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How would you feel if somebody was out there using your name for purposes of their own—without your knowledge?
November 13, 2012 5:13 AM   Subscribe

Anthony Bourdain is "fighting mad" at the Travel Channel for editing him into a commercial without his permission. He expressed his rage on twitter first, and then in a long post on his tumblr blog: "All of us on the show would have preferred to go out on a high note—and we tried to do that as best we could, turning in a strong, final season that we are very proud of. We wanted to go leaving a lot of great shows—and nothing but good memories and good will behind...But things just didn’t turn out that way." posted by Potomac Avenue (94 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be clear, he appears to be referring to an in-show product placement - rather than a commercial in the traditional sense.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:21 AM on November 13, 2012


A practice he has allowed previously and acknowledges his personal car came from a prior placement.

This is a contract dispute, not some commentary on artistic freedom.
posted by JPD at 5:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I was confused by that Egg Shen, but he does refer to it as a commercial rather than a product placement, so I assumed it was separate from the plot of the show instead of woven into it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:23 AM on November 13, 2012


More of his twitter blowup here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:25 AM on November 13, 2012


Here are the direct links to the specific tweet and individual tumblog post.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:26 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops, I apologize, the tweet is only one in a long stream.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:27 AM on November 13, 2012


On preview: it's not about the money, it's about the respect. And the money.
posted by mr. digits at 5:29 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a contract dispute, not some commentary on artistic freedom.

Seems to me like a bit of both. Not sure "artistic freedom" is quite the issue here. Re-editing footage into a commercial without the permission of the subject is probably not unheard of, but it's certainly not standard practice.

E.g. I doubt the Mythbusters would be OK with footage from one of their tests involving scuba gear being recut into an ad for the Bahamas. This example seems equally absurd.
posted by jeremias at 5:33 AM on November 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Annoying that I can't find the clip on YouTube - would put it into more context to see the actual thing he's complaining about.
posted by DanCall at 5:33 AM on November 13, 2012


Bourdain's got attitude. And he's articulate. That's an entertaining combo, right there.
posted by rsmithing at 5:34 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


...but he does refer to it as a commercial rather than a product placement, so I assumed it was separate from the plot of the show instead of woven into it.

It's a bit of both. It's a discrete commercial seamlessly grafted onto the end of a segment of the show, edited in a way as to look like it's a continuation of the segment, with no obvious transition from show to commercial.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:35 AM on November 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


would put it into more context to see the actual thing he's complaining about.

It was blatant and weird enough that I watched half of one of the episodes in question and thought, "Wow, that is some especially crass product placement."

Basically, there are scenes of Bourdain doing his food travel thing, and while he talks in the VO that leads from one scene to the next, there are shots of a Cadillac zooming through the landscape. It's bad, really bad, and if he didn't okay it, he's got every reason to be cheesed.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Oh, I think he should totally be pissed about it, I'm just not quite sure he's arguing from some moral high ground is all.
posted by JPD at 5:40 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a discrete commercial seamlessly grafted onto the end of a segment of the show, edited in a way as to look like it's a continuation of the segment, with no obvious transition from show to commercial.

Not even a momentary black screen? Wow. That's new (to me) and worth complaining about.

I assumed it went like it does on Top Chef. The "cheftestant" is narrating some footage of themselves competing and then there's a cut to a close-up of... why, it's a member of the Glad family of products! ... and then back to the action. "Seamless" is not the word I'd use to describe it.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:42 AM on November 13, 2012


The place he's arguing from seems to be "this is counter to the contractual agreements we had in place" which is, as far as I'm concerned, a moral high ground of the first order.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2012 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I can understand him being pissed, I'm just only partly sympathetic. This is kind of what he does, even if he's tried to be careful about it. I did enjoy the part of his rant that went:

"This is something I've never done! Except for that one time with the credit card. But that was it, just that one time with the credit card! And I vowed never to do it again. You can trust that what you see is what you get, except for that one time with the credit card. And that one time with the BMW. Once with the card and once with the BMW, but that was it! Everything else you can trust is exactly just expressing my preferences. Just twice, with the card and the car..."
posted by OmieWise at 5:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Next thing, Seinfeld is going to want them to take that Apple computer off the set, eh?
posted by HuronBob at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2012


The place he's arguing from seems to be "this is counter to the contractual agreements we had in place" which is, as far as I'm concerned, a moral high ground of the first order.

I don't think that really captures the part about his integrity, which is larded pretty heavily throughout. I agree the contract dispute is not small potatoes, it just isn't quite where he's trying to locate the emotional resonance of his argument.
posted by OmieWise at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it looks like his contract with The Travel Channel explicitly prohibits the use of his name and image in product endorsements without his personal approval, and somebody thought that they could hew to the letter of the contract while evading the intention of it.

