Monday, December 21, 2009

The Problem with Paltrow

How wonderful it must be to be, well, wonderful.


Just ask the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and they will tell you how wonderful it must be. Or rather, they will tell you that they have had it up to here [very, very top of head] with not being so wonderful and not at all getting things for free.


As the basis for regulating fair business practices in our democratic society, the FTC is a governmental agency that seeks to uphold three basic tenants of our free market; 1. not restricting free trade and competition among businesses...2. not allowing bad business behaviors that may lead to the creation of a monopoly...and 3. supervising big business deals to make sure things are legal and safe and wonderful.


Back in June, there was talk about new regulations from the FTC that would force folks to disclose who was paying them, how and for what whenever they decided to talk about whatever it is they wanted to promote. Which really means that the FTC was going after writers - bloggers specifically and celebrity endorsers who get so much free press time - who talk about/blog about products and or services that they may have received as freebies or reviewed for payment.


I haven't (paid much attention to) or heard much about this particular piece of legislation until yesterday when I read up on Gwyneth Palrow's little trip to Morocco. Seems ole' Gwynnie's got some explaining to do as she enjoyed a "lavish" hotel and spa stay as a potential gift in exchange for her glowing review on her hot social media site, Goop.


Here is an excerpt from her popular parenting/lifestyle/wonderful-life-I-lead site:

"I just took a very impromptu first trip to Marrakesh, Morocco where I fell in love with the place, it's magic. An absolute world away in almost every respect, there is something special in the air there. It is a place I will surely revisit...I couldn’t resist a daily Hammam treatment at the hotel’s spa. Get this: 15 minutes in a steam room, a full-body lather in Black Soap, an exfoliating rub down, a Ghassoul (Moroccan clay) body masque, and then a warm shower... Ridiculously lavish!"

In the name of full disclosure, I should report that Jennifer Aniston, Adrien Brody, Salma Hayek, Orlando Bloom and other top celebrities were on the invite list to the reopening of the wonderful and fabulous new hotel and spa. And according to published stories, no one will comment on who paid for what and how these superstars intend to pay it forward.

The only real evidence we can document is that the FTC issued guidelines published last month on how not to act if indeed, you are deemed "wonderful," like Paltrow and her peers. And of course, another piece of the puzzle is how Paltrow fell over herself explaining how she discovered heaven on earth at this pricey-exclusive hideaway in Marrakech, Morroco.

My problem with this - and indeed, Paltrow herself - is that as a marketing communications professional I can see through some pretty serious bullshit and can only guess that EVERYTHING that comes out of a celebrity's mouth in the public realm is purposeful and planned. As in, paid in full advertisement. But as a consumer, I'm left guessing as to whether or not these product endorsement are real or simply purchased as part of a global marketing strategy. Is it true, then? Can everything be bought?


If you want to read more about this trending topic, check out what this blogger had to say about his starry, starry night under the Moroccan sky. Just don't look too careful for his full disclosure of who paid for his vacation to a fairy tale...

Disclaimer: Everyone knows what Tiger Woods did for Thanksgiving and how that is now affecting the world of advertising. Now everyone seems to care what Paltrow et al. did over the "ridiculously lavish" holiday weekend.  

Let it be said; I didn't travel to Morocco but I do have a pretty mean long drive.

And in the name of total transparency, let it be said that my next trip will likely be to my neighborhood Whole Foods store, where I will gobble as much free cheese as possible (and wine too if it's available!!) before leaving the wonderful super-duper-supermarket with one bag full of slightly overpriced-yet-totally-wonderful-goodness that, indeed, I paid for in full.