Dumb Trends: Tech Companies Hiring Pop Stars As 'Creative Directors'

from the is-intel-the-new-polaroid dept

Last year, at Midem, one of the keynote interviews was with Jeffrey Hayzlett, who at the time was the Chief Marketing Officer for Kodak. Towards the end of the talk, someone in the audience asked Hayzlett if he could explain the thinking behind the hiring of Lady Gaga to be “creative director.” Hayzlett smiled and responded along the lines of “Well, actually, that wasn’t Kodak, but our competitor, and just the fact that you’re confused about that is pretty much all I have to say about the wisdom of that decision.” Of course, it was Polaroid who had made that “hire.” At CES a few weeks back, one year after this announced “hiring,” Lady Gaga debuted the results of her “job” at Polaroid to mostly unimpressed reviews.

Meanwhile, over at the Intel booth, I saw Will.i.am (and an entourage of folks) walking around and checking out the displays. Knowing that folks like Lady Gaga and Will.i.am don’t just show up at CES for fun, I just assumed that he had some sort of endorsement deal with Intel. Now, comes the news that he’s signed a similar “director of creative innovation” deal with Intel.

Now, to be clear, various reports claim that Lady Gaga was and has been actually involved in product design efforts. And, as an endorsement deal, there’s something quite nice about that aspect to it. After all, lots of celebrities sign endorsement deals for products they don’t even use or care about, let alone have at least some say in designing. But, does having a celebrity, who doesn’t actually have any experience or knowledge about the specific business you’re in, as a “creative director” really make sense? The Polaroid products announced by Lady Gaga at CES seemed sort of pointless — sunglasses that take photos, a paperback book sized “portable printer” for photos (I’ve had a smaller portable printer in my bag for years, and only recently stopped carrying it around when I realized I never use it any more).

On top of that, the idea that these celebrities have “jobs” as “creative directors” is just silly. They’re not creative directors at all, and it’s actually something of an insult to people who actually do have jobs as creative directors. They’re celebrity endorsers who are also advising on product ideas — at best. I like the idea of celebrities actually being more involved with the products they endorse, but pretending they have a real “job” at these companies really just insults the intelligence of people.

Oh, and, did anyone notice that, in the photo of Will.i.am showing off his “Intel badge,” it looks like he’s wearing the “Polaroid sunglasses” that Gaga revealed at CES? Maybe they have some sort of “mutual celebrity fake creative director appreciation society” thing going on between them.

“But do HIS glasses take pics and have screens built in…?” — caption and photoshop thanks to Notcot

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Companies: intel, polaroid

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Comments on “Dumb Trends: Tech Companies Hiring Pop Stars As 'Creative Directors'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This actually a perfect example of “innovation”, techdirt style. It isn’t about making new products, it’s about changing the paint color or, in this case, getting the right name attached to the product. Rather than creating a new sort of product that people will be interested in, let’s just cobble together other things we already have (in the case of Poloroid) and slap Lady Gaga’s name on it. That will be innovative for sure!

Meanwhile, millions that would be spent on developing something new instead are spent on getting the right badge and logo designed for old crap with a new celeb wrapper.

Innovation at it’s finest. Thanks Mike Masnick! You have inspired a generation!

Anonymous Coward says:


Mike is all for innovation. Anything is innovation. He says that patents and copyright stop innovation, that innovation is any even marginal small improvment. Clearly, putting Lady Gaga’s name on a bunch of recycled ideas is exactly what innovation is all about. Glasses with a camera? Oh my, what a great innovation.

Get the label right, and it’s innovative as all get out.

hank says:

I have noticed in the past some record companies have made musicians “president” of the company, consider that in most states “presidents” of companies are corporate officers, with certain liabilities and accountability — most presidents of multi-million dollar corporations spend their time working on complex multinational finance deals like structuring debt loads and projecting delayed accounts receivable, setting up complex credit lines with international banks, not doing rap albums and throwing parties. Do the boards and the shareholders want 50cent or lady gaga responsible at this level of governance?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Lady Gaga designing?

Polaroid realizes that people’s interest in Gaga’s work is only for morbid fascination or for something to laugh at .. right? People wouldn’t exactly go out and buy her designs in masses. They see that, right?
Or is Polaroid’s goal just now going to aim at a tiny corner of the overall market? (some people would want all of the clothes she has designed, but it can’t be that many)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not a bad idea for the entertainer? (I don’t consider these people musicians or even artists).

