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Celebrity Apprentice: Entertaining or downright insulting? Does media exposure equal ‘talented’?

Working in an industry that deals with reputation management and branding every day, I found the whole Celebrity Apprentice a mind blowing case study this week. I have only caught snapshots of Celebrity Apprentice but those were enough for me and my 10-year-old son to decide it really wasn’t for us. When the episode came on the other night, my son got up and left the room. When he saw the trailers this morning, he made some comment about ‘rubbish’. Interesting. Apparently water cooler TV has a profound cooling effect on my 10 year old.

Did we discuss it in the office this week? You bet. Did my family all stop and watch the trailers on morning TV to see the post-mortem? You bet. Has it generated media exposure for the contestants? You bet. Was it worth it for them? Good question!

The thing that struck me most was the fascinating phenomenon of celebrity itself, the reasons why these contestants would have joined the show in the first place and the fact that just because you get media exposure, you may not actually be talented at what you do.

It’s a bit like getting attention when one turns heads in the street or is shouted at from a passing car. Are they looking at you in appreciation — or in dismay — or even in ridicule?

These days, much to the lament of some, it would be fair to say the majority would chase celebrity as some sort of indication that you’ve ‘made it’ or have achieved some form of success. But is that the case? Well maybe. But I don’t think so. The reality is, you fall short pretty quickly if the reality doesn’t live up to the promise.

Vapourware, spin, vacuous? What is the reality of those who make a big noise with not much else to offer? And what price do we put on core values and personal boundaries when seeking publicity? When do we compromise our personal brand value for the possible noise we can make and the entertainment value? Where does credibility end and reality TV take over. This latest experience with the Celebrity Apprenticehas me thinking.

From the Osbournes to the Kardashians, these are the modern examples of celebrity 2011. The Kardashians are a family that has promoted their brand to create business opportunities. A fascinating study of popularity through media exposure with no true value proposition to gain extraordinary entertainment value.

These days we are accepting as fact that reality TV seems to be the path to celebrity. The contestants will be conscious of what the series will bring to them personally. Endorsements, deals or just springboards back into the limelight of fading careers. Warwick Capper was quick to point out his new website when he featured on the Kyle and Jackie O Show. Karl and he had much banter on Channel 9’s Today. The headlines this week have not been about business acumen, or raising money for charities, or about the key attributes of good teamwork. But all we have heard about Pauline Hanson in her swimwear and Capper’s questionable fashion, sitting down on the job and poor team spirit. And the ability to vote a mate off. A celebration of the power of rejection.

So how does media exposure shape public perception of a celebrity or of one’s own personal brand? With social media now, others decide for us. I can’t help feeling it still has to be about the promise we make about who we are.

Back to Celebrity Apprentice, I wonder how the ‘celebrity’ contestants value their media ratings this week in hard objectives. Hansen’s personal brand, which has always been dubious by any standard, has evidently been boosted considerably. “Please explain” has taken on a whole new meaning for ‘Mama P’.

Is the age-old adage that all publicity is good publicity alive and well or past its prime?

Working through the clichéd lines, rehearsed scripts, encouragement to be ‘reality TV material’ with assigned characteristics — who is going to come out with a raised profile and for what? Lets watch this space. I heard sometime back that perhaps the currency of the future will be anonymity for individuals. That the real joy will be that ‘you can’t be found’? Not such a great idea if you are promoting something to sell, but an interesting thought in the world of cyberspace. Your thoughts?

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