As a result, Bourdain's airing his grievances. And, unspoken, probably wants some kind of compensation for it having been done, since any ordinary person would skim an intercut of face shots and product shots and assume the guy who owns the face has some relationship with the product. Which was obviously The Travel Channel's intention. An implicit endorsement is an endorsement.
posted by ardgedee at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


And that one time with the BMW

"For which I got the car that I drive today"

Was the point of that "I wouldn't try to sell you a car that I wouldn't pay for accept for free myself"?
posted by Egg Shen at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2012


He seems to emphasize heavily that his personal brand is very valuable, yes, making the point time and again that he doesn't give his name trivially. He has a thing of great value, he is saying, and he is upset that it was taken from him without his consent.

I agree, it is bad.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:50 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not even a momentary black screen? Wow. That's new (to me) and worth complaining about.

Meh, i've watched shows that have cut to commercial so quickly that i thought for a second that the show took a weird turn. Not all that odd, especially with channels trying to squeeze out as much ad revenue as possible.

I've personally never cared for him or his show. Always came off as an arrogant snob, and this only tosses giant complainer on top. If he's got a contract dispute, take it to court or some such, throwing a tantrum on twitter though? Ugh.
posted by usagizero at 5:50 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point he keeps going over is basically that the contract apparently covers the following point unambiguously:

1. No product endorsements without his approval

And they made something that looks a whole lot like a product endorsement, and did it without his approval. Regardless of whether he's an awesome guy or scum, it sounds like The Travel Channel attempted to evade point one there, and he's calling them out on it.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't really care that he's done commercials before. He didn't agree to do this one, so it's not kosher.

I've been in commercials, but I'd be mortified if somebody edited me into another one without my consent. And I don't even have a brand to protect; I'm just some guy.

I think this is the commercial.
posted by grudgebgon at 5:54 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Promo at the very bottom here.
posted by travis08 at 5:55 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


High-paying scorpion carries obnoxious frog over a river (and pays him for it) and then behaves like a scorpion; not exactly news. At least Bourdain most likely has a legal remedy.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:02 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's how the TravelChannel Marketing Department will probably defend this...

AB: WTF???? I don't do product endorsements!!!!! My lawyers are gonna...
TC: Tony! Dude! They're not endorsements. They're Nano-Spots™.
AB: Nano...?????
TC: They're fractional-second commercials for Cadillac interspersed between...um..."Special highlights episodes" we edited-together from your show!
AB: WTF???
TC: Read your contract, Tony. We have the right to create special episodes. It doesn't say how short they have to be or how they're broadcast. We just broadcast 32 mini-specials and ran 32 Nano-Spots™ between each mini-special. Legal says they're totally cool with this reading of your contract.
AB: But...what...I don't...
TC: It's been a blast working with you, Tony. All the best in your future endeavors. Oh...Leave your parking badge with the secretary, would you?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


I remember an episode of Masterchef when Joseph Bastianich said to one of the contestants, "I see you're using the Breville Stand Mixer." I never watched it again. That kind of intrusive advertising kills it for me, and I can understand where Bourdain is coming from.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:07 AM on November 13, 2012


Looks like in the end he had a lot of reservations
posted by Renoroc at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2012 [19 favorites]




Always came off as an arrogant snob, and this only tosses giant complainer on top. If he's got a contract dispute, take it to court or some such, throwing a tantrum on twitter though? Ugh.

I don't really understand the logic behind this. Why should he be silent about it just because he may have legal recourse? Clearly you don't like Bourdain, but if it were someone else that you did respect, would you have the same opinion?
posted by snofoam at 6:12 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Currer Belfry: High-paying scorpion carries obnoxious frog over a river (and pays him for it) and then behaves like a scorpion; not exactly news. At least Bourdain most likely has a legal remedy.

Yeah, I mean, don't you sort of expect a certain amount of extra-contractual fuckery that you are going to have to have lawyers deal with when you enter into business with a big corporation? I know I would. Seems strange that I would be more cynical about the entertainment business than Anthony Bourdain.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2012


That clip is extremely weird and yeah, totally worth getting pissed about.

Seems strange that I would be more cynical about the entertainment business than Anthony Bourdain.

You're probably not, but I think you're equating "cynical" with "accepting of extra-contractual fuckery". You can be cynical and expect that something like this might happen sometime, and still be really pissed about it when it does happen.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:18 AM on November 13, 2012


That kind of intrusive advertising kills it for me, and I can understand where Bourdain is coming from.

Except he's agreed to do it for other products. The Chase product placement on No Reservations was only not as bad because he never said "I'm going to use my Chase Ink Card to pay for this"

I don't really understand the logic behind this. Why should he be silent about it just because he may have legal recourse? Clearly you don't like Bourdain, but if it were someone else that you did respect, would you have the same opinion?

