Chanel’s New Spokesperson is the Pitts

What’s that smell?

It’s Eau de Brad Pitt—otherwise known as Chanel No. 5.

Yes, Mr. Jolie himself has signed on to become the first-ever male spokesperson for the iconic perfume, joining the ranks of Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou, and, of course, Nicole Kidman.

The move has certainly raised eyebrows, given that Chanel No. 5 is, after all, a women’s fragrance. While some industry experts have argued that if any man can fill this role, it’s the perennially sexy Pitt, other critics (at least from my unscientific sampling of comment feeds) have used the words, “smelly,” “old,” and “bearded homeless man.”

Of course, it doesn’t help that every post I’ve read on this announcement features a picture of Pitt looking like a smelly, old, bearded homeless man.

Photo by Georges Biard

However, as Businessweek notes, Chanel is likely not going after Brad Pitt just for Brad Pitt. His endorsement “is a way of saying Angelina Jolie without saying Angelina Jolie,” notes William M. O’Barr, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of ADText, an online textbook about advertising and society.

Sidney J. Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Arizona, points out that with Pitt as spokesman, “There is also the implication that the fabulous Ms. Jolie might use the perfume, and thus be worthy of emulation.”

O’Barr also observes that Pitt embodies the “classic beauty” element that Chanel No. 5 has consistently portrayed in their ads. This would likely explain why they didn’t go after a Ryan Gosling or Zac Efron type, for example.

And, not surprisingly, this unconventional endorsement has already garnered more publicity than your average celebrity fragrance announcement (unless you’re Adam Levine), so there is something to be said for the shock value of it all—especially in a category where everyone and their mom seems to be peddling a scent. (Except for yours truly—it takes all my strength not to gag and pass out when I wander into the perfume section of a department store. Too. Many. Smells.)

Actually, I think this endorsement could work for Chanel. My guess is, Pitt—who is reportedly getting paid seven figures for this deal—will clean up just fine for the ads and give the classic fragrance a bold new flavor (er, smell?) that is still in keeping with their brand personality. In any case, we won’t have to wait long to find out—Pitt’s first spot will hit the airwaves overseas later this year.

Walking with ‘The West Wing’

Ah, the walk and talk.

Remember, West Wing fans? Remember all those long, uncut scenes full of rapid-fire dialogue delivered by staffers winding their way through endless White House corridors?

Here, I’ll give you a prime example:

C.J.: (walking) What’s your Secret Service code name?
Sam: (also walking) They just changed them.
C.J.: I know. What’s yours?
Sam: Princeton.
C.J.: Mine’s flamingo.
Sam: It’s nice.
C.J.: (stopping) No, it’s not nice.
Sam: (also stopping) The flamingo’s a nice-looking bird.
C.J.: The flamingo is a ridiculous-looking bird.
Sam: You’re not ridiculous-looking.
C.J.: I know I’m not ridiculous-looking.
Sam: Any way for me to get out of this conversation?
C.J.: (resumes walking) I’m going to talk to someone.
Sam: (also resumes walking) Excellent.

Well, friends, if you miss gems like that classic exchange, you’re in for a rare treat: Several cast members from The West Wing have reunited to shoot a Funny or Die spot for Every Body Walk!, an online educational campaign to get Americans off the couch and on their feet.

It seems only fitting that this group was pegged to get out the word about the health benefits of walking. Hell, they probably walked the equivalent of the Oregon Trail during the course of a season. The dialogue in this spot doesn’t disappoint, either, with a blatant nod to the too-clever zingers creator Aaron Sorkin is famous for (and one last monologue for President Bartlet to wax poetic about something important and inspirational).

Also, the line about Mrs. Landingham is priceless (RIP, dear lady).

Given that Every Body Walk! is promoting walking as a way to cut the risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and breast, colon, and prostate cancers (translation: this isn’t a campaign to combat childhood obesity), The West Wing is likely to bring a warm smile of familiarity to many members of the adult demographic they’re going after. (One of my friends on Facebook noted that “seeing them in character again feels like home”—a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.)

Here’s hoping this spot sparks a nationwide walk and talk movement. I’ve already staked out an excellent hallway in my office building. (Seriously, it’s a giant circle—we could walk and talk for days…)

You Can Depend on Lisa Rinna

Hi, folks!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a bit—I was stuck in the black hole that is finals. But the semester is finally coming to end, and while this blog was created as part of a class that has officially wrapped, I am pleased to report that Celebranded isn’t going anywhere!

