Nothing sells youth and sex like ... Bob Dylan?

April 22, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

IT WAS AFTER GETTING another alarming glimpse of Bob Dylan's frozen mug in that commercial for Victoria's Secret that I realized the whole concept behind celebrity product endorsements escapes me.

Let's examine that Victoria's Secret commercial for a moment.

OK, here's a company selling a product, namely sexy lingerie.

It's a company that promotes a certain image of itself.

An image of eternal youth. An image of playfulness. An image of sex appeal.

In fact, the image of sex is promoted so relentlessly you get the feeling Victoria's Secret believes most of the world's ills - including war, poverty and environmental degradation - would largely disappear if only women would show more cleavage.

So this company that promotes youth, playfulness and sex looks around for a celebrity flack that fits its image.

And it settles on ... Bob Dylan?

Bob Dylan, who is 62 and looks like he just climbed out of a crypt.

Bob Dylan, who, if he ever had a playful gene in his body, had it surgically removed long ago.

Bob Dylan, who is sexy only if you have a thing for desiccated guys.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Yet there he is in the commercial, shot in a palazzo somewhere in Venice, mumbling one of his more recent songs while a young model romps around in what anyone would romp around a Venetian palazzo in: bra, panties, spiked heels, angel wings, cowboy hat.

Interspersed in all this are ghostly shots of Dylan staring hard-eyed at ... well, something.

The model in that crazy get-up?

The cameraman?

A fly on the ceiling?

Who knows?

Look, this is Dylan. He's half-fried, right?

For all we know, he's staring at what's left of the sandwich he had for lunch.

Apparently, though, the commercial is supposed to be hip, edgy and provocative.

But the first time my wife, my 18-year-old daughter and I saw it, we all had the same reaction: Geez, is that Dylan? He looks like a stalker.

My next thought was: How can this possibly translate into more sales of sexy lingerie?

Still, it's not just celebrities that seem ill-suited for the products they pitch that mystifies me about these types of endorsements.

No, what really mystifies me is this: Why would anyone buy a product just because it's endorsed by a celebrity?

I think about this every time I see Catherine Zeta-Jones in those commercials for T-Mobile, the cell phone service.

OK, fine, Zeta-Jones is a knockout, no question about it. And she might even be a decent actress - that I wouldn't know.

But just because you loved her in The Mask of Zorro, is this really the person to turn to for advice on roaming charges, picture-messaging and bundled services?

Same thing with Orioles' star Rafael Palmeiro shilling for Viagra. Are there really men out there who watch his commercial and think: Well, the guy's got 500-plus homers. He's a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. So he must know a thing or two about erectile dysfunction.

Are there really men who think: Forget about shopping around for a good licensed sex therapist. If Raffy says to ask my doctor about Viagra, that's good enough for me.

And how, literally, do you take that advice, anyway?

Would a guy, no matter how desperate for intimacy, actually say to his doctor: "Hey, the first baseman for the Orioles says I should ask you about Viagra."

Carrot Top flacking for 1-800-CALL-ATT - isn't there a credibility gap here?

Is a goofy, red-haired comedian truly an authoritative source for the best value in long-distance service?

Then there's Tiger Woods, who just re-upped to be the national pitchman for Buick.

Whenever I see his commercials on TV, I ask: If I were Tiger Woods and I was filthy rich and could buy any car in the world, would I really get all excited about a Buick Regal?

Would I really think: Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Hummer, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lamborghini . . . they're all nice. But give me a Buick LeSabre anytime.

There seems to be a disconnect there somewhere.

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