I clearly think he has a case for legal action and I hope he takes it, and if it turns out his lawyers f'ed up and didn't protect him from things like this he should fire them. What rubs me the wrong way about this is that Bourdain portrays this as some affront to his creative process, his personal brand. Dude you did a product placement for a credit card and a BMW, get off you high horse and sue the shit out of Travel Channel. His claim to the moral high ground is bogus. He's whored himself before but this time his pimp didn't ask nicely first. So ditch your pimp, but you are still a whore.

This is a business dispute, he's trying to use his fan base to his advantage. If he has a legal case he'll win. Its not like he can't afford the same fancy lawyers as Travel Channel/Scripps.

And I like Bourdain BTW (though I'm glad he's moving on from "No Reservations")
posted by JPD at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


kiltedtaco: You're probably not, but I think you're equating "cynical" with "accepting of extra-contractual fuckery"

To be clear, I wouldn't accept it. I'd sue the bechamel sauce out of them. It just seems weird to me to take what I'd consider to be a known risk of doing business so personally.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:21 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Except he's agreed to do it for other products. The Chase product placement on No Reservations was only not as bad because he never said "I'm going to use my Chase Ink Card to pay for this"

The key point is that HE agreed to do it in the past. And, he apparently genuinely regrets it now. In this case, though, it appears TC did this without his knowledge or approval.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


His claim to the moral high ground is bogus. He's whored himself before but this time his pimp didn't ask nicely first. So ditch your pimp, but you are still a whore.

That's bullshit. The whole point is he should be the one to choose who or what he endorses, and when. A rock band might choose to let their song be used in Call of Duty VII but that doesn't mean they shouldn't get pissed if their record label decides to let the Summers Eve folks use it in a commercial.

And this idea that an artist is a whore if they let their work be used to sell things is tiring. Are bands supposed to not let their songs be used in TV shows and movies? Are sports stars not supposed to sell sneakers? If you're in the public eye that's pretty much what you do.

Like him or not, he has a right to be pissed in this case. He worded his contract that was for a reason. It's about his choice.
posted by bondcliff at 6:28 AM on November 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


I'm a fan, but also know that kerfuffles like this can be exploited by, and are often designed by publicists to attract news attention, which is free advertising. He recently signed new contracts for new shows, right? I used to think all those rock bands who smashed their instruments and hotel rooms were insane, but I can still name them all.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 AM on November 13, 2012


If he's got a contract dispute, take it to court or some such, throwing a tantrum on twitter though? Ugh

The producers were given a lot of money from GM for making it seem like Anthony Bourdain was endorsing a GM product. He's making sure that not only does everyone know that he's not, he's also making sure that he will happily do that again if anybody else tries to do the same.

IOW, since he did not approve of the endorsement, he's countering it with a disendorsement. Which, when you think about it, is a clever take back. GM wanted Bourdian=Caddilac, they're now getting Caddilac=Spooge.

He could just go to court, but that costs him time and money, may not actually work, and of course, GM still would have Bourdian=Caddilac, which on an economic scale, dilutes Bourdian's brand. Why, ad guys ask, would you advertise for BWM, you're already advertising for GM.

He may also have a personal reason for never endorsing GM, which is his right to have. I don't think so, with is post about "Sorry you guys on the factory line are caught up in this."

He's also expressed regret for the couple of times he's agreed to do it before, but you know what, I flat out don't buy the idea that because he agreed to do it once, they can do it repeatedly without his agreement. I don't care if he got off on doing the same thing for Chase. He did not want to do that for GM, and his contract said that he had approval rights, and the Travel Channel blew him off and did it anyway.

You can be the current set of contracts being written will have this taken care of. Hmm. Part of me wonders if this isn't a way to seriously fuck with "reality" shows. Find out who's on them, find out what they hate the most, pay for ads with them endorsing that. Hmm, can trolling actually be a force for good?
posted by eriko at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


His claim to the moral high ground is bogus. He's whored himself before but this time his pimp didn't ask nicely first. So ditch your pimp, but you are still a whore.

This is a really really really gross idea.
posted by kmz at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [42 favorites]


I remember an episode of Masterchef when Joseph Bastianich said to one of the contestants, "I see you're using the Breville Stand Mixer."

That's nothing. They once did an entire "Walmart Beef" challenge.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:33 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


He's whored himself before but this time his pimp didn't ask nicely first.

So, what you're saying is it is okay to rape prostitutes?

From where you're standing, you can't even see the moral high ground.
posted by eriko at 6:34 AM on November 13, 2012 [33 favorites]


If I consent to doing or having done to me some particular thing, that doesn't mean that I waive my right to object when something similar is done to me later on, even if it's done in a similar context to the thing I consented to.

I once got a haircut from a barber. That doesn't mean that every time I walk into that guy's barber shop, I'm consenting for him to cut my hair. Or that any other barber can cut my hair whenever he wants to.

