Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Wanna Be Unbranded

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O K, so there is apparently this TV show called "Jersey Shore." From what I can tell, the show's basic premise is to put a group of vapid, dimwitted and marginally attractive young people of Italian heritage into a beach house for the summer and record them getting drunk, getting into fistfights, and generally behaving in the fashion you might expect of vapid, dimwitted and marginally attractive young people turned loose with a lot of cash and a license to act like inebriated baboons for our amusement.

The show is apparently quite popular, which is not surprising given the fact that what American TV viewers seem to crave most these days is to watch people to whom they can feel morally superior.

One of the instant celebrities created by the show is a diminutive lass named Nicole Polizzi, who goes by the nickname "Snooki." Baby-faced, raven-haired, and with a 4-foot 9-inch body that looks as if it was pumped into her clothing under extreme pressure, Snooki is to bad behavior what Michelangelo was to interior decoration.

Space restrictions prohibit detailing all of Snooki's antics, but they include drunkenness, disorderly conduct and a criminal charge for "annoying people" (which is apparently a crime in Jersey. Who knew?). Suffice it to say, as we do down South, that this girl acts like she's got no raising at all. Bless her heart.

Yet, as so often happens with even B-list celebrities, Snooki is showered with gifts and swag from various fashion houses. One thing that has always mildly annoyed me about our celebrity-obsessed culture is the way companies send lots of free stuff to people who can afford to buy it.

It's a marketing tool, of course; companies think that if someone sees, for example, Angelina Jolie with one of their handbags or scarves, women will experience an overwhelming desire to run right out and buy that very item, and to heck with the cost. Depressingly, they're often right.

In the case of Snooki, however, we're seeing a new phenomenon: Companies are sending the tiny trollop their competitor's products, in the hopes that viewers will see her sleazing around with the other guy's handbags on her shoulder and associate the competing brand with trashiness and tackiness. It's called either "pre-emptive product placement" (PEPP) or "unbranding."

I've got to tell you, folks, every time I think American inventiveness and innovation is dead, something like this comes along to let me know it isn't. I mean, this is absolutely brilliant, in an evil-genius sort of way.

The possibilities are endless. Can we expect to see BP start running commercials showing disgraced former CEO Tony Hayward filling up at a Chevron station? Or maybe the loathsome Jesse James, who broke the heart of that sweet Sandra Bullock, could revive his career by doing ads for, say, Warner Brothers, in which he gives double thumbs up reviews to movies by, say, Paramount?

Which leads us, as always, to the question on your Humble Columnist's mind whenever he comes across a new cultural phenomenon: How can he cash in on this?

If the e-mails and comments I get on the Pilot's website are any indication, I occasionally make some people unhappy, some angry, and on a few occasions, I make people nearly insane with fury. This is particularly true of wingnuts, yay-hoos, bigots, neo-fascists, mouth-breathers and morons.

By the way, long live Rachel Maddow! Keith Olbermann rules! Viva George Soros! Viva Michael Moore! Viva the New Socialist Order!

There. With the groundwork done, and the proper parties whipped into a fine froth of rage, let's get down to some serious unbrandin'. Dell, Gateway, Asus Computer: Any of you guys want to bump up your sales around here, send me a new Apple laptop or an iPad. I'll be sure to mention it in this space.

Lexus, Porsche, Mercedes: If I find a new Beemer in the driveway, I'll be sure to drive it everywhere, tailgating, honking the horn, and leaving the turn signal on for miles and miles and miles.

If the fine guitar-makers at Gibson want to send me a new Fender Stratocaster, or if the folks at Fender want to send me a new Gibson Les Paul, I promise to play that sucker so loud and long that the very sight of your competitor's product will make people curl into a ball and whimper.

This had better work.