How One Raunchy D-Lister Got on the Lists of A-List Marketers

Q&A: Kathy Griffin on Her Kotex-Backed Web Series and How She's Never Been Paid to Tweet

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Kathy Griffin, the two-time Emmy-winning comedian and star of Bravo's "My Life on the D-List," has delivered a lot of messages to her 472,000 Twitter followers -- or "Katheters," as she calls them. But she would like you to know that none of them have been paid -- despite her best efforts.

Kathy Griffin and celebrity stylist George Kotsiopoulos team up to give three women a chance to ditch their old underwear and granny panties in the Kotex web series, 'Project Makeunder.'
Kathy Griffin and celebrity stylist George Kotsiopoulos team up to give three women a chance to ditch their old underwear and granny panties in the Kotex web series, 'Project Makeunder.'
"I've never been approached to do that. But for the right amount of money? Oh I would come to your house and blow you," Ms. Griffin said in her typical candor.

Making an off-the-cuff remark such as that in an interview would normally make a potential sponsor or marketing partner skittish, but Ms. Griffin has worked with an impressive number of brands in recent years for someone whose entire career is based on bad-mouthing celebrities. From her series of Sierra Mist commercials with fellow comedians Michael Ian Black and Jim Gaffigan ("Mist Takes," as they were called) to her recent ads for Arby's ("That's right, I am the new fresh face of Arby's ," she said proudly), the self-professed D-List comedian has booked some pretty A-List commercial work.

This week, Ms. Griffin expands her branded portfolio as the host of a new five-episode web series for Kotex, "Project Makeunder," in which she and celebrity stylist George Kotsiopoulos (E!'s "Fashion Police") team up to give three women a chance to ditch their old underwear and granny panties with a top-to-bottom lingerie makeover. Ms. Griffin is the first to admit that the show would make a perfect episode for her Bravo reality show, but she is currently weighing her decision to renew the show for another season.

Ms. Griffin is also one of a handful of celebrities who have partnered with brands for online series. From Whoopi Goldberg's campaign for Poise incontinence pads to Marisa Tomei's appearance in the Bertolli-sponsored Yahoo series "Into the Heart of Italy" to Illeana Douglas' celeb-filled web series "Easy to Assemble" for Ikea, the precedent for celebrities partnering with brands and generating measurable results is growing.

Madison & Vine caught up with Ms. Griffin from the set of "Project Makeunder" to talk more about paid tweets ("twats," as she calls them), the dos and don'ts of working with brands such as Kotex and why "Project Makeunder" has affected her own wardrobe as well.

M&V: What attracted you to Kotex's "Product Makeunder"?

Ms. Griffin: Well, I am a user of the brand, but also it's just funny. I'm not gonna lie -- the money's not good, so it wasn't for that. It was, "Kathy Griffin, do you wanna do a Kotex webisode?" "Yes. What time? When's hair and makeup? Where do sign?" I of course took it sight unseen, but I actually do use the product. I could show you, if you'd like.

M&V: Well you've already done a public pap smear and televised it on your Bravo show. I'll take your word for it.

Ms. Griffin: Thank you, yes I have done a public pap smear on behalf of cervical cancer awareness. The tens of viewers who tuned in saw something they've been prepped for, as of course I'm vajazzled [Editor's note: We'll let Jennifer Love Hewitt explain this trend to you if you're not familiar.] That's what Kotex will really do next. I'm sure they're going to ask me to be on their board of directors to come up with some sort of vajazzling kit.

M&V: You've worked with several brands in the past, including Sierra Mist and Arby's . How does this miniseries with Kotex compare to those previous experiences?

Ms. Griffin: I have to say the Kotex people were very liberal with what I was allowed to say or not say, which is my dream gig. They're not hitting me over the head with the message points and wanted me to infuse some humor. I'm not going to be a typical spokesperson, I've said some things that other spokespersons haven't said. I'm not exactly Marie Osmond is what I'm saying.

M&V: Increasingly, marketers are partnering with celebs for viral videos and endorsement deals because they can leverage the star's web presence. How will you be using your 472,000 Twitter followers and nearly 650,000 Facebook fans to get the word out about this series? Are paid tweets part of the deal?

Ms. Griffin: It does seem like all these celebrities are using their Twitter for deals. I use Twitter for promotion because I tour year-round, I use it to get a couple jokes out there and entertain people. So I primarily I use it to talk about my live shows, when I'll be on TV, where's my next book signing or when I'll be signing new product at the live show. I've never been paid to twat. But I'll tell you, if I was fucking a donkey, for the right amount of money I would be using Kotex absorption pads while I was doing it.

M&V: Is this another classic D-list moment for you?

Ms. Griffin: The "D-List" isn't covering this at all, but yes it is. What the Bravo people don't understand is this happens whether I appear or not. I'm going to be the new fresh face of Kotex with or without a camera crew. I sincerely enjoyed the idea and really enjoyed the product. I'm very excited to run into Uma Thurman and pretty much rub it in her face that they chose me over her.

M&V: What do you think of the concept of "Project Makeunder"? Have you performed a similar intervention on your friends, or vice versa?

Ms. Griffin: There was a little intervention on my part. My assistant Tiffany was here, and she pulled the Kotex people aside and said, "Kathy wears granny panties, you have to get them out of her drawer." So I myself am now a convert. I am going to start wearing sexier panties I can still wear pantyliners with. I'm a pantyliner gal; I'm either gonna go commando as usual or switch to sexier undergarments. Today, they indoctrinated me, not unlike "The Manchurian Candidate." I will feel better about myself constantly. They made me wear an outfit, and I'm ready to get laid based on how I look and feel.