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Better Off Dead: Former Celebrities Selling on Live Commercials
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Wouldn't it be nice if once you were dead, you could still pull in your annual income? What if it was even more than that? Sweet, right? Yeah, such is life for the beautiful people. In case you haven't noticed, Audrey Hepburn has been shilling fancy chocolate lately. Frank Sinatra has been caught hawking booze (stunning, right?). Marilyn Monroe is pimping Chanel perfume because she preferred to wear that than clothing (again, possibly stunning). From Elizabeth Taylor to Elvis Presley (skinny and fat), the act of dead celebrities selling on commercials is a multi-million dollar business. 

Why? 

Do Americans have a love affair for dead famous folk? Does digging up the memory (and possibly the corpse) of a once-beloved figure make an endorsement "honest"? You know, if the estate says "show me the money," does that mean the dead celebrity — I've seen the word "deleb" floating on the Internet — approves it? Whatever happened to honesty being the best policy? 

Thanks to fancy holograms (Tupac at Coachella) and the CGI magic that resurrected Audrey Hepburn's creepy eyebrows on a bus, no one really dies...they're just on hiatus until some ad farm decides this celebrity would be the best mouthpiece to whip up endorsements for a certain products. Yet, where's the PR — positive or negative? It seems people are so starstruck that they will purchase whatever in droves, just so long as it has a certain necromaniac allure.

Where's the Screen Actors Guild outrage that all these dead people are stealing all the real money? Where are the uber-conservative groups griping about the heinous creep factor these commercials create? I'll tell you where they are — standing in line with the rest of those folks who walk into the store with hypno-wheels on their eyeballs. 

In fact, the rising "deleb" business is so profitable, Forbes has created another silo for its famous lists — the top grossing dead celebrities. Really? This is what they earned in 2012. 
  1. Elizabeth Taylor (dead 2011) — $210 million
  2. Michael Jackson (dead 2009) — $145 million
  3. Elvis Presley (dead 1977) — $55 million
  4. Charles Schulz (dead 2000) — $37 million
  5. Bob Marley (dead 1981) — $17 million
Yeah, I guess everything really is gonna be all right. Yeah mon! 

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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