Saturday, March 04, 2006

I'd like to thank my PR firm. . .

It's that time of year again -- the days get longer, the temperature inches up, we find ourselves inexplicably more optimistic, energetic, planning and scheming for the warm days of summer ahead. It's also the time of year for endless speculation and pointless discussion about that ultimate Hollywood pagent of self-congratulation -- the Oscars.

My favorite part, though, is behind the carpet -- it's the showers of extravagant crap rained down upon the nominees -- thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise given away to the most wealthy and priviledged, just for the opportunity to use the glamour of celebrity proximity to sell product.

What, maybe, not everyone who isn't a marketer knows, is that companies pay dearly -- to the tune of up to $20,000 -- just for the opportunity to include their product in the mix. The New York Times chronicles some items for delivery to the losers alone:
Scheduled for delivery a day after the March 5 telecast, it will include a three-night stay at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, a coupon for Lasik eye surgery and a set of high-thread-count bed linens. (The academy does not permit companies to reveal their participation in the official gift basket until the end of the month, but it is similarly extravagant.)

Certainly, I can see the value for goods and services to bathe themselves in the sparkly light of celebrity posession, especially in the case of certain luxury wearable items like watches or jewelry. The equation is clear -- give watch to celeb, celeb wears watch, InStyle publishes picutre of celeb and watch, prints watch name and price, consumers take cue to consume luxury item in order to somehow be more like celeb.

But, Lasic eye surgery? Sheets? The connection isn't as straightforward here. Even when you're somehow getting press, as Moonstruck Chocolates has been, the equation seems murky at best.

Look at it this way: Moonstruck, in this article, claims to be participating in this year's frenzy in order to "expand to a national brand." So, they participate in the Oscar basket and invest in a subsequent public relations and merchandising program in order to leverage it. So, some speculative math (Note: I am basing this on my knowledge of what it takes to run a program, and I have NO CLUE what Moonstruck is really doing):

- 10K = cost of entry.
- 10K = cost of product
- 50K = merchandising POS development and implementation
- 80K = PR program

$140K or so to be given the priviledge of perhaps having Heath Ledger eat your chocolates. Or, more likely, to give them to his housekeeper. Google news tells me that you have about, um, three articles, including the one on local CBS affiliate in South Florida.

Moonstruck may feel differently, but I would be worried about a return on my investment if I were the marketing exec on this job.

I know that many marketers still consider any chance to rub elbows with (or, in the case of Revlon, lipstick and blusher on) the stars to be "simply good marketing", as this CNN article calls it. Perhaps for Revlon, who has enormous budgets and a widely-distributed, affordable product, it makes sense. Create the association to luxury and glamour, and everyday women are far more likely to shell out a few bucks for lipstick. But I do believe it may be a dangerous gamble for a small company to attempt to hitch a ride to national fame in the Oscar gift baskets.

Not to mention, what we're talking here about borders on disgusting -- people who make millions upon millions of dollars each year. People who have grown accustomed to getting everything free, people who cannot possibly be placing value on things they don't have to pay for or even acknowledge. People who accept and embrace the idea that they should be the recipients of the type of luxuries even well-off people only dream of. All in the name of making more money off of people who should know better.

I love my celebs (especially you, Linds! I LOVE YOU!) just as much as the next gal, but I have to say, this topic still has me cringing. Not just as a frugal marketer, but as a person who would love got get 100K worth of free crap. Then I could sell it and pay off my mortgage or something.

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