In a world where hologram Tupac is a thing, dead celebs resurrected in CGI commercials and other advertising shouldn't surprise us. It doesn't, really, but it's still a hard pill to swallow. Why do modern Mad Men comb through the graves of Hollywood's past for jaunty ways to shill their products?
"The dead are the easiest clients to manage," Jo Piazza writes
in Celebrity, Inc.
"Not only do they not meddle in their business affairs, they won't get caught with their pants down, drunk driving, or making a racist remark to TMZ. And in an industry where vast sums are made in merchandise licensing and symbiotic partnerships, dead celebrities have just as much earning power as the living and sometimes more." This is why things like the "Dead Q Score
" were invented — to measure the appeal of a deceased personality within various markets. Every star has one, dead or alive.
The latest uproar
in resurrected celebs is over a chocolate commercial starring a heavily rendered Audrey Hepburn, who looks more like a Disney princess in her spot for Galaxy Chocolate. It plays to Hepburn's spirit (literally), but it's not the first time the actress has returned from the grave. Gap altered scenes from Hepburn's Funny Face
for its song-and-dance extravaganza and treated her like a marionette to sell its skinny-fit pants.
The award for weirdest (or perhaps most accurate?) dead celeb appearance was when Elvis Presley showed up in a Pizza Hut commercial in the 1990s, which used clips from Girls! Girls! Girls!.
Also in the '90s, Paula Abdul danced with Gene Kelly and Groucho Marx while Cary Grant poured her a Diet Coke. Kelley may have been alive at the time, but a younger version of the actor-dancer was used in the commercial, and the other stars were long gone. Coke has a long love affair with departed legends since it previously used Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Louis Armstrong in an advert with Elton John.
Steve McQueen probably rolled over in his grave when Ford made a Field of Dreams-type commercial that played on his iconic role in Bullitt. In 2008, the company produced the Mustang Bullitt model for the 40th anniversary of the film, which probably would have sufficed instead of having the ghost of McQueen racing through a cornfield.
These are just a few ways the ad world has used our obsession with popular stars to sell us stuff. Feel free to rant about Hepburn's newest appearance, below.