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Cybercritique: Celebrity plugs produce absurd, disturbing ads

By Published on .

MARKETERS: Sephora.com and HealthExtras

FIND THEM AT: Women.com and elsewhere (Sephora.com) and Bloomberg.com and elsewhere (HealthExtras)

Almost a year ago we stood on our soapbox and cheered the fact that Tony Danza was not appearing in any banner ads. We lauded the fact that celebrities just weren't showing up online at all and, while we recognized that the day would come when stars eager to make a buck would start appearing in online creative, it hadn't happened yet.

Now it's happened.

Sephora.com and HealthExtras both have celebrities shilling for them, although with very different effects.

Beauty site Sephora.com brings to the Net the bit of wisdom that the only thing standing between the average woman's looks and Kate Moss' look is good makeup, not genetics. The arguments about why this kind of marketing is absurd are well-tread. We didn't want to see the day when advertisers just slapped a supermodel on a banner ad and called it done, but the day has come.

More disturbing, though, is the HealthExtras ad. This disability insurance provider is using Christopher Reeve in its banners, as it has in TV spots. The copy reads: "I've seen too many families destroyed, not from the disability but from the financial drain." Reeve's own story underscores the fact that no amount of insurance is enough, but this grim reminder is a little too grim. The banner goes beyond a reasonable celebrity tie-in and winds up just being creepy. His static b&w image staring out from the banner zaps all humanity from his presence. It puts the consumer in a position of feeling pity for the celebrity spokesman rather than a personal call to action.

WHO CREATED THEM: DDB Digital, New York, for Sephora.com; Focused Image, Alexandria, Va., for HealthExtras.

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