I once fought in a martial arts tournament in a high school gym. That doesn't mean that every time I walk into a high school gym I'm consenting to participate in hand-to-hand combat.

A friend of mine does some modeling work. Her face is on a couple of products here and there. That doesn't mean that she's consented to other companies taking her face and putting it on other products.

I know that the word "whore" has already been used in this discussion, and I really don't like it, but let's go there: just because I consent to have sex with a particular person, that doesn't mean that other people can suddenly have sex with me without my consent under circumstances that maybe resemble the circumstances in which I did give my consent to have sex. That's gross and wrong and not okay.
posted by gauche at 6:35 AM on November 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac,Bourdain, Cadillac, Bourdain, Cadillac.

my cynical mind makes me wonder if he's getting a nickel for every mention of these two words together today...
posted by any major dude at 6:37 AM on November 13, 2012


eriko: IOW, since he did not approve of the endorsement, he's countering it with a disendorsement. Which, when you think about it, is a clever take back. GM wanted Bourdian=Caddilac, they're now getting Caddilac=Spooge.

That's a fair point, and makes sense.

gauche: If I consent to doing or having done to me some particular thing, that doesn't mean that I waive my right to object when something similar is done to me later on, even if it's done in a similar context to the thing I consented to.

I completely and totally agree with that.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:52 AM on November 13, 2012


Bourdain makes an important point - people expect to watch the show for free, and traditionally ad revenue has paid for production. It doesn't work that way anymore, and they have to recoup their costs (and make money) somehow. What is the problem with product placement? If you don't have it there is no show, and AB is certainly not morally compromised by having accepted it in the past. On the other hand, this is a contractual dispute, not a cause celebre, and it seems like AB is trying to negate any benefit Cadillac may have gotten from the placement. Which seems logical.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2012


Sub a different word for "whore" I apologize for using that word. But you people really really really need to assume that someone using a word you dislike in a different context does not apply that same view to a different context.

He agreed to do something for money with someone else acting as intermediary who was paying him a fair sum of money, a second time around that intermediary did that same thing again without asking him. That's wrong, but its a contractual dispute. It is not the sort of violation of personal ethics Bourdain presents as having had occured.

No one, not a single person in this thread is making the claim that what Travel Channel did is remotely ok.
posted by JPD at 6:59 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a fan, but also know that kerfuffles like this can be exploited by, and are often designed by publicists to attract news attention, which is free advertising. He recently signed new contracts for new shows, right?

I'm pretty cynical of this whole thing, but I really really don't think this is the case given his pretty public spats with Scripps/Food Network historically and the fact that Scripps recently bought Travel Channel which appears to have led to his decision to sign on with CNN. There is no love lost there.
posted by JPD at 7:04 AM on November 13, 2012


That's wrong, but its a contractual dispute. It is not the sort of violation of personal ethics Bourdain presents as having had occured.

Why can't it be both?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:05 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because he's already shown a willingness to do product placement in exchange for money - on one occasion a car, on another occasion a credit card.
posted by JPD at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2012


People seem to be having a hard time separating Bourdain's being right about the contractual issue here from his claims about a certain kind of moral superiority re advertising and product placement. The former is not in dispute, the latter is a very dubious claim on his part, but one he is making nonetheless. I'm surprised by the vitriol of those who think that disputing his moral superiority in this instance is the same as disputing his contractual claim. It's a strange display of lack of nuance, and seems to show a weird lack of media literacy. The vitriol directed against Bourdain here seems more fitting, as it both acknowledges his contractual claim and reacts with disgust to his unfounded claims to moral superiority.

Bourdain was done wrong by the Travel Channel. His claims that he has too much integrity to have consented to that thing which they did are demonstrably false, and at issue is his future ability to cash in as he, rightly, should be able to do however he sees fit, not his "integrity." That's reason enough for him to be pissed, even reason enough for him to write a blog post pointing out how shitty Travel Channel is. He went a bit further than that, though, and looks like a bit of an asshole to me as a result. (This is not a shock, his persona is "bit of an asshole, " so, no biggie.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:07 AM on November 13, 2012


Bourdain Chase Product Placement
posted by JPD at 7:10 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if you don't think the ad agency at Cadillac knew exactly how fine a line they were drawing with this, think again. To apologize to Cadillac and get all fired up at the Travel Channel? Please.
posted by Kokopuff at 7:18 AM on November 13, 2012


> Sub a different word for "whore" I apologize for using that word. But you people really really really need to assume that someone using a word you dislike in a different context does not apply that same view to a different context.

