Kim Kardashian is worth $65 million. She also gets paid $10,000 per tweet from various brands around the world to say something nice about them in less than 140 characters. And there are many that laugh at her. They say she has no talent. I would agree. But she is worth $65 million. Think about that. Ask yourself why.
Perhaps you remain unimpressed. Well, let me tell you what Kim Kardashian’s arse can do.
On the day she unveiled it in Paper magazine she received 307,782 tweets. The Rosetta space mission where the Philae lander landed on a comet received 479,434.
On the one hand, the fact that an almost impossible mission that took ten years to realise and could change our collective destiny beat Kardashian’s booty restores my faith in humanity. On the other hand, it didn’t win by that much.
I understood why that remarkable mission to dark space received a lot of publicity. I found it harder to understand why Kim Kardashian’s dark space had received almost as much.
This got me thinking about what a brand is these days. There was a time when the definition of a brand was quite simply a promise. Another definition I have always liked is that a brand is the sum of your experiences. Similarly, there was a time when you had to be famous for something noteworthy. Go back 30 years and the distance between a ten year mission to land on a comet and some racy pictures of a B grade celeb would have been infinitely larger.
So what has changed?
For one, I am not sure if a brand has to be a promise anymore or even an experience. It might just have to be a navigation device. This is something I think search and social media has created. Just finding a brand these days in a world that, as Eric Schmidt of Google points out, has generated more information since 2009 than all the information ever created in the world before that date is tough.
We have always laughed at celebrities and their need for fame. It all seems a bit silly and desperate. Sure, in the past, fame has always allowed celebs to get to the top of the guest list. What has changed is that this fame or infamy depending on who it is allows them to get to the the top of many other lists. And this creates cash for those people brands. Why? Because we can find them in an endless sea of information. They have become a destination for millions of people. This alone creates value. From a well planned wardrobe malfunction, the odd sex tape and a few deals with the paparazzi it all helps make people brands successful.
If you think it doesn’t, try and explain the strange occurrence of sex tape burglaries in Hollywood. The only thing that gets stolen is a sex tape. No jewellery or cash. Seriously? This has been replaced by hacking into celebs' mobile phones who just happen to have loads of naked pics of themselves stored on them. Really?
Another potential reason is how advertising and entertainment have now blurred completely. What this has done has created a sealed system. From Gordon Ramsay to the Kardashian dynasty they have intuitively understood that you can no longer interrupt what people are interested in, you have to be what they are interested in. We now have a large number of people, some talented and some almost without merit, who have become people brands. 20 years ago, these people would have tried to do a deal with major corporate sponsors. Now, many corporates are talking to them. And, if you understand this system the leverage you can create in terms of publicity and ultimately sales is unprecedented.
Search has fuelled the need for fame. Fame has finally become something tangible. It has become big business. And it is a business advertising should be seriously looking at. It is no longer a separate industry. It is now a part of our industry and a new form of competition. The deals between advertising industry, tech companies and the entertainment world in the last two years show this to be true.
Fame has become a commodity of immense value in a world where being noticed is becoming increasingly difficult for many.
This has massive implications for how advertising will work in the future. Our industry is not getting smaller. It is about to get a lot bigger. Every night we laugh at the banality and stupidity of reality television. Yet, amongst all the bullshit content are perhaps some small clues as to how advertising might change. An integrated campaign is the holy grail of advertising. It would seem the entertainment world and the advertising world are not so different. They are now one.
Mae West said the last word in show business is business. True, but these days Kim Kardashian might say these days good business is showing your business.
Her pics, which by today’s standards are not that risqué, created millions of views for Paper magazine and literally billions of impressions on social media in a single day.
You might argue those pictures are art. An unhealthy obsession with fame. Maybe harmless entertainment. A social statement of some kind. All of the above? Sure, why not. However, to me it’s just plain old advertising wrapped in a brave new world.
- Damon Stapleton is chief creative officer at DDB.
- This story originally appeared on his blog Damon's Brain.