It seems it could really backfire. I’m not a fan of either of these people. I can ignore it if they endorse products but making them creative directors really makes me suspicious about the products these companies will create – even if they aren’t doing anything but selling their name as they would if they merely endorsed these companies.

To me it’s like hiring Eddie Griffin to design cars. I don’t want a car designed by him. Now if he makes a commercial and says that this is the best car he’s ever crashed that cost less than 7 figures I might be inclined to pay attention.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nope, sorry:


http://www .techdirt.com/articles/20091208/1545217254.shtml

Both clearly indicating that imitation or even minor advances are “innovation”, techdirt style.

Next time try actually reading the links you point to. Neither of those say what you claim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sunglasses that take photos (but hopefully videos) is actually a fantastic idea. As someone who primarily commutes by bike/walking, I would really like to just “blink” during certain moments and have a picture of what I am already looking at (rather than constantly having to film/edit real-time.

But otherwise celebrities do nothing for me and are actually turn-offs for most products I use. Those more marketing a product gets is the more expensive (wasteful) the product is as a result.

Chas Edwards (user link) says:

Intel and Will.i.am


I suspect you are right: This Intel / Will.i.am partnership isn’t going to drive product innovation. But underneath it all, that’s OK with Intel. The announcement came from Deb Conrad, head of Americas marketing — not the head of product or technology.

The question I’m curious about, Is it a good marketing investment for Intel. I suspect it is.

Kyler says:

I can see the logic the companies have used in these situations. pop stars are usually trendsetters on the leading edge of fashion and technology for one reason or another, so to the companies it makes sense to hire these pop stars to drive their product lines.

the problem is that the pop stars dont actually have any idea of what they are doing, they just wear or use what they are given by the real geniuses (the actual clothing designers, etc) and thats where the companies should be turning for “creative directors”.

FWIW, GM has done something similar with their cars for the past few years, but they actually hired people who knew what they were doing (car review writers from THE big name car magazines) and look how well it’s turned out for GM.

Bhaktha Keshavachar says:

Intel is NOT a product company

Just in case folks have forgotten, Intel all things said and done, is still a semiconductor component manufacturing company. They do own to a large extent the PC platform, but the end products are never supplied by Intel to the customer. This is the reason why this news is so confusing …

BTW the above, is also the reason for the conception of the “Intel Inside” program, to get mindshare and build brand value from end customers. As Intel is losing its Mojo (the mindshare is all now on the smartphone, tablet market where Intel’s share is zero) Intel must be hard at work (desperate ?) to inject some pizzazz into its now staid market.


techinabox (user link) says:

Not Always Dumb

I think this dumb only part of the time.I really can’t think of anything that Will.i.am would do for Intel aside from being a spokesperson. Same with Polaroid but at least she was involved to some degree in the stylistic aspect. On the other hand I can think of at least two instances where entertainers did more than that.

The first is 50 Cent and his headphones by Sleek. Apparently 50 joined the company with a desire to make nice headphones and invested some of his own money and a bunch of his time. At CES when they were announced Sleek reps said 50 spent a good deal of time with the design team and QA team testing the sound. Say what you will about his music but 50 most certainly has an ear for sound.

The second would be the Marley families decisions to put out a line of sound products in the vein of what their Dad would like. While Bob wasn’t involved (obviously), his children representing his ideas were, and they made a splash at CES by showing off the line of products made from recycled materials with biodegradable packaging.

Now neither of these situations were simply hiring stars to be Creative Directors they both involve entertainers getting involved in developing some nice products. I could totally see Panasonic or Canon hiring a famous director or filmmaker known for doing this unconventional with cameras to help them design a quality camcorder or a car company hiring a NASCAR driver to help with a performance car. So while I think randomly hiring a celebrity is dumb I think hiring obviously creative people to do things in a field they have some knowledge of is actually a pretty good idea.

jsf (profile) says:


It comes down to the same reason the tech companies have kowtowed to the music and movie industries. For some weird reason the people making the decisions are infatuated by music and movie stars, and think it is cool to associate with them. Government has done the same thing lately.

So it’s a case of selling out in hopes of being seen as being cool. Just plain stupid.

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