Bill Gates to market dead celebrities

SteveMcqueen.jpgYou might not be thinking that Business news is very exciting, and the following snippet from the Guardian won’t immediately make you think of much.

Corbis, the digital image company set up by Bill Gates in 1989, has bought…The Roger Richman Agency…

Not much excitement to be had there then. Well, there is. What’s interesting is that the agency Gates has bought deals in something very unique, and something we’re seeing more and more of today. Indeed we’ve talked about it in regards to Marlon Brando before. The agency owns…

…the image rights to more than 50 deceased celebrities…the rights to some of the key figures of the past century, from Mae West and the Marx Brothers to Steve McQueen and Vivien Leigh…also holds the rights to a slate of personalities whose appeal goes beyond the confines of film. Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, the Wright brothers and Isaac Asimov have all appeared after their deaths thanks to its offices.


In fact you probably have seen their work in the guise of a Ford advert:

The Richman agency was the company that engineered one of Steve McQueen’s best-remembered performances: as the driver screaming through the streets of San Francisco in a TV commercial for Ford cars.

Dead celebrities are easy to manage and high income:

Corbis will take a 20% cut of the profits from any endorsements, double the usual rate for a living celebrity endorsement.

As we said before in a previous post, it’s really cheapening to a major celebrity to be used in ads after their death. Sure, the Ford one was pretty cool and didn’t really tarnish the image, I mean McQueen driving a Focus? However, seeing Gene Kelly hip-hop dance around a car, or James Dean shown with white deodorant marks on his shirt, these things are pure money making schemes and affect the image of who the star really was.

I’m not sure how I really feel about it, sure the estate can make money on their name, but does it feel right as a lover of movies and someone who holds these big stars images as something unique? I’m not even going to consider the morality of using them after they’re dead! How do you feel about it? Is it water off a duck’s back, or does it really stick in your throat?

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