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Responsible Marketing

Responsible or not? Using the dead to sell

By December 30, 2008July 23rd, 2020One Comment
John Lennon

On Christmas Day, John Lennon returned from the dead.

Well, his image and voice were resurrected to help the One Laptop Per Child Foundation “OLPCF” and it’s raised a few eyebrows (and hackles).

If you haven’t heard about the OLPCF, here’s a summary:

It’s an education project, not a laptop project. Inexpensive, durable, networked laptops are important to better education everywhere in the world, empowering children and communities, and sharing access to modern skills with every child on the planet.

And a short video:

View OLPCF Mission on YouTube

It’s an ambitious and noble cause and an idea that’s easy to support.

So Yoko Ono granted the OLPCF the rights to use John Lennon in the following ad, released on December 25:

View A message from John Lennon on YouTube

“John Lennon’s vision of a better world aligns perfectly with the mission of One Laptop per Child,” says Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the OLPC.

But his opinion isn’t shared by all. An article in Ad Age sums it up well:

Still, the ads have mostly been polarizing. Comments at the YouTube page where the ad has been posted by the foundation range from “It’s a good message, but this is too far” to “This is an abomination.” Writers on the popular website Boing Boing said, “Resurrecting the dead to shill modern products is not going to catch on,” adding, “Digitally, it’s creepy.”

Bill Boyd puts it this way:

I always view the use of images of dead celebrities—digitally enhanced or created from scratch—as irresponsible. They’re simply not here to let us know whether they’d approve.

To me, it’s partly about casting responsibility. I couldn’t see Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne or W.C. Fields saying this. But John Lennon feels like a nice fit.

But what do you think?

Do you view this as an innovative and eye-catching way to get attention?

Or is using the dead immoral and just plain wrong?

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • I don’t really have a problem with it when it is clear that the deceased person was in total alignment with the messaging. Even if we are 99.9% sure that John Lennon would have approved of the One Lap Top Per Child program, we can really never know for sure.

    Beyond that issue I think it’s just a little weird as the computer generated Orville Redenbacher proved.

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