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Selling the Mertzes
October 10, 2005 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Fred and Ethel resurrected as corporate shills "Through the magic of Hollywood, famously tightfisted Fred (William Frawley) and his irascible wife, Ethel (Vivian Vance), are brought back to life in a series of entertaining vignettes," California-based PacifiCare said in a release about its new television advertising campaign. Using body doubles, voice impersonators and computer-generated imagery, the national TV ads that will premiere in mid October will enable the two long-dead actors to "speak" once more. And, oddly enough, they'll be talking about PacifiCare's new drug plan.
posted by Artifice_Eternity (40 comments total)

 
Fantastic. Now all we need is a dead Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner.
posted by wakko at 9:59 AM on October 10, 2005


I know, it's not the first time it's been done. But I have a soft spot for "I Love Lucy", and seeing it raped by corporate America is really galling.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:05 AM on October 10, 2005


I felt this way when I first heard Led Zeppelin in Cadillac commercials.
posted by wakko at 10:13 AM on October 10, 2005


What a glorious feeling...
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2005


Classic tv is so ripe for the raping though, Artifice_Eternity.

And its not like Fred or Ethel's going to complain, nor their heirs, who are getting some fresh coin out of this.

That's why I'm going to be cremated when I die, I don't want advertisers stringing up my lifeless body and making me dance with a broom or whatever other product they need some shilling for. Nope, you'll be hearing endorsements from me coming from a pile of ashes.

The sad thing is that many people will see them and get nostalgic and forget that they're being pimped upon by PacifiCare. Sad.
posted by fenriq at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2005


"Where am I?"
"In The Village, a Wackenhut facility."
"What do you want?"
"Information, and the knowledge that your stay is pleasant and reformative."
"You won't get it."
"By hook or by crook or by our patened Wackenextracto method, we will."


Just thinking out loud.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:21 AM on October 10, 2005


Fenriq: You'd better have all photos and videos of yourself destroyed as well, if you don't want to be zombified later.

I guess the only real way to fight this is to do more of it, but subversively. E.g., creating your own anti-corporate Fred and Ethel remix.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:24 AM on October 10, 2005


I'm totally in favor of this.
posted by jonson at 10:25 AM on October 10, 2005


Nothing is sacred in the marketplace, eh. Not that Fred and Ethel are, specifically, sacred, but there is something repugnant about this. Leaving the dead in their plot perhaps? I dunno. It just seems sort of sick. Like a form of cannibalism.
I didn’t much like the Fred Astaire commercial either.


Council of York in 1376 put a stop to idiots making merry with the bodies of the dead. Of course, practical jokes continued, but at least that could be blamed on the booze.

Perhaps the closest analogy I can think of is the
Jivaro in South America who would prop the dead body up fully dressed and play dice for their stuff.


The sick...no, I’ll go further and say perverted - corporate twisting of the original message aside (Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz commercial comes to mind) in many ways of course we’re still ruled by the dead (It is not without reason that Hades/Dis pater/ Pluto - was not only the god of the dead, but also the god of wealth).
Perhaps turnabout is fair play. Still, there is a stagnation here that is really distasteful.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2005


Just think--in fifty or sixty years Britney and Christina will be selling life insurance, retirement plans, and senior health care.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2005


Interesting that a health care company would turn to grave robbing to sell its products.
posted by schmedeman at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2005


"A dead celebrity's image also tends to be fixed, negating fears about an ad campaign imploding because of scandal. A living athlete's boozing and womanizing would be a marketer's nightmare. For Babe Ruth, dead since 1948, it's merely part of the legend, so why not trot him out for Citibank ads?" Denver Post

I try not to buy anything advertised by a zombie celebrity.
posted by ?! at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2005


It would be more interesting and apropos if this were also done by advocacy groups. For example, HCI could literally pry Charlton Heston's gun from his cold, dead hands with a little bit of video magic.
posted by clevershark at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2005


Using DEAD people to say how great a healthcare company is? But they are dead.... The opposite of healthy ... It makes no sense.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2005


R. Mutt writes "But they are dead.... The opposite of healthy ..."

They may not be alive, but they're also not sick!

And their medical bills currently add up to almost nothing. So, in retrospect, those are EXACTLY the sort of people that US health insurance firms want as customers.
posted by clevershark at 10:33 AM on October 10, 2005


I try not to buy anything advertised by a zombie celebrity.

They really know brains, though. I mean, I personally would trust them in that area.
posted by wakko at 10:36 AM on October 10, 2005


"In The Village, a Wackenhut facility."

Thank you for that, PST. And for the mental image of Rover emblazoned with the Wackenhut logo.
posted by mkhall at 10:38 AM on October 10, 2005


BTW, when does a person's image fall into the public domain, if that is even possible? I mean, George Washington and Honest Abe are used to sell cars, at what point would Babe Ruth, or anyone else become public property?
posted by R. Mutt at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2005


R. Mutt: Good question. I'm guessing that if the person's image has been trademarked, it's theoretically indefinitely renewable. That is certainly the case with Mickey Mouse -- the early cartoons are either in public domain or close to it, but Mickey himself (and the other Disney characters) are trademarked.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:03 AM on October 10, 2005


It would be more interesting and apropos if this were also done by advocacy groups. For example, HCI could literally pry Charlton Heston's gun from his cold, dead hands with a little bit of video magic.

