By Erick Johnson
It looks like Madonna
, the queen of cross-promotion, has struck again. The Material Mom has masterminded yet another foolproof way of making her latest addition to her curriculum vitae a sure success. She's signed with Gap, the clothing retail chain, to appear in ads and commercials for them, which of course ends up a win-win situation for Madonna. Here is how it works:Madonna has made a remix of her classic pop tune "Get Into the Groove" with none other than hip-hop diva artist/producer Missy Elliott. And with every pair of baggy cords one buys from the Gap, one gets a free copy of the new version of the old Madonna classic. But that's not all. Also factored into the equation is the CD's tie-in to Madonna's first children's book, "The English Roses
," which is due on bookstore shelves Sept. 15.
How brilliant for the first-time children's book novelist -- to have her debut work launched on a platform as big as the Oprah Winfrey book club. Not only does Madonna draw other middle-aged material moms -- who are now shopping at J Crew by the SUV load -- to Gap, but, thanks to Madonna's Harper's Bazaar cover, which is being launched simultaneously with billboard and television commercials, she's sure to help pull in quite a bit of the urban market as well.
The Harper's Bazaar cover has Madonna modeling a simple white Gap "wife beater" t-shirt, bee-bop cap, baggy Gap cords and enough bling, bling on her wrist to make Ray Charles squint and Liberace jealous.
While it isn't unusual for the company to lean upon celebrities to advertise their all-American wares, (previous ad campaigns have featured the likes of Christina Ricci
, Anjelica Huston, Dennis Hopper, India.Arie and Don Cheadle, to name a few) the Madonna deal is unique.
The last time Madonna did such a huge advertising campaign for something outside of one of her own projects, was with Pepsi back in the early '90s and that ended not-so-kindly, with the soda-making giant refusing to air taped commercials featuring Madonna's "Like a Prayer" song that many found to be sacrilegious.
But Pepsi's history with celebrity pitchfolks has largely been a positive one. Besides Madonna, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Britney Spears, and now, Shakira and Beyonce, have successfully peddled the product.
There was a time when actors feared that being seen in commercials would taint their artistic reputations. Little of that feeling lingers, although today enormous strategizing goes into teaming celebs with companies that have the perfect "upscale," "hip," "edgy" or whatever appropriate image. Americans have to go abroad to see the ads they take just to make money.
In America one may see Halle Berry in ads for make-up great Revlon, or Jennifer Lopez in magazine ads and billboards for Louis Vuitton handbags and leathers, for instance.
But if you want to see Pierce Brosnan hawking lipstick or George Clooney inveigling you to get your hands on a Toyota, you need to be in Japan.
In fact, nowhere in the world outside of Japan do American stars take so much advantage of their celebrity by appearing in ads that will only be seen in that country. "Japanders" -- Western stars who make large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that they might never use -- include the following:
Mariah Carey sells canned coffee for Nescafe. Ben Stiller sells Chutti, a canned beverage made with shochu and various fruit flavors. Charlize Theron, Lara Flynn Boyle and Penelope Cruz are all Lux ladies, selling Lux haircare products in Japan and around the globe. Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Celine Dion and Carey are also spokespersons for Japan's Aeon English Schools.
The latter was a particularly nice get for Dion, given she grew up speaking French in Canada.
Perhaps Brad Pitt has made the most of this practice. Over the last decade, he's made a series of commercials for Edwin brand Jeans and clothes that's said to be worth tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps this sheds a little light on Pitt's oftentimes odd choices in movie roles.
After all, who really needs to have a hit at the box office when people are shelling out those kinds of bucks for 30-second spots?