Charlie Sheen is probably right when he says, “What do I get from good behavior?” His wild behavior is certainly making him a hot favorite with ad agencies, who are willing to put stake in his notoriety to stand out through the clutter. Hoping that some of his so-called magic will rub off on brands' personas, agencies are using Charlie Sheen and his demons in various ads, leaving the actor in a win-win situation.
Here's a look at the most recent ads featuring Charlie Sheen.
A European ad for alcohol brand Bavaria, created by Selmore Amsterdam, shows Charlie Sheen returning from rehab. On the way to his house, he imagines everyone around him drinking alcohol. His wild imagination continues until he reaches home, where he sees people partying in his backyard. He joins the party, and...find out what he drinks.
The actor known for public displays of his personal demons, especially after he was expelled from the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” is also featured in an ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth, launched by the Chrysler group. In this ad, he drives around a mansion and is greeted by a supermodel. He then shows off his tether and announces, “I love being under house arrest. What do I get for good behavior?"
Another ad example where some people claim that Charlie Sheen shows that he still has that “it” factor to capture the audience is an ad for DIRECTV. In the ad, he spoofs up his past and re-enacts his memorable role in Platoon.
The ads are, without a doubt, creative, hilarious, and expertly presented by the agencies and the companies vying for the attention of the customers who wade through hundreds of ads, all screaming "Look at me." But it does raise questions about the choice of "celebrity" in advertising.
With profit in mind, ad agencies seem to be encashing Sheen’s perennial bad-boy image, thanks to his public meltdown and escapades. Marketers seem to surmise that Sheen’s presence in an ad will give consumers that little bit extra in terms of entertainment, which will probably tip the balance in favor of their brand.
From a marketing standpoint, using all available tools and techniques to leap out of the clutter is justified, but isn’t it disturbing to watch companies using a celebrity who is known for his misdemeanors as a conduit to deliver messages, get noticed, and make money?
By portraying Sheen as the ultimate arbiter of what is defined as “cool” and using his too-sensational and crazed rants to promote their brands, aren’t advertisers shamelessly rewarding his bad behavior and advertising an illicit lifestyle marked by sex, drugs, guns, and porn? That line at the end of the Fiat ad, “Not all bad boys are created equal,” sounds more like they’re glorifying what he’s done.
No doubt spending billions of dollars on such celebrities will put a spotlight on a product, create buzz, and even cause buzz to turn into a roar, but what about the message it conveys and the brand image it creates?
The Charlie Sheen connection might be a wee bit too clever and valuable for the agencies and the companies to catch attention and earn millions, but if an ad makes the audience view him as the "winner," celebrates his discreditable behavior, and reinforces a lifestyle full of dirt and vice, then there is "something" in the ads that doesn't seem to be right.
Anamika Pande Ved is a blogger, content curator, and content writer with Global Washington, a non-profit in Seattle, Washington. She is fascinated by commercials, more so if they are used for "social good." She is an avid traveler, reader, and a singer. Find her on Twitter here.