Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Imaginary Social Relationships and Advertising Part II

In part one I described the most basic elements of an imaginary social relationship based on extreme admiration, but it’s important to recall that those relationships that endure must be based on something deeper, more significant. In my case, two years ago I was stricken with cancer, from which I was not expected to recover. Obviously, I did survive, and I believe part of my will to survive was in “knowing” Lance Armstrong. When I became ill, one of the first things I did—in addition to seeing lots of doctors or perhaps because I was seeing lots of doctors—was to read Lance’s book which in great detail described his ordeal, but also the book described how he managed his health care and how he handled his recovery.  In other words, he prescribed a method to deal with exactly what I was going through. Cancer: he’d been there; done that. I was just going through my personal ordeal and needed help. And, because it was Lance and because he was a survivor, I took his recommendations to heart.

As I recovered I became involved in Livestrong his charitable foundation that seeks to eradicate cancer. I never ever take off my yellow wristband that is imbued with meaning and significance. During this year’s Tour de France, Lance’s comeback had me glued to the TV screen even more than in the past. The fact that he did so well, placing third overall, moved me deeply, and I hate to admit it, but during the race I followed him on Twitter. Okay, I hate to admit this too, - I still follow him on Twitter.

 Lance currently advertises for Clear2Go water bottle, and he was hawking an energy drink whose name escapes me. I think he’s done ads for Oakley sunglasses, and I think he’s advertised for several other brands that I just can’t recall. I’m aware his new team sponsor is Radio Shack. Ironically, when I see him in advertisements I can’t say that my imaginary relationship is enhanced in a positive direction, and his appearance in those ads does not endear these brands/products to me. To be truthful, his association with advertisements kind of sullies my image of him. Often times when media figures appear in advertisements, changes take place in the imaginary relationship that corresponds with changes in the ways consumers perceive the brand. I guess if products that Lance Armstrong promoted were relevant to me, I’d probably give them a try. And, I do think it was a very strategic move on the part of Radio Shack to align itself with the “Armstrong brand.”  I will look more favorably upon that brand and likely shop at their stores.

I’ve only scratched the surface of my imaginary social relationship with Lance Armstrong. I don’t maintain such imaginary connections to very many media figures, but there are and have been others. I think I could write many more details that would provide even greater understanding of how this process of engagement with media figures works and the role that media figures play in our lives and the implications for advertisers. But because blogs are not books, I’ll end it here.


Sara Hayward said...

I think that one of the most important aspects of developing an imaginary social relationship with a media figure is how long they have been in your life and what parts of your life they have been "involved" with. For me, I have a somewhat intense imaginary social relationship with Claudio Sanchez, lead singer of Coheed and Cambria. I started listening to this band when I was in high school but I no longer listen to that genre of music. I have stayed loyal to Coheed and Cambria, even though the bands i listen to now sound nothing like them. I attribute my love and admiration for Claudio because of the extensive story line he created for the band. Each album follows the story line, telling of an alternate universe with well developed characters and settings. My admiration for Claudio is more than that, I admire his guitar playing skills even though I myself can't play. I follow him on Twitter, and even drive to other states to meet him. I think that since I have been so invested with the story, it makes my imaginary social relationship with Claudio Sanchez strong enough to last years.

Daniel said...

The new GEICO commercial integrates Disney’s new movie ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ This commercial uses the GEICO Gecko as if he were a celebrity. He, in an indirect way, markets this movie to children via their parents. After some thought, I realized the GEICO Gecko is a celebrity. He is well known across the United States and appeals to all ages. In some sense it’s a genius commercial. Younger kids think it’s funny to see a gecko interact with the new Disney characters, and parents are made aware of the movie because it involves ‘grown up’ subject matter. The parents are probably the target audience Disney is trying to reach, because it is their decision to take their kids to the movie. I think GEICO and Disney made a radical, yet intelligent, decision to cultivate and use the celebrity status of the GEICO Gecko to market their products. Disney can reach their target audience, kids, through an insurance commercial, and GEICO can reach their audience, adults, by using something that would entertain their children.

This is a link to the commercial:

Matthew Schillings said...

After reading this blog, it became obvious that there is more then just admiration of the person to have a significant social imaginary relationship. In my case with Tiger Woods, there really isn't anything much more then admiration for me. However, when I dove into my relationship with him, I figured out that there was more then just a relationship. I figured out that I look at Tiger Woods as a extreme mentor, teacher, and almost as a brother figure. I take Tiger's golf game and try to emulate it in order so that I feel closer to him. I read what he has to say and view what he does and because of this I look at Tiger as my teacher. He is the man and because of what he does, I have such a significant relationship with him.

Sean said...

I would have to say that I really do not have such a significant relationship with any media figure that I have to say I emulate and try to be like. There are people that I look up to and admire but the closest ISR to me is the one my older sister Mae has with Lady Gaga. I have never seen a person try to be like her in almost every way. She follows her in multiple magazines and always talks about the news with her and discredits and bad talk or word of mouth with her. She has told me that she not only dream about her but thinks about what she would do in certain situations and try to act like Lady Gaga herself. It seems that her relationship with her will stay with her even when she falls out of the spotlight.

Christine Montemurro said...

Though it sounds juvenile, I have always felt like I have had a real relationship with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. My sister and I spent our childhoods watching their movies and tv shows, playing with their dolls, reading about them in magazines, and role playing as them in games of "house."
Even though I have never met them, I feel a strong bond with them. Though i know they are probably not very pleasant people, I have always felt like we could be best friends if I just had the chance to meet them.
So although my celebrity relationship is based on nothing but superficiality and farce, I will probably never forget my love for the twins.