Celebrities and advertising are like birds of a feather, so it’s no wonder that even our most beloved public figures (I’m looking at you, Queen Latifah) usually end up trying to sell us something. And hey, sometimes it works. I mean, would any of us have tried delicious Jell-O pudding pops without the endorsement of a certain celebrity?
I asked our Facebook fans to help me brainstorm some of the most memorable celebrity endorsements—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Add your own suggestions in the comments! The Good: OK, we are talking about corporate ads here, so “good” is relative. However, sometimes there’s a celebrity spokesperson in a clever ad who really seems charming and sincere. A few examples: RuPaul for Viva Glam Yes, MAC has its problems, but featuring RuPaul for the Viva Glam campaign was a great use of celebrity endorsement. Not only does it make total sense that a fabulous drag queen like RuPaul would sell makeup, but it’s great to see a less conventional spokesperson endorsing a conventional beauty product for once. Tina Fey for American Express
See how this commercial uses Tina Fey’s personality and role as a media mogul? It’s charming, it makes sense, and it’s not a complete departure from her celebrity persona. It’s also a fun ad (I laugh at that German Shepherd joke every time) and a vast improvement over her early endorsement work. Spike Lee for Nike
I loved this ad series. Spike Lee has real charisma as Mars Blackmon, and the whole campaign reads as genuine and fun. Full disclosure: I totally had a “Hang Time” poster in my bedroom back in the day. The Bad Sometimes celebrity endorsements just don’t fit, or if they do fit, they’re offensive and ineffective. Case in point: Padma Lakshmi for Carl’s Jr.
Pretty much all Carl’s Jr. ads are terrible, but this one is the worst. Padma Lakshmi has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, responsible, (and yes, hot) foodie and she is using her good looks and pretty hair to sell Carl’s Jr. burgers?!? How can I take Top Chef seriously after seeing that? Jennifer Hudson for Weight Watchers
If Jennifer Hudson wants to lose weight, that’s her choice, and that’s fine. However, as someone who was formerly known for being proud of her size, it’s frustrating to see her frame true “empowerment” as weight loss. Zooey Deschanel for Cotton, Inc.
Cotton is a great fabric, but it annoys me that this ad presents cotton as the key to Zooey Deschanel’s creativity. Also, if you’re going to make a name for yourself as the quintessential manic pixie dream girl indie darling, it doesn’t seem fair to also collect cash from a giant corporation. You can’t have your twee cake and eat it too, OK? (Do you hear me, Ellen Page?) The Ugly Some celebrity endorsements are just plain weird. Claire Danes for Latisse
It was bad enough when Brooke Shields tried to get us to splash chemicals in our eyes to fix our “inadequate lashes.” Et tu, Angela Chase? Gary Busey for Vitamin Water
What is going on here? We all knew Gary Busey was a little out there, but I honestly don’t understand these Tugwater ads in the slightest. David Lynch for Signature Cup
Imagine my surprise when I opened my Definitive Gold Box Twin Peaks DVD set and saw an insert for David Lynch’s Signature Cup. Now you can drink the same coffee as the man who brought you Blue Velvet! (OK, actually that logic is selling me on this coffee. I love Blue Velvet.) So what other celebrity endorsements have made an impression on you over the years? Bonus question: What would your dream celebrity+product combination be? I’ll start: I want to see Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda reunite for a Nine to Five-themed endorsement of the next Bitch subscription campaign. Call me, ladies!
This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.