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Celebrity Endorsements Are Questionable



TV as well as other media fans you are being bombarded by all manner of celebrity endorsements extolling the virtues of everything from reverse mortgages (think Robert Wagner, Fred Thompson and Henry Winkler) to

Marie Osmond

weight-loss programs (Marie Osmond, Jessica Simpson, Kirstie Alley, Valerie Bertinelli, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Alexander, Mariah Carey, and Charles Barkley), to beauty products (Brooke Shields, Jane Seymour, Kate Moss, Eva Mendes, and even former-model, stock seller Martha Stewart). I’ll spare you the details for all the supplement makers. But do try to keep up on things. The Food & Drug Administration has issued some informational guidelines on diet and dietary products.

Not that long ago, there was quite a bit of interest in a weight loss product, Pondimin, which was later shown to place persons at risk for heart problems. More than 50K product liability lawsuits were initiated against the product’s manufacturer. PBS ran a Frontline story on the product and its problems. I don’t recall ever seeing any celebrity endorsements on this product. Good agents must have stayed clear of this one.

Recently, two products brought the disturbing practice of celeb endorsements into sharp focus for me as I read about the 21K people who had complained they lost their hair after using a product (WEN Cleansing Conditioner) from California stylist, Chaz Dean.

Chaz Dean

Although I don’t know how much knowledge Dean has of chemistry or the biology of hair, his name is on a hair-care product and he is their spokesperson as it is “his” product. Brooke Shields and Angie Harmon both appeared in ads for the product. Do they actually use it? Who knows.

Recall that Donald Trump has many “properties” on which his name appears and his only connection is that he has licensed his name, but Chaz is endorsing the product as his own formulation. There is a bit of difference here. Who actually concocted the product is not something to which I have access or any type of knowledge. I doubt, however, that Chaz spent hours laboring in a laboratory to develop the formula or the product. But I am quite sure he is not alone in this.

The marketing company for the Chaz Dean product, Guthy-Renker, has agreed to pay $26M to users if the courts approve this settlement.

Celebrity marketing is a powerful tool because you are already pre-sold on something–the celebrity’s credibility and allure. Sure you want to have a beach bod or a flat stomach or youthful skin or long eyelashes, so why not do as the

Brooke Shields

celebs do? You don’t need their money, you just need to buy their product. Foolish consumer, you are being led into the lion’s mouth with this bait. Do you know for sure that they use these products or consume these drinks, supplements or even dare to include that exercise machine in their humble abodes? No, you don’t and some celebs are known to not drink the beverage they are being paid to push.

One celebrity of sorts, Darrell Winfield, got a choice role as the Marlboro Man, a rugged American cowboy who smoked lustily, he had the role on TV for 20 years. There were other men who played the part of the cowboy who smoked and many of them died of pulmonary problems.

Darrell Winfield, The Marlboro Man

Ads, according to one source, had to have that all-American male in a typical rugged American cowboy setting and he had to have a butt in his hand or his mouth. The biggest audience, this sources said, were Europe, the Middle East and Asia where smoking could be encouraged without government obstruction and where the American cowboy was a legendary figure to be emulated.

Even beauty products that are sold out of physicians’ offices may carry side effects of which you are unaware and which can cause problems for you. Do you recall Brooke Shields appearing in TV commercials for a product, Latisse, which would produce longer, lush eyelashes?

Two of the side effects of this glaucoma drug, in the package insert but not touted in commercials, included cataracts and discoloration of the coloring in your eye, the iris. The manufacturer indicates these are “rare” or “unusual” side effects like possible loss of visual acuity (cataracts?).

How many infomercials have you been exposed to in the past year and really didn’t see them as advertising? Sometimes they use the same format as TV news shows and you might think it’s an actual news item.

While I’m at it, let me give you a peek into the world of TV medical news. You’ve seen the local TV doc do a “package” or prepared PR item that is sent to the news

media in the form of an interview with a researcher or physician. The doc at your TV station appears to be asking questions of the researcher, but that’s actually tape or a digital file that has been edited to appear that way.

Even the VO (voice over) has been dubbed so that you think your TV guy or gal has actually interviewed this person. Not so. It’s a piece pitching an organization, a procedure, a product or whatever and it’s sent from a public relations agency. If your TV person doesn’t appear right next to that person they’re interviewing, it came from someone else’s shop.

What do you do now? As always, be prepared to engage your healthy skepticism about the product that will “miraculously” give you freedom from wrinkled skin, banish that double chin or return you to your youthful 20s self. Cremes don’t shrink flabby skin on your face, neck or arms and even plastic surgeons can do only so much there. How can this expensive goop do a better job?

Oh, they’re giving a million bottles of this elixir

Minerva Mcgonagall aka Maggie Smith

away? Better hurry or you’ll miss the Hogwarts Express and your turn to try magic on yourself. If proof is in the pudding, this one is sour for sure.


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