You really really need to take responsibility for what you're communicating. This isn't about dislike of a word, you characterized the situation in a gross, offensive way.
posted by desuetude at 7:19 AM on November 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


So it came as a shock and a disappointment to turn on the TV for the last two episodes of my show, and see that someone had taken footage that me and my creative team  had shot for my show, cut it up and edited it together with scenes of a new Cadillac driving through the forest. Scenes of me, my face, and with my voice, were edited in such a way as to suggest that I might be driving that Cadillac. That, at least, I was very likely IN that Cadillac—and that if nothing else, I sure as shit was endorsing Cadillac as the vehicle of choice for my show. All this following seamlessly from the actual show so you were halfway through the damn thing before you even realized it was a commercial.  

Yeah, I'd be pissed.
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


People seem to be having a hard time separating Bourdain's being right about the contractual issue here from his claims about a certain kind of moral superiority re advertising and product placement.

I don't care a great deal either way, really, but I don't think it's necessary to believe in Bourdain's "moral superiority" for it to be reasonable to believe that A) this is a contractual issue and also B) that Bourdain regards the use of his name without his consent to be an ethical wrong.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:22 AM on November 13, 2012


What is the problem with product placement? If you don't have it there is no show, and AB is certainly not morally compromised by having accepted it in the past.

He talked about this in his blog post, he stresses that when he did do one instance of product placement it made his fans very upset and he regretted it. It basically came very close to morally compromising him to do it once, so there is definitely a problem. The danger he points out is that his show is in a way just him endorsing things, so if he starts taking product placement deals often then all of a sudden you can't trust any of his endorsements and therefore his show is worthless.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2012


I don't think it's necessary to believe in Bourdain's "moral superiority" for it to be reasonable to believe that A) this is a contractual issue and also B) that Bourdain regards the use of his name without his consent to be an ethical wrong.

I agree both that that's what he believes, and that that's true. I just think it's a different kind of ethical wrong from the one he wants to highlight in his piece. Yes, using his name and image without consent is wrong in a larger-than-just-contractual sense; no, Bourdain's integrity vis-a-vis his willingness to use product placement in his shows is not damaged by this.
posted by OmieWise at 7:29 AM on November 13, 2012


And I got paid. My fans were not pleased, however. Not at all. The backlash was considerable and angry. People felt betrayed

I was wondering who felt betrayed. We all know he does this for money. I think ultimately it blurs some sort of line of what is a paid endorsement on his shows. Maybe he was paid to a fee by each restaurant he visited.

I guess travel channel figured, fuck it , let him sue us. They must not care very much about that bridge. The relationship can't have been good.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:36 AM on November 13, 2012


> He talked about this in his blog post, he stresses that when he did do one instance of product placement it made his fans very upset and he regretted it.

This is trenchant.

Taken in the context of what he's written before he became a TV celebrity, and what he's written since becoming one, this particular sense of obligation and ethical guidance is part of what built his fanbase and remains part of his appeal.

But even if he didn't give a damn, he would have to act like he did, because his fanbase is built on his public identity, of which these statements on ethics are a part. If he turned a 180 on that, there go his fans, and there goes his appeal to marketers, his income, and he's back to running a restaurant.

I'm not seeing any indication that he feels trapped by his moral compass here. But whether he does or not isn't relevant.
posted by ardgedee at 7:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


a second time around that intermediary did that same thing again without asking him.

It's not the same thing, because it's a different product.

I think you're a little focused on the "endorsing products" part of this, but I think Bourdain is really focused on the "choosing what to endorse" side. The difference here really matters. As has been pointed out before, Bourdain's entire show is predicated on "endorsement" of a sort, showing people what is good and what is shit. There's no "moral high ground" argument about not endorsing products ever that you need to argue against.

"Choosing what to endorse" is the critical part, and I don't see why it's so hard to understand that this is a "moral" issue and not just contractual. If they spliced in clips that made it look like Bourdain was walking into an Applebee's, he'd be suing them for outright slandering his character, for calling into question in the minds of the viewer his taste, his integrity of not lying to the public about what is good food and what is bad food, etc. The fact that he chooses what to endorse is the only thing that matters, period.

I can't really figure out what you think would constitute a "moral" issue rather than a contractual issue, but it sure sounds like a moral/ethical issue when TC says "You chose to endorse something once, now we are going to choose what you endorse".
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Bourdain is saying "Hey, you know what, I understand ads pay for my show. and I'm not against being paid to like something, but do me the favor of asking me so that I can decide whether or not I'm ok with it and what it might say about my opinions on the show that I use to make my living". I actually remember the BMW thing.. he was noticably driving a BMW suv in an episode of No Reservations about the American Southwest. it was obvious, but it also had no effect on the places he visited or the things he said.

because his currency is his personality and being able to say what he wants about places/food/etc and be taken seriously and not to have those opinions be judged on whether or not he's being paid to say it.

it kinda reminds me of an automotive writer we've talked about here. the guy loves Porsches. however, he is not afraid to call them out on bs products, engine failures that aren't warrantied, etc. so he's no longer allowed access to Porsches from the factory so he can write about them before the other 'journalists'. he refuses to work for a magazine that gives out free cars and junkets to the writers in exchange for those writers becoming a tool of the automakers and having their opinions bought and paid for.

there's a reason it's so hard to fight against being a product shill. because to take the money and run is easy. but if you value being able to say whatever you want on your show/blog/etc without being edited down or told what your opinions are by the subject of that same piece, it effectively devalues your currency.
posted by ninjew at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's wrong, but its a contractual dispute. It is not the sort of violation of personal ethics Bourdain presents as having had occured.

