Advertising Whores

The late and great Bill Hicks once introduced a sketch with:

‘By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising, kill yourself.’

A tad extreme perhaps, but I know what he means, and that was in 1993. If only Bill was around to skewer the greedy celebrities of today.

Most American and British actors have been reluctant to appear in widespread advertising campaigns, assuming that it cheapens their image and can be seen as selling out.  But Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jodie Foster, who generally avoid publicity in the United States, have been doing large-scale advertising campaigns in Japan and China. Leonardo DiCaprio and Meg Ryan have filed cease and desist letters against websites that mirrored their foreign advertisements in an attempt to preserve their image at home. Robert De Niro has advertised for American Express, Bob Dylan for the Co-op.

‘If you’re a young actor, I’ll look the other way.’

Bill Hicks

You expect the venal to advertise: Bruce Willis, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Beckham and so on, but when I see Helen Mirren, David Tennant and now David Bowie whoring their image for money they don’t need, my heart sinks. How was your Hamlet, David? I don’t care. What about your Prospero in the recent Tempest, Helen? Not interested. And David Bowie? He’s been making millions since the sixties. Does he need any more money? No, he doesn’t. Will he whore himself to Louis Vuitton for a few million more? Sure he will.

‘You do a commercial, folks, you’re off the artistic roll call for ever. You’re another corporate shill, you’re a whore at the capitalist gang bang, and if you do a commercial there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and everything that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.’

Bill Hicks

Nothing these people do will ever mean anything to me again. As Bill Hicks observed: they have removed themselves from the artistic register. Here is a small sample of people whose names will never quite mean the same to me:

David (Virgin) Tennant

Helen (Wii) Mirren

Al (Sky) Pacino

George (Nespresso) Clooney

Derek (Sony) Jacobi

David (Apple) Mitchell

Uma (Schweppes) Thurman

Chris (Direct Line) Addison and Alexander (Anything) Armstrong

I owe a sort of apology to the celebrities mentioned because of the many thousands that have not been mentioned. The people here are just those that I remember or who particularly stuck in my mind when they appeared selling stuff for corporations. I don’t watch commercial TV very much so I suppose there are hundreds more that I have never seen. There seems to be a free for all now. Nobody cares. Let’s sell our souls.

Did Luis Figo stop to think that people might prefer to remember him as a fantastic footballer rather than pretending to use Just For Men? Did Jarvis Cocker really need to endorse Eurostar or Derek Jacobi pimp Sony?

‘You have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan’s little helpers.’

Bill Hicks

I’m not at all jealous. I don’t have any money. I have enough for today and next week and that’s all I’ve ever needed. I wouldn’t mind a bit more, but only a bit. Perhaps I’ll sell a book, I don’t know but I don’t mind either. I don’t understand greed at all. It doesn’t make any sense.

The strange thing is that few people care. We live in such a commercial nightmare that many people see this behaviour as normal. I’m not sure that many people can tell the difference between the ads and reality. It really isn’t normal. It’s very strange behaviour.

I tried to balance this with a list of celebrities who don’t advertise. Several Google search combinations just repeatedly came up with those who DO advertise, such is the way of the world, I suppose. Google finds it unthinkable that anybody WOULDN’T want to appear in an advert. How horrible.

But, nevertheless, there must be hundreds, thousands who do not and would not appear in adverts. Many actors just use their voices so it is hard to tell. I know that Ian Hislop refuses to advertise, but he is a famously moral man – he has to be, as the editor of Private Eye. I’m afraid the rest of my list are just guesses. I don’t think that Ian McKellan, Alan Rickman or Juliet Stevenson have ever appeared in ads, but I’m not sure. I don’t think Steven King has either, apart from his books of course, which is different. There must be loads of others and I salute each and every one of them. A toast to non-greedy, sane people everywhere.

‘Haven’t you got enough money, you ####### whore?’

Bill Hicks

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