Divorcing Reality: J-Lo & Marc Anthony try their best for Kohl's
Using famous people in advertising actually makes a lot of sense. They’re well known, meaning they sit atop a sort of stage or pedestal from which we lesser lights might view them. As a result of being famous or “on display” the placement of other material things close to, or on, such folks usually draws similar attention to the items in question. And if that doesn’t spell advertising opportunity then nothing does.
For example, I like seeing Bruce Willis. Through his characters on Moonlighting, Diehard and beyond he presents an image of a fairly tough, slightly funny, smart-ass. He‘s likeable but still removed enough to do or say pretty much whatever the heck he wants. So why wouldn’t I at least consider trying a Seagram’s Golden Wine Cooler when he took $5 or $6 million to start singing about them? It seems stupid – I know, but even then no one was really naive enough to believe celebs really cared what they endorsed or not. I’m fairly certain the biggest concern was usually that the check cleared. But that’s fine. What mattered was that Bruce picked up a bottle of wine cooler and thanks to that, many of us gave it a shot too.
Now the reason this works is because of the personal nature of attraction. For whatever collection of weird reasons accumulated over the years, I kind of dig Bruce Willis. I could list them but in the end they only truly make sense to me (and maybe a few million others) but the point is that that is what advertisers are ultimately buying when they hire a “celeb” to pitch for them. They are purchasing an intangible feeling they hope (and pray) will somehow rub off on their line of products.
So one can only imagine the sort of multiplier at work when a company makes a deal with a celebrity couple. You’ve already got the individual star-power to press your product against but combine a famous pairing and it jumps to almost a power of ten. Now that’s a level of wattage that is almost impossible to ignore. And that’s why I feel so very bad for Kohl’s.
Just recently, Kohl’s department stores hired celebrity couple Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez to create various product lines for their store as well as appear in television ads for the company. It was a brilliant move. Each star had a built in fan-base. They were multi-platform: TV, movies, music, reality, etc. They were attractive and sexy as a couple, had kids, seemed like good parents and thanks to their backgrounds even had the ethnic markets all sewn up. You can’t get more no-brainer than that.
But then divorce came whistling to town and everything changed.
Now most people “in-the-know” claim divorce makes no difference. “The TV spots are still funny” they say. And they are. But the idea that their split is not going to cost Kohl’s something is ridiculous. Of course it will. Just like the multiplier that works in your favor when all cylinders are firing, it can also bring the race to a halt when they’re not.
When I watch the ads all I can think about is the TMZ reality feed constantly reminding me that they are no longer a couple. That two people who once said “let’s throw in together” are now no longer. That’s sad, and that same intangible that attracts me to the world of Bruce Willis now casts a shadow across the imaginary world Kohl’s is trying to create with the current ex-spouses. I wish I could just watch the ads and enjoy them. J-Lo is pretty funny. In one she tries to get a security guard to let her in the building without ID by singing “Jenny from the block.” In another she’s an annoying cubicle dweller who can’t stop clicking her pen. Anthony is just as good. His spots showcase him as a willing helper who is clueless at telephone reception and a frustrated everyman just trying (and failing) to make a coffeemaker work. The spots are well done, no question.
But the unspoken emotion that transcends the frivolity is that the fun is over and only the business remains. That’s not a message a store wants to buy. They wanted the other stuff – the good stuff. And even though Marc and Jenny likely assured Kohl’s of their intention to meet (and maybe even exceed) their commitments I really think Kohl’s ought to cut their losses and move on. They bought a pair and wound up with two singles. And no matter how you play that hand, it’s not ever coming out a winner. And at the end of that day, that’s really too bad.