That's the disconnect: it's not just business to him. He treats contracts as promises, as do many people. That's why he draws the parallel to meeting people on time. When a promise is made, the ethical thing is to meet that promise as best one can. For him, breaking a contract is breaking one's word, an unethical act.

The disconnect happens when others see a contract as carrying no ethical weight. Contracts are so only kept when the contract deliverables are more beneficial than the penalties and costs of breaking the contract.

Bourdain knows this, but, I suspect, would prefer not to interact with people who view contracts as convenience only. His rational action in this case is to a) protect his brand (including his ethical reputation) by protest, and b) raise the cost, in terms of publicity damage to the public and their sponsors to the TV folks. Raising the costs to the Travel channel folks may not benefit him much now, but may make it easier to avoid being taken advantage of later.

IOW, it's perfectly reasonable for him to frame the dispute this way. It's a common way of thinking about contracts. In light of that, his actions make rational sense.
posted by bonehead at 8:24 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mr. Bourdain's wardrobe provided by Botany 500
posted by Flashman at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Thing1] may not benefit him much now, but may make it easier to avoid [Thing2] later.
This. This plus a million product placements.

People these days, especially in the corporate world, just aren't capable of taking the long view of things.

At a job I had previous to this one, I nearly turned in a letter of resignation if someone didn't respond to a service ticket I had created. Not because that minute detail was terribly important (it wasn't), but because it shows a certain level of respect and willingness to cooperate. It shows that nobody is bigger/more important/needed/etc. than anybody else, and if those things start to fall apart there is some serious trouble.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:42 AM on November 13, 2012


I wound what product placement TLC will have for Extreme Cougars?
posted by stormpooper at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2012


Fair play for being irked, but (and maybe this is typical for him because I have only the barest knowledge of the guy) he came across on Twitter as a classless asshole.
posted by ambient2 at 9:00 AM on November 13, 2012


[Folks, please take the "whore" sidebar out of this thread. JPD, please be more careful next time, not cool.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


JPD: "Except he's agreed to do it for other products. The Chase product placement on No Reservations was only not as bad because he never said "I'm going to use my Chase Ink Card to pay for this""

So someone tries something and finds they don't like it, thus no longer doing that thing that you don't like, is somehow worth your moral opprobrium because you think they shouldn't have tried it in the first place?

The air must be quite thin up there on that high horse of yours.
posted by wierdo at 10:00 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Next thing, Seinfeld is going to want them to take that Apple computer off the set, eh?

I think it's probably a little closer to Seinfeld Vision.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:24 AM on November 13, 2012


The least that Cadillac should do is to offer to some charity service a brand new car in the name of Burdain (so he can get at least the tax deductions) cause all this commotion about his disagreement has caused an enormous interest and the Cadillac name is all over the place. Better than millions spent in commercials. Ah, and send him at least a thank you note!
posted by CRESTA at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2012


"This is something I've never done! Except for that one time with the credit card. But that was it, just that one time with the credit card! And I vowed never to do it again. You can trust that what you see is what you get, except for that one time with the credit card. And that one time with the BMW. Once with the card and once with the BMW, but that was it! Everything else you can trust is exactly just expressing my preferences. Just twice, with the card and the car..."

He's neglecting to mention that he did in-show product placement for Bing, too, when it started up.

I don't think that the Travel Channel should have edited him into a product placement or ad without his consent or knowledge -- that's sleazy. But you know what? I'm tired of Bourdain and his sanctimony. He makes himself out to be so much better than his peers and colleagues (the list of celebrity chefs he's publicly criticized -- particularly Food Network personalities -- is too long to type), but at the same time he fawns over the chefs whose bills command a higher price tag (Eric Ripert, Ferran Adria, Jiro Ono).

He wants to be seen as the equivalent of the folks in the latter group, so he tries to sell and brand himself accordingly. What he can't escape is that a lot of folks place him into the former group, and he can't stand the comparison to people who lucked out with TV contracts but otherwise have shortcomings that keep them out of the vaunted group. And that's where he belongs.

