracked in half.”
While this is easily just a shtick, it raises an interesting point about the morality of celebrity endorsements. Should celebrities (real or fictional) cross the line of handing out false endorsements?
Alana Gieck, who is currently teaching Creative Writing for Television here at Mount Royal, said, “If the celebrity doesn’t use or believe in the product, it puts the company’s rep and their own at risk.
“Endorsement implies that the person uses and believes in the product and we hope that they actually do. Of course there’s no real way of knowing… unless the ‘endorsement police’ are making surprise visits to celebrity houses!”
Conan himself called out Burgundy during the performance, and Burgundy defended himself by saying, “Well, I got paid. They’re suckers. I’m just the messenger. I’m not in there tinkering around with lug nuts.”
Gieck was quick to point out that Burgundy was just doing a bit on Conan and that his mixed words may even help Dodge.
“If you appreciate the Ron Burgundy phenomenon then I believe you’d think his ‘bit’ on Conan was very funny. I thought it was very funny because it was something that the character would do in all of his ridiculousness.
“To me, there’s a difference between a celebrity and a character. Let us not forget that [Burgundy] is a character and a character with no appropriate social skills. Dodge knew what they were doing when they hired ‘Ron’.
“A real person has a lot on the line with endorsements: reputation, money, business relationships etc. There’s a certain amount of risk when a celebrity endorses a product,” added Gieck. Depending on the product, they can be risking their credibility and status depending on how their fan base feels about the product.”
People love celebrities, and love feeling like they can relate to celebrities. It’s why we turn to our favourite artists to relate to the songs they sing, and it’s why we,like sheep, buy the products they tell us to.
Has it gotten to the point where we have placed too much faith in celebrity endorsements? Ignoring the point that maybe they aren’t the most trustworthy source to begin with (because that ship sailed a long time ago), should they have to consider the ethical implications of endorsing a product they wouldn’t buy themselves?
It’s a system that is clearly working. We are basically blindly putting faith in the fact that our idols won’t steer us in the wrong direction, even when it is just meant as good fun as it was with Burgundy.
In reality, Will Ferrell is getting paid handsomely, and probably doesn’t care if we are on the paying end of that. Hopefully, we can get a bit more decency with celebrity endorsements since they don’t seem to be going anywhere.
And really, there should be an extra onus on the celeb in question. Burgundy, your lack of journalistic integrity would put the Channel 4 news team to shame.