I was recently at a family reunion and the younger generation all wanted to know what celebrities I had worked with.  They weren’t interested in the marketing successes, the clever commercials, nope, none of that.  Just the famous people I may have met.

When you work in advertising, it is a long list.  Many of the people that I mentioned they knew about.  Some of the folks had come and gone from the collective consciousness.  Some… just gone to jail.

It struck me how focused people are these days on media personalities.  We have lost the importance of our local communities and seem to look through the window of television to find that community.

The thing is, people imbue all kinds of qualities to those people.  If they are actors, people believe their roles.  If they are singers, they believe the sentiments in their songs.  And athletes… people look at them like they are supermen.  Even newsreaders are believed to be knowledgeable.

There is a concept in professional wrestling called “kayfabe.”  This means that a wrestler who takes on a persona as part of his shtick has to stay in character and be true to the deception of the event.  People welcome and embrace the deceit.  It is the willing suspension of disbelief.

Donald Trump is the perfect example of kayfabe.  People believe he is a big business tycoon because they have seen him do this on television.  He probably now believes his own role is a real one.  The same can be said for Jimmy Morales, a former TV star in Guatemala, and now their President.

Me with Alannah Myles on Set for Molson

There also seems to be some totemic magic to meeting or know someone who has celebrity, as if they convey to you some secret power.  Sadly, this is not the case.

There have been people I worked with that I liked and were great to work with, and others who were, for want of another word, jerks.  If we focused on the work we had to do, everyone was more comfortable than when people lingered and wanted photos or autographs.

Doing commercials with athletes was also an adventure.  No surprise that most are not that comfortable doing acting.  Normally we write around their capabilities and don’t ask them to do much.  We recognize their kayfabe and allow them to look comfortable without having to do much that they aren’t great at.  I recall one cereal commercial with Wayne Gretzky where we asked him to bounce a ball on a hockey stick.  He was great and it made a great commercial because he had to smile but not talk.

The other thing I learned early on was that once hired as a spokesperson the celebrity’s reputation and the product’s were linked.  So, contracts with celebrities should have a “moral turpitude” clause allowing the advertiser to fire a celebrity if that celebrity got into serious trouble.  Thank you, Bill Cosby.

Some years ago, I went to a media reception and Shania Twain was there.  We got our photo taken (see above) and a few days later, I received the glossy 8 x 10 in the mail.  I showed it to my son and he asked me what I was going to do with it.  I replied, “I think she sent it to me so I could autograph it and send it back…”  He was not amused.

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