Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson - The Ad Years

True or False Michael Jackson's best-known ad moment involved a freak accident?

True.

In 1984, at the height of his mega-fame in the wake of Thriller, Jacko's hair caught on fire while he was filming a Pepsi commercial for BBDO. Ironically, it eventually inspired the title of Phil Dusenberry's brilliant book - "Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising". Such was MJ's blessing and curse.

For a time, his celebrity rivaled that of Sinatra, Elvis or the Beatles. He was by many measures the biggest star of his generation. He was give the title of "King of Pop", the man embraced the role, seeking to remake himself in a pale, childlike image only he could understand. The endless cosmetic surgeries, the reclusive years at the Neverland Ranch and the bizarre pronouncements and behaviors are the stuff of legend... and without question sent the advertising executives running for the hills. He did connect to the industry by selling his own and Beatles songs through the years.

In terms of traditional advertising, Jackson went to bat for two brands: Pepsi and L.A. Gear.

I don't know if many realize how big a deal this Pepsi commercial was. It actually received mainstream media news coverage at a time when the mainstream media didn't spend that much time talking about silly old commercials. (BTW, the kids starring in the spot is Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.")

L.A. Gear is sort of a forgotten footnote. L.A. Gear ended up suing Jackson for not delivery on the contract.

Michael Jackson died last Thursday in Los Angeles at age 50.

Here are a few of Jackson's advertising efforts:

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