We live in a society of consumerism and celebrity worship, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that celebrity product endorsements are thoroughly embedded into nearly every facet of media culture. Most of the time a celebrity is marketing something that’s perfectly in line with their lifestyle or profession, but every so often an endorsement comes along that just makes absolutely no sense. Here are five of the latter.
5. Bruce Lee – Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey
40 years after his death, Chinese-American martial arts legend Bruce Lee was digitally resurrected to market Johnnie Walker Blue Label—a blend made from some of Scotland’s finest and rarest whiskies. In the television ad, a very realistic computer generated version of Lee is seen standing on a rooftop overlooking the city of Hong Kong. He then says the following words in Mandarin: “Follow your instincts. It’s the most honest path.”
Now, this ad might seem completely normal for people who only know Bruce Lee as a guy from old kung fu movies, but for anyone who knows more about his history it’s completely ridiculous for two main reasons. First of all, Bruce Lee is speaking in Mandarin, which is a language he never learned or spoke in real life. And secondly, Bruce Lee was a health fanatic who famously abstained from alcohol after he had a bout of drinking that temporarily estranged him from his family. Johnnie Walker justified their using Lee in the ad by saying they consulted with his daughter Shannon who admitted that, while her father wasn’t a drinker, he didn’t think drinking was immoral. She also thought the video would be an innovative way to get her father’s ideas out. So, in other words, there was probably a lot of cash involved.
4. Iggy Pop – Switftcover Insurance
In an ad for the UK-based insurance company Swiftcover, influential punk rocker Iggy Pop performs some of his signature gyrating dance moves as words like “car insurance” and “policy” appear on screen, and then he says “I got it Swiftcovered. I got insurance on my insurance.” But soon after the ad began airing some people noticed a few very misleading details about the endorsement. Mainly, that rock stars and other people in the entertainment industry weren’t allowed to take out a car insurance policy with the company. Following complaints, the ASA banned the advert for being deceitful, stating: “We noted that Swiftcover was using a well-known musician and entertainer, Iggy Pop, to promote their online car insurance service, but that their website specified they did not cover drivers working part or full-time in entertainment.” So it would seem that Iggy Pop is so crazy that he can’t even buy the insurance he sells.
3. Tina Fey – Mutual Savings Bank
Nowadays she’s a part of comedy royalty, but back in the mid-’90s Tina Fey was still out looking for her big break, and that search landed her in a commercial for Mutual Savings Bank.
Even though this ad came out well before anyone really knew who she was, 1995 Tina Fey is still as charming as ever in this spot that features her doing what looks like an improv routine in a frumpy shirt/vest combo and feathered pixie haircut.
2. Mikhail Gorbachev – Pizza Hut
In 1997, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev filmed a commercial for Pizza Hut. And, if you’re wondering just what the hell the birthmarked bigwig was doing hawking fast food, don’t worry, pretty much the whole world was left scratching their head trying to figure out why he was suddenly in favor of the Italian family dining restaurant. The ad features him treating his granddaughter to some deep dish goodness while other Russian patrons discuss his legacy and praise him for bringing pizza to their country. When interviewed about the commercial, Gorbachev said he did the spot to earn money for his eponymous foundation. Unlike many athletes and celebrities, Gorbachev apparently has no qualms with selling out.
1. David Beckham – Fish Sticks and Mouthwash
Soccer superstar David Beckham is known for attracting a lot of big ticket endorsements from blue chip companies like Adidas, Armani and Samsung, but you probably didn’t know that he also has his very own line of frozen fish fingers. Fortified with added omega-3 fatty acids, Beckham’s line of tasty fish sticks are more than likely a response to the backlash he received in recent years for promoting food products like sodas and chips that are typically seen as unhealthy for an increasingly obese child demographic.
And if those fish sticks leave you with bad breath, just reach a little further into Beckham’s seemingly endless bag of endorsed products and pull out some of his foreign-sold Fresh Becks Mouthwash. Why Chinese mouthwash marketers figured David Beckham was a good choice as their poster boy is anyone’s guess, but if these product examples are any indication, putting his face on anything is probably a surefire way to increase sales.