Let us rejoice!

(I’ll give you a minute to let the joy flow you through. Don’t worry. Take your time.)

Hey, speaking of flow (I apologize for this segue)—has anyone seen Lisa Rinna’s new ad for Depend undergarments?

It’s been creating quite a bit of buzz—something that doesn’t happen all that often with an incontinence product. Take Jimmy Fallon’s musings on the topic, for example:

All the talk, of course, stems from the fact that Lisa Rinna isn’t really the target demographic for what is commonly referred to as “adult diapers.” She has freely admitted that she doesn’t use the product, but rather filmed the spot, with husband Harry Hamlin, as part of a charitable partnership between Depend and Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps low-income women secure employment.

“[Depend] donated $225,000 to Dress for Success if I tried them on in the commercial,” Rinna told the Huffington Post. “That’s why I did it. Plus, I loved their campaign…I believe women should feel good about themselves and if that means they need to talk about their problems, then absolutely. We need to help each other. I was not afraid to do this.”

Photo via The Heart Truth Fashion Show

I have to admit, I give Lisa Rinna a lot of credit for appearing in this spot, which is part of Depend’s “Great American Try-On” campaign. Even though the charitable angle arguably makes her look good, appearing in a Depend ad—especially at age 48—could still be seen as a rather risky career move. Stars don’t usually line up to have their name associated with adult diapers and bladder control problems. It’s just not…sexy.

Which of course brings us to Ms. Rinna, who struts the red carpet in an undetectable Depend Silhouette undergarment to show women that they can be sexy and confident in spite of a rather embarrassing—though not uncommon—health problem. I think it’s an important message. I also think the ad and product stand a decent chance of eliminating at least some of the shame many women must feel when they purchase bulky adult diapers and then struggle to hide any evidence that they’re wearing them.

I do wonder if it might have been better for Depend to secure someone closer in age—but still hip and attractive—to the target audience (a Helen Mirren type, for example). For the consumer, that kind of celeb might be able to lend more credibility to the product, since she would at least be of an age where problems like incontinence become a bigger issue. After all, Lisa Rinna has the confidence of knowing she doesn’t really need an adult diaper, and it might be a little off-putting to have a women under 50 telling a woman of, say, 70, that adult diapers really aren’t that bad.

But, in the end, that kind of ad probably wouldn’t be generating nearly as much publicity as Lisa Rinna’s spot. I would also guess that even just starting a public conversation about incontinence helps some women feel a little less embarrassed about the whole thing. And, gentlemen—in case you were worried that Depend had forgotten about its male consumers, fear not! The NFL’s Clay Matthews, Wes Welker, and DeMarcus Ware have tried on the brand’s “Real Fit for Men” undergarments to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which is working to find cures for diseases like prostate cancer (which can affect bladder control).

See, guys—adult diapers don’t have to hold you back from wearing spandex, either!

No Moore Photoshop!

Demi Moore has had a bit of a rough year.

The 49-year-old star is going through a very public divorce from husband Ashton Kutcher; she recently completed a stint in rehab following a bizarre whippet-induced seizure-like episode; and her new campaign for Helena Rubinstein cosmetics has already garnered a great deal of criticism for that evilest of advertising evils—Photoshop.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

It goes without saying that many women would kill to look like Demi Moore when they hit the half-century mark, so why the folks at Helena Rubinstein felt the need to airbrush the star to within an inch of her life is rather puzzling.

In the words of E! Online reporter Bruna Nessif, “It’s freakin’ Demi Moore. How much do you really have to fix?”

Well, Bruna, according to Life & Style picture editor Craig Gunn, apparently a lot.

“Without seeing the original photographs I can only speculate,” admits Gunn in an interview with the UK’s MailOnline. “But it looks as though the skintone has been heavily airbrushed, with quite a thick application of the brush. Doing this gets rid of all pit marks, pores, moles, blemishes and fine hairs on the face to create a smoother look. In Demi’s case, they have left nothing behind.”

Gunn goes on to further detail likely enhancements to Moore’s cheekbones, eyes, chin, hairline, and facial shape.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

“It’s a slightly alien effect,” he says. “When you start taking away people’s skintones and smoothing out their features, they look like mannequins. You’re removing the human elements of the face.”

