Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Holy product placement.

Most celebrities and sports stars endorse products and fashion labels, most often by wearing them in public - this is usully used as a publicity gimmick by the sponsoring company. Movies and television events/shows also have product placements in them. And for this, most A-list celebrities command millions of dollars in fees.

But apparently there's someone around who has a much greater following than all A-list stars put together and is under a constant media glare. Product placement would be ideal for this person, would it not ? Seems like a no-brainer...but consider this...
what if the person being discussed was the Pope ?
Some excerpts...
Since his election last year, the pope has been spotted wearing Serengeti-branded sunglasses and brown walking shoes donated by Geox. He owns a specially engraved white Apple iPod, and he recently stirred much publicity with a pair of stylish red loafers that may or may not be from Prada.
Might be ideal, as he has a dedicated following that most celebrities know is out of their reach - over a billion people ! Hmmm...what about the ethics of this idea ? But then again, the Pope is not being paid by the designers to advertise their products for them. It is just a lucky coincidence of "gifts" given to them, that have achieved fame - a happy circumstance.

But not all of it is positive...you would think that advertisers would be jumping to the moon to get his holiness to wear their product...not really, for there is a dilema...
But unlike movie stars, who can command huge sums for product endorsements, or the queen of England, who discreetly allows companies to mention royal patronage, the pope, as the moral and spiritual leader of more than one billion Catholics, endorses holiness and chastity but not products.

That means companies have to hope the pontiff uses a product they have donated to him and then tastefully note the event, or delicately capitalize on a photograph showing the 79-year-old theologian using or wearing a particular brand. Astute marketers say the key words are "tastefully" and "delicately." Pursuing pope-and-product juxtaposition poses risks. Brands have to be careful not to appear opportunistic or they could risk a backlash with the pope's followers. "The question of endorsing products, especially from a figure such as the pope, raises an enormous number of questions in terms of the ethics of each company," says Ben Cronin, general manager and research director of S.Comm, an international advertising-research firm.

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