Celebrities cash in hawking products to social media followers
Ad content disguised as a tweet, an Instagram photo or a video becoming common on celebrities' feeds
We're all familiar with seeing our favourite sports hero or movie star endorsing a product. But thanks to social media, the line between celebrities using a product and celebrities selling a product is becoming kind of fuzzy.
Here's a celebrity endorsement done in the old-school style: a Hollywood star using a product and explaining why he loves it.
But not every marketer can afford to put Matthew McConaughey in prime-time TV commercials, so many lesser brands pay reality TV stars to post photos and videos of themselves using obscure products — like teeth-whitening pens — on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Equally dubious celebrities like Kelly Ripa, Scott Disick and Snooki are seen in countless selfie posts, holding up products ranging from weight-loss teas to waist shapers.
Even farther down on the celebrity food chain are synthesized celebrities like "Alex from Target," who exploded onto social media last fall.
Now, even though Alex was supposedly a spontaneous creation — as opposed to a paid endorser of Target — he did rather suspiciously appear on Ellen wearing a Target shirt and name tag.
Now let's move from fake celebrity endorsements to unwitting celebrity endorsements.
So, there on April Fools' Day 2014, was the president of the United States unwittingly participating in the endorsement of a phone. But that was nothing compared to the marketing coup the same brand pulled off a few weeks earlier at the Oscars.
Turns out Samsung actually paid to have DeGeneres integrate its new phone into the show in a seemingly unplanned way.
At one point after the selfie was tweeted, Samsung was receiving about 900 mentions per minute on social media. The company also spent about $20 million running ads in the Oscar show.
Unlike the old days, when celebrity endorsements were pretty straightforward and easy to spot, today we can have product endorsements by real celebrities, near-celebrities, synthesized celebrities, duped celebrities and celebrities pretending they're not selling anything at all.
Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio.