Pick Your (Advertising) Poison: Glenn Beck or Charlie Sheen

April 14, 2011

If I was a betting kind of guy, I would always bet on a winner, someone with a track record of success, who delivers you the goods time and again. This goes for sports or politics or restaurants, or in many cases automobile manufacturers and their affiliates.

So what do the geniuses at the ad agencies and marketing departments do? When they find the stars du jour, they either place products around them, or they have said stars be highly paid shills in the hopes that people who are easily swayed by the rich and famous will part with much of their money to buy one of these products.

You know how it goes. You just have to buy that death insurance because Studley Broadchin said you should on his TV or radio show. You must purchase that all-in-one weedkiller-eye brow plucker- toenail clipper-bread maker because celebrity X, who you think can do and say no wrong despite having been caught fondling fruit in a rabbit suit at a local supermarket, says you should because he has one too.

However, there are limits to what stars can do for a brand because their egos get in the way of their brains and they say and do stupid things. The biggest two that come to mind are Charlie Sheen, for obvious reasons, and Glenn “I have two right wings” Beck. They are so scary that they chased producers and advertisers away faster than Zombie Hitler with Limburger cheese rubbed behind his ears. No agency or automobile producer was risky or dumb enough to have Charlie Sheen advertise their car. (But I did find a pretty funny, and foreshadowey Hanes commercial where Chucky "Winner" Sheen totals his Mercedes. Give him credit for being able to make fun of himself.)

Glenn Beck didn't even advertise cars, but GEICO was a sponsor of his show in America as was Toyota in the UK. Note the use of the past tense. Sure, he brought in the ratings, but his bizarre and virulent rantings made Saddam Hussein’s Gulf War rhetoric sound like a Ronettes single. You have to check out the Glenn Beck statements that pushed the sponsors over the edge. Or his review of a fuel-cell car, if you have 9 minutes to waste.

So what is the lesson? Advertisers of all things automotive, be it insurance or the cars themselves, should stay away from famous people like the plague because celebs are only slightly less volatile than a nitroglycerin milkshake and will eventually blow a tire, so to speak. And there goes your brand.

Let automotive ads glorify the cars, their technology, their contribution to humankind, how they make us feel, but don’t try and get us to buy one because Mr. Beck or Mr. Sheen said it would make fell and look you just like them.

Charlie Sheen Ad

Glenn Beck on Hydrogen Cars (2008)

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