If you compare the images in the ads with this photo of Moore from the premiere of her film Margin Call last October, it’s pretty easy to see what Gunn is getting at. Not surprisingly, the comment feeds of several articles on this issue are riddled with folks exclaiming they didn’t even know it was Moore in the photos. Others noted they thought the ads featured burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese (who’s 39).

This actually isn’t the first time Helena Rubinstein has caught flack for excessive Photoshopping of Demi Moore. Two years ago, the brand came under fire for performing the same magic act on the actress’s  face in a perfume ad—a move that looked even worse after a picture from Ashton Kutcher surfaced on Twitter, featuring Moore in an almost identical shot (where she resembled a real person).

Photos via Helena Rubinstein, Ashton Kutcher Twitpic

Look, I get that Photoshop isn’t going away anytime soon. And if folks want to use it to remove a pesky pimple or stray hair, I really couldn’t care less. But on what planet do folks truly want to see an ad with a famous person in it—a person renowned for her ageless beauty, no less—who has had virtually every feature of her face erased and replaced?

Please tell me it’s not planet Earth.

With advertising watchdog groups cracking down more and more on Photoshopped images, I am keeping my fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, situations like this one will start to become a little less common. In December, Procter & Gamble pulled a CoverGirl mascara print ad featuring Taylor Swift in response to criticisms over the product’s misleading claims (Swift’s eyelashes were digitally enhanced). And in the U.K., a similar issue with L’Oréal ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington forced that brand to withdraw misleading images.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

In Moore’s case, these ads are so far gone in terms of editing that it’s highly unlikely anyone will believe Helena Rubinstein’s products will make them look anything like the star—after all, she doesn’t even look like herself. But at the end of the day, this whole episode does stand as yet another sad reflection of the unrealistic standards of beauty perpetuated by the fashion, cosmetics, and entertainment industries—something we’re all sick of rehashing, but that still exists nonetheless. Even if we know that humans don’t actually look like mannequins, these kinds of images do send a message that any “flaws”—a wrinkle! a scar! an ounce of fat!—are problems that should never see the light of day. (For a particularly chilling anecdote about Photoshop and impressionable young minds, check out this post from my classmate Carol Gosser’s blog, Confessions of a Suburban Supermom.)

As rumors circulate about Moore’s own struggles with growing older (and the eating disorder and drug use that supposedly accompanied her growing insecurities), these ads are like a giant slap in the (digitally enhanced) face. And, of course, they certainly don’t make the general population of “regular folk” feel any better.

After all, if Demi Moore isn’t beautiful enough to appear in a make-up ad, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Giving You Gas?

Have you gone gluten-free?

All the cool kids are doing it.

Seriously, it’s, like, so trendy right now. Just ask Gwyneth Paltrow. She is one of a slew of celebrities—from Zooey Deschanel to Oprah Winfrey—who tout the benefits of gluten-free living.

Photo by Briana (Breezy) Baldwin

Some celebs, like Ms. Deschanel, have celiac disease, which causes sufferers to experience debilitating symptoms—from bloating to vomiting to seizures—when they consume gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye). In these types of cases, going gluten-free falls more into the “my life depends on it” category rather than your garden-variety “just for kicks” group.

On the flip side, we have A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, who rave about going gluten-free as a way to achieve a healthier lifestyle, but have no actual problems with tolerating gluten.

Now, you may think to yourself, What’s the big problem with that? Wouldn’t we all be better off with less gluten? Isn’t it bad for me, just like processed foods, saturated fats, and believing George Clooney is the marrying kind?

Well, if you have celiac disease, sure.

But, according to a newly published editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (and covered in layman’s terms in this recent Huffington Post article), if you don’t suffer from this condition, well—Gwyneth Paltrow might be giving you gas.

You see, doctors are a little concerned that with the gluten-free lifestyle receiving so much mainstream promotion from the likes of celebrity endorsers and the food industry, some people are starting to experience and self-diagnose health problems that may not actually exist. These folks often fall into a category of people who are currently deemed as having “non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” meaning they have tested negative for celiac disease but still experience uncomfortable symptoms after eating food with gluten.