Awesome. But would that be a pro- or anti-gun control spot?
posted by gurple at 11:06 AM on October 10, 2005


One imagines the creative minds turned Fred and Ethel zombie raisers are likely too young to distinguish between them and Washington or Lincoln. Probably had to research what all those old people in the focus groups were referring to.
posted by scheptech at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2005


Heh. Those two actors couldn't stand each other in real life (6th paragraph), and now they're still stuck together in the grave.
posted by JanetLand at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2005


Fred and Ethel resurrected as corporate shills

Ha! Said as if their chracters and show were originally some pure entity that existed solely for the people. If you want entertainment that is free from shilling, talk to your neighbors. (Just not the one selling Avon).
posted by VulcanMike at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2005


Considering that this week we've been subjected to commercials filmed in black-and-white featuring a fat, home-run-swinging baseball player called "The Bomber" pointing at the beer vendor in the stands and having it be mistaken for a "called shot", I'd say just about anything from the past is fair game.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:40 AM on October 10, 2005


Said as if their chracters and show were originally some pure entity that existed solely for the people.

Good point, they always were about corporate sales, commercial advertising supported their work at the time. As contrasted with Led Zeppelin who's work was commercial-free, sold directly to consumers.
posted by scheptech at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2005


"...in fifty or sixty years Britney and Christina will be selling life insurance, retirement plans, and senior health care."

Yeah, but that's not like, say, James Dean for Fixodent commercials.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:13 PM on October 10, 2005


EPISODE NUMBER 45 (irony of a doll being available now, notwithstanding)
posted by Peter H at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2005


Sometimes this can be good for the celebrity. I dropped $5500 on eBay for a Picasso etching because I figured if Picasso wore GAP khakis he must be a pretty cool artist.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2005


That is certainly the case with Mickey Mouse -- the early cartoons are either in public domain or close to it

Sigh. Not true. Steamboat Willie will not go into public domain until 2023. Unless they change the law. Again. Which they will.
posted by jlub at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2005


Smedleyman writes "Yeah, but that's not like, say, James Dean for Fixodent commercials."

Now James Dean in ads for Porsche cars, *that* I'd like to see.
posted by clevershark at 2:40 PM on October 10, 2005


thing is that many people will see them and get nostalgic and forget that they're being pimped upon by PacifiCare
That is how I see it, they're being brought back to life in a up-to-date setting. Paid by the pimp, PacifiCare, for us to enjoy. As products support themselves, not the commercial’s supporting cast backing it. If everyone thought a product is good because such n such said so, I have the Brooklyn Bridge to sell. Thus, I can't be alone here in thought.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:45 PM on October 10, 2005


thing is that many people will see them and get nostalgic and forget that they're being pimped upon by PacifiCare
That is how I see it, they're being brought back to life in a up-to-date setting. Paid by the pimp, PacifiCare, for us to enjoy. As products support themselves, not the commercial’s supporting cast backing it. If everyone thought a product is good because such n such said so, I have the Brooklyn Bridge to sell. Thus, I can't be alone here in thought.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:01 PM on October 10, 2005


It might be interesting to see RFK do a TV spot for the Ambassador Hotel (if it reopens).
posted by clevershark at 3:19 PM on October 10, 2005


Bill and Vivian are only doing in death what Lucy and Desi did in life: here you will find a number of links to video clips of the Phillip Morris cigarette ads that ran as part of the original I Love Lucy broadcasts.
posted by briank at 5:16 PM on October 10, 2005


Is the resurrected Steve McQueen going to kick their asses? That I'd watch.
posted by kosher_jenny at 5:26 PM on October 10, 2005


Hey, Corporate Media Facilitators! Beat the rush! Pay me big money to star in your commercials now! I'll even wear my Zombie costume; it's easy, I always look that before I have my morning coffee.

And briank, tomorrow I must remember to go out for some Carnation Evaporation Milk. It's from contented cows, and George and Gracie recommended it.
posted by davy at 7:03 PM on October 10, 2005


Briank: Lucy and Desi made the choice to be shills for Phillip Morris. Dead people don't get to choose.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:41 PM on October 10, 2005


BTW, when does a person's image fall into the public domain, if that is even possible? I mean, George Washington and Honest Abe are used to sell cars, at what point would Babe Ruth, or anyone else become public property?

Public domain is a concept associated with copyright; this is closer to trademark law, and is called publicity rights. As recently as 20 years ago deceased celebrities were pretty much fair game, but a number of estates (I think John Wayne's was an important one) fought advertisers and began winning. A number of states and foreign countries now have statutes protecting these rights, essentially in perpetuity.

Public figures such as Washington and Lincoln remain subject to some abuse. I think there have been bills introduced in Congress to protect their images, which haven't gone anywhere.

In the case of Frawley and Vance, their estates do get to choose, and it would seem they approve. I'll give their heirs the latitude to make the choices they want.
posted by dhartung at 9:02 PM on October 10, 2005


for those who can't see the clips for one reason or another, my sources have procured this transcript for me:

Fred: Urrrgghhh.

Ethel: Braaaaiiiinnnsss.

The End.
posted by shmegegge at 10:01 PM on October 10, 2005


Frawley and Vance always loathed one another.
posted by orange swan at 9:02 AM on October 11, 2005


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