He was the executive chef at a mediocre but pricey restaurant in NYC. He wrote a book with a distinctive voice that people liked (Kitchen Confidential). He wrote another book with that exact same voice that he was able to turn into a series on Food Network (A Cook's Tour). He had a bad breakup with the Food Network, so he essentially remade the same show (even using some of the same destinations from the FN series), but with an hour format, with the Travel Channel. With the same voice.

Bourdain complains about other people having more schtick than substance. It's the pot calling the kettle black. It's just that the pot is so loud and so confident and so acerbic, people stop paying attention to the kettle.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


A while back, I agreed to use a credit card on a limited number of episodes of my show. The network made money off the deal. It helped assure me and my production company the budget we wanted. And I got paid. My fans were not pleased, however. Not at all. The backlash was considerable and angry. People felt betrayed.

Wait... people actually were mad at him for product placing a credit card? I really don't get this. Do we not watch No Reservations for the places he goes to, the people he meets, and the food that he gets to eat? How does being paid to one bank's credit card change anything?
posted by gyc at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2012


I wonder if Bourdain's lawyers have told him it's not worth the trouble to sue, that's why he's taking it to Twitter & the people.
posted by honey badger at 11:59 AM on November 13, 2012


I definitely remember the credit card thing. Considering how organically the show usually plays out the placement was pretty awkward. I wouldn't say I was mad about it, but I kinda had this "oh well I guess this show is over" feeling.
posted by ethansr at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2012


I'm tired of Bourdain and his sanctimony.

Hear, hear. Honestly, find his schtick thinner then cigarette paper, and his arrogance/ignorance/pathetic machismo has retrospectively tainted kitchen confidential for me. His entire success is built off his ability to brand himself, yet he's constantly trying to deny it.

He is a walking stereotype - both of chefs, and older men desperately trying to cling to the delusion that they're still "cool", "tough" etc. I find the stereotype particularly offensive with regards to cheffing; it's antidiluvian nonsense, and typically rife with unquestioned chauvinism.
posted by smoke at 1:41 PM on November 13, 2012


He's a writer and a producer who loves food and knows the kitchen and restaurant scene very well. They stole his name, his face, and his product, and they violated his contract too.

I'd expect any other creative personality to be angry, too. And if they didn't want the rough side of his tongue in any public forum he could think of, they shouldn't have done it.

I'm rooting for Tony in this showdown.
posted by bearwife at 1:54 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder, at the core of this, if the issue might not be "are we people, or are we commodities." It's clear by how people talk about Bourdain that part of the disagreement with him is that once he has made himself into a commodity by selling something he should "be honest" that he can only be a commodity now and only ever was a commodity.

This is about a fundamental insecurity for all of us, as people who are being commodified by companies into a list of characteristics and our bank balances. I think as this becomes more common in the business world it's also affecting how we view each other - first through how we view celebrities (who despite getting paychecks for being visible in public, are still people first and commodities second) but then through how we view our peers.

This is be hastened, in addition, by the calculated manipulation and immitation of people by companies trying to create credible astroturf, which leads to a sense that everyone is potentially for sale and potentially a corporate shill, so we should just accept it and move on.

Honestly, these responses really bother me, though. If we blame the people, not the companies, for the commodification of people, then we're blaming the people who are not actually doing wrong - the people are just existing, getting paid, trying to do what they enjoy. It's the companies trying to commodify us, so why does it seem to difficult for people to blame those companies?

Something weird is going on.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, partway it's Metafilter's entrenched hatred of all creative people and deep seated wish that they get fucked over by corporations in ways they'd be howling about if it happened to "normal" people.

It's crappy, but entirely predictable.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain fan and now I really feel silly about the Cadillac I bought a couple days ago.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Beirut episode made me love Bordain. Before then, I was kind of... put off my the machismo. Enjoyed it and it seemed familiar because its a common voice, but put off by it at the same time. The way he spoke about how deeply Beirut affected him really connected me with him, though; his uncertainty and his willingness to voice that uncertainty and how the show had changed him to make him less certain. That was cemented in his episode with Nuri in S. Korea and how he interacted with her; I adore that show so much - just the joy between them, and the teasing, and his response to watching her explore really drew me in.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the Seinfeld Vision of 30 Rock.
posted by humanfont at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2012


Bourdain's got attitude. And he's articulate. That's an entertaining combo, right there.

Bingo. I have always enjoyed his writing and television appearances.
posted by ericb at 2:35 PM on November 13, 2012


He agreed to do something for money with someone else acting as intermediary who was paying him a fair sum of money, a second time around that intermediary did that same thing again without asking him.

and that's wrong - contractually and ethically. you're basically repeating the thing you said before without the offensive content, but the idea is still offensive - that once consent is given (conditionally) it can never be revoked. anthony bourdain had the right to accept the BMW and cash for the credit card spot and he has the right to not appear in a cadillac ad. i don't understand what's so difficult about this concept.
posted by nadawi at 2:37 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, partway it's Metafilter's entrenched hatred of all creative people and deep seated wish that they get fucked over by corporations in ways they'd be howling about if it happened to "normal" people.