Now, this isn’t to say that such a condition doesn’t exist (in fact, the docs think it quite possibly does), but there haven’t been a lot of scientific studies that can really back up a diagnosis yet. There is a possibility that some sufferers might be experiencing “nocebo” effects (the opposite of positive “placebo” effects), which is something that has been documented before in people who believe they have a food sensitivity. Meanwhile, the prevalence of the condition seems to be reaching some rather unbelievable heights, with the editorial’s authors cautioning that the current “gluten preoccupation” could turn into a widespread belief that gluten is toxic for most people—which is not true.

“We must,” they say, “prevent a possible health problem from becoming a social health problem.”

Photo by Richard Yaussi

This brings us back to Ms. Paltrow and the other public faces of “healthy” gluten-free living. For starters, gluten-free is not synonymous with “healthy.” People who assume that removing gluten means removing carbs are sadly mistaken. A Time magazine article entitled “Bad-Mouthing Gluten” points out that many people with celiac disease actually see an increase in their body mass indexes when they go gluten-free, because the foods they are allowed to eat are higher in “surrogate” carbs and low in fiber.

But when folks see slender Gwyneth Paltrow making her rounds on the talk show circuit after praising gluten-free bakeries and cleanses on her blog, GOOP, this is certainly not the message they’re getting. They are more likely to be sitting there, mentally taking stock of their refrigerator, and thinking, “Wow, I feel like such a fat cow for all of the big, heaping piles of gluten I’ve been eating!”

Even celebrity nutritionist and gluten-free chef Christine Avanti admitted in a 2010 Daily Beast article, “People have come into my office and they say, ‘I don’t even have [gluten intolerance], but I want to do a gluten-free diet because certain celebrities do it and it makes them really thin.’”

There is also some backlash from people in the celiac community who feel that celebrities who make gluten-free living sound like the hip diet-du-jour—however good their intentions may be—actually diminish the overall perception of a serious disease, as blogger Gluten Dude notes in his post, “Dear Gwyneth…please shut up.”

So, to recap: Popular culture might be making us sick. Celebrities are not medical professionals. Gluten-free isn’t chic.

(And for a real-world take on living a gluten-free life—when it’s not just for kicks—you should check out Me Against the Wheat, another StratComm blogging production.)

Why Tina Fey’s Hair 30 Rocks My World

Happy Presidents’ Day, America! Is everyone enjoying their day off? That’s nice.

I’m at work.

But I’m not bitter. I came in today dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln, dressed as Martha Washington for Halloween. That’ll show them.

Tina Fey

Photo by Gage Skidmore

As an additional tribute to this most sacred of holidays, I would like to use today’s blog post to express my delight at a new commercial from Garnier Nutrisse starring our country’s favorite one-time vice presidential candidate impersonator, Tina Fey.

There’s one very specific thing I admire about Tina Fey, and it’s not her razor-sharp wit, substantial fame, or gobs of money. No, what I really dig about Tina is that she went from being the dorkiest of dorks to an unlikely comedic hero.

And she owns it—like Paris Hilton owns pint-sized pets.

She’s made no secret of the decidedly un-hip parts of her life—from bad hair and unkempt eyebrows to dateless high school nights and years of virginity that she couldn’t give away if she tried.

Today, of course, we all know her as a wise-cracking genius—someone who rose through the ranks of SNL’s notorious boys’ club of writers to achieve success both in front of and behind the camera. She’s smart, self-deprecating, and NBC’s gift to the 2008 presidential election.

When people think of Tina Fey, they tend to conjure up images of 30 Rock, former Alaskan governors, and maybe even a Mean Girl or two. But even though she has been known to wow the public from time to time by rocking show-stopping gowns on the red carpet, people don’t usually associate Tina Fey with physical beauty the way they do with Penélope Cruz, Beyoncé, or the rest of the long line of celebs who have been featured in beauty product endorsements.

And this is why I love Tina’s Garnier Nutrisse ad.

It’s refreshing to see this type of brand use a woman who is so comfortable in her own skin and radiates self-confidence for reasons other than movie-star good looks. It’s also nice to see that a funny woman with brains and a nerdy core can be celebrated as feminine—and in a way that fits with the Tina Fey we know (she emerges from her hair-coloring session in a voluminous fluffy skirt and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, after all).

