fake paparazzi & the cult of the amateur

My morning perusal of AdPulp has revealed a shocking Time magazine story called “Your Own Personal Paparazzi” about, funny enough, regular people who hire fake paparazzi to follow them around and take pictures of them for the low, low price of $1,500 a night.

As AdPulp says, it’s okay to be grossed out.

We have clearly reached a point in our culture where we have shifted from a people that prize self-control to a people that prize self-expression and, to paraphrase the story from Time, if your self-expression isn’t documented, if you don’t have people asking who you are, then you simply don’t exist.

This is the cult of the amateur.

It is part and parcel of the move to consumer-generated content that, while occasionally of a certain parity in quality to professional work, is mainly of a fascination because it is not professional. People like CGC not because it is good, but because it is novel. It is like a brand-subsidized talent show for amateurs. This American Idolization of advertising degenerates professional content at the expense of consumer feeling that “one of us” made this and that, as with American Idol, it’s just as bad as if we were to do it ourselves.

People will do anything for their fifteen minutes and, de-coupled as their fifteen minutes has become from actual talent or achievement, even pay to have a fake fifteen minutes that includes only confused bystanders thinking that those people might be of minor, unrecognizable “importance.”

It is a sad indictment of our culture, but it also provides an opportunity to marketers.

The opportunity isn’t so much to do more consumer-generated content. CGC is, by its nature, limited in effectiveness because it isn’t professional. Rather, the opportunity is for brands to jump onto the “I wish I were important and am willing to pay for the veneer of looking like I am to the other poor saps who care about that sort of thing” bandwagon and position their products as the true differentiator of status.

And, since status these days is only that people care who you are, not that you have done anything to deserve that, brands are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend.

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One response to “fake paparazzi & the cult of the amateur

  1. Ummmm. Isn’t this blog itself part of the “cult of amateur” CGC that is “limited in ineffectiveness” and that “degenerates professional content”? If we left it to the “professionals”, we wouldn’t have blogs like this. In fact, mainstream media has embraced the blogosphere – making it easier to link their stories to a blog, like say the Time magazine stories on personal paparazzi. Its kind of a measure of approval or street cred for an article to have more Diggs or other social bookmarking. It’s as if the media itself has succumbed to the need to be noticed and validated as individual entities.

    I would liken the experience of personal paparazzi more to stealth marketing than CGC in advertising/media context. Its a way to get a response by exploiting known social reactions while hiding the fact that its marketing. I just think it is unfair to equate this with the notion of “unearned fame and celebrity”.

    And what about your point – “Rather, the opportunity is for brands to jump onto the “I wish I were important and am willing to pay for the veneer of looking like I am to the other poor saps who care about that sort of thing” bandwagon and position their products as the true differentiator of status.” Duh. Isn’t that what wasting money on overpriced “luxury” brand goods is all about? Look at me, I must be important and cool because I can afford a $1000 watch and a $500 pair of shoes just like celebrity X. Isn’t that the premise that all advertisers hope for? Otherwise, we’d base our purchasing on rational decision making and wouldn’t need advertisers to distract our attention from actual product attributes.

    What is new about this? Why is it so horrible for “regular people” to hire paparazzi when its acceptable for marketers to make people feel like they must buy the right brand and applaud them when they do.

    Should it really be a surprise that a culture that has had advertisers glorify owning celebrity endorsed products for decades would make the logical step to desiring celebrity services or experiences?

    If people weren’t curious about celebrity, then this personal paparazzi experience simply wouldn’t work. Of course, celebrity endorsements wouldn’t work either, neither would product placement, or similar forms of advertising (like the “official” x of y).

    And maybe, just maybe, people do it simply because it is unique, harmless, fun.

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