Exactly.

Anthony Bourdain:
"I was—and remain—angry.

While this would seem to be a problem most people wouldn’t mind having; I can only ask how you’d feel if somebody was out there using your name for purposes of their own—without your knowledge. If they presented you as someone you are not, as holding opinions you don’t hold, and making money off those misrepresentations—however embarrassing to you."
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could all of this brouhaha be manufactured?

After all, Bourdain's other Travel Channel series, The Layover premieres its second season on Monday, November 19.

Nothing like 'controversy' to stir up free PR, blog posts and chats. In other words -- BUZZ! WORD OF MOUTH!
posted by ericb at 2:59 PM on November 13, 2012


I'm a fan, but also know that kerfuffles like this can be exploited by, and are often designed by publicists to attract news attention, which is free advertising.

This!
posted by ericb at 3:04 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing like 'controversy' to stir up free PR, blog posts and chats. In other words -- BUZZ! WORD OF MOUTH!

This ties back into all of us as potential dupes of astro-turf, surely, though? I mean, we live in a world now where it is almost reflexive to dismiss anything as an attempt to get "buzz". I remember when Anita Sarkeejan was recieving hundreds of death and rape threats, her wikipedia article was vandalized, etc... and in discussing it the refrain of "she's getting lots of attention for this, so she mad emore money on her kickstarter, so it's worth it (maybe she even asked for it), right?" kept being brought up.

I sincerely doubt, given Bourdain's tweets, that any publicist signed off on them. They read as very concurrent with his aggressive style which prides itself on being offensive, and offensive is simply not what publicists do.

Even if a publicist would sign off on masturbating ont he dashboard being a great way of generating buzz, though, I'm disturbed that the legal and ethical concerns can at all be undermined by "but it's creating buzz so he might make money" argument; I do not think this is a valid argument at all, and I think claiming people will do "anything" to get "buzz" is part of the "everyone is a commodity" narrative that encourages us all to sell ourselves before someone else sells us, and encourages us to discount people who object to being sold in violation of legal and ethical contracts (or object to being sold at all).

There's a sort of world-weary, ironic detatchment from the reality of the commodification of people which troubles me a lot. A sort of "It's going to happen anyway, so who cares about the rules, and you were asking for it" zeitgeist.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, partway it's Metafilter's entrenched hatred of all creative people and deep seated wish that they get fucked over by corporations in ways they'd be howling about if it happened to "normal" people.

Is this really a thing? I don't think I've noticed it. It seems like Metafilter spends much more time praising creative people.
posted by snofoam at 3:44 PM on November 13, 2012


It seems like Metafilter spends much more time praising creative people.

We come here not to praise creative people, we come to bury them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:37 PM on November 13, 2012


He was the executive chef at a mediocre but pricey restaurant in NYC. He wrote a book with a distinctive voice that people liked (Kitchen Confidential). He wrote another book with that exact same voice that he was able to turn into a series on Food Network (A Cook's Tour).

I've never read any of those, but I did enjoy Bone in the Throat -- a lovely little minor crime novel about a heroin addicted chef working in a restaurant that was owned by the mob.

Whenever I've seen him on the TV, he always seems to be making a big deal about how he was never actually any more than a mediocre chef, and so I always assumed he saw his role as being someone who worked in the media rather than in the kitchen. In fact, the only time I've seen him talking about Les Halles, he was bigging up the hard working Latinos who he claimed did the real work in the kitchen and were ten times the chef that he ever was.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


there was an episode of No Reserations where he goes back to work a double at Les Halles and that's pretty much how it went. he worked the sauté station and was therefore responsible for getting all the orders up to the runners in order and matched to their tickets. he was nothing but complimentary to the staff (mostly latino) and fully recognizing that it was a tough job and he was, after all his experience, little more than the 'fng'. and of course, he invited Eric Ripert to work the dinner shift, and was quick to point out that although Ripert was also not used to that kind of kitchen, he was barely breaking a sweat on the grill. I saw very little ego, but a healthy dose of attitude there. and to me that's honest. it's what I've always respected about his personality..
posted by ninjew at 7:00 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't have a problem with the product placement on Top Chef, Masterchef, or even Survivor. Competitive reality shows are just fancy game shows; product placement is the raison d'être for game shows.
posted by Ranucci at 8:44 PM on November 13, 2012


This guy knows better how to draw attention to his new movie coming out.

I suspect there's a secret industry list somewhere that people can choose publicity stunts from because they only work once. Thankfully, Tony passed on the grenade one.
posted by Brian B. at 1:02 AM on November 21, 2012


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