As a reformed nerd girl myself (who is still very much a nerd at heart…and sometimes in public), I rejoice in seeing this side of her—and in Garnier’s decision to make her the latest face (and mane) of their product. I think this approach stands a good chance of catching the eye of women who want to add a little oomph into their lives, but know they will never be as stylish as the Sarah Jessica Parkers of the world (and may very well believe that the Sarah Jessica Parkers of the world are too chic to actually use boxed hair color).

True, they may never be as famously successful as Tina Fey, either, but they can strive to look like her.

And she looks great.

The Celebrity Weight-Loss Wars

With each new year comes a flurry of weight-loss ads, usually featuring a celebrity who has shed the pounds thanks to Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers/Nutrisystem/the Cookie Diet/Low-Cal Lard, etc.

The message of these campaigns tends to echo the following sentiment:

“You may think that as a rich and famous person, I truly have it all. But I’m just like you—I struggle with my weight. This makes me human. But, I’m also a super-human, because, as you know, I’m rich and famous. Therefore, if this weight-loss program works for me, it can work for you too, sister friend.”

Of course, this is largely presented through subtext.

With 2012 well underway, we have all had a chance to marinate in the personal journeys of several celebrities who are eager to show off their new bods. Mariah Carey is drawing oohs and aahs for her post-pregnancy figure, courtesy of Jenny Craig. Charles Barkley is showing the boys that Weight Watchers isn’t just for chicks. Kim Kardashian is taking a pill that…God, I just don’t have any more brain cells to devote to her right now.

While it seems like one big metabolic media blitz out there, two campaigns have managed to cut through all the noise and grab my attention. Neither of these spokespeople is new to the game, but as their latest round of ads started filtering into my view, something struck me.

Photo by Adam Bielawski

First up, we have Jennifer Hudson. From day one of her career, the Oscar-winner and former American Idol contestant was known as “plus-sized,” and her struggles with weight were anything but personal. When she debuted a dramatic new look courtesy of Weight Watchers back in 2010, one couldn’t help but salute her with a hearty,           “You go, girl!”

There’s something about Jennifer Hudson that makes her relatable as an everywoman. She rose to fame in a talent competition (one that she lost), and her success is the perfect mixture of luck and undeniable talent—not Hollywood connections and deep pockets. She suffered a family tragedy, but found joy again in motherhood. She put on baby weight like everyone else.

When Jennifer, in her newest spot for Weight Watchers, sings, “I am you, you are me,” it resonates in a way that simply can’t be duplicated by the likes of, say, Carrie Fisher.

Or Marie Osmond.

Marie has been on Nutrisystem’s payroll for quite a while now, getting the word out to middle-aged women everywhere that the brand’s meal-based program is the answer to their weight-loss prayers. For a while, it actually seemed like a good fit. For women who grew up with Marie—many of whom were struggling with the same stresses of family life, work life, and slower metabolisms—Donny’s kid sister served as a reminder that growing older didn’t mean becoming any less fabulous. She looked great! They could, too!

And then came her latest commercial.

It starts off innocently enough. She’s just chilling at home in her bare feet, curled up in her favorite chair. (Note that we don’t see the size of her celebrity home—just a non-threatening corner.) She starts to say something about New Year’s resolutions and—

Oh my God, what happened to her face?

Unfortunately, this is where the whole down-to-earth-celebrity-just-trying-to-diet-like-the-rest-of-us thing falls flat on its arse—right alongside any notion of beauty through health. It’s immediately apparent that Marie has drastically altered her visage. And with this move, she erases any credibility she had as the “I’m just like you” celebrity diet spokesperson.

As Marie casually tells her audience how Nutrisystem’s features let them live a normal life, they are reminded that Marie Osmond is not normal. They can see plain as the nose on her face that even though the program helped Marie look and feel better about herself, it couldn’t quite get her all the way there—she needed to drop thousands of dollars to do that. The average 40-something mother of two will never be able to afford to feel as fabulous as she does.

That’s kiiiind of a bad message, no?

Nutrisystem has recently begun a new deal with Janet Jackson, and not a moment too soon. She may not be an everywoman, but so far her campaign manages to mix the superstar with the human in a way that still makes her relatable. Maybe it’s her soft voice, her quiet admission of weight struggles, or knowing that even though she has money and fame, her life has been anything but perfect.

Regardless, it’s far better than Marie’s plastic-surgery parade. Janet—and Jennifer—you go, girl!