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Cashing-in on Charlie Sheen – social media #FAIL or #WIN?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
10 March 2011

Note: These opinions are those of the author alone, not Tamar.com or their employees

As somebody who has been watching the Charlie Sheen ‘situation’ unfolding for a good few weeks now, I’ve been amazed at how quickly it’s been become ‘acceptable’ to use Sheen as a marketing tool.

This has become even more apparently in the last couple of weeks, since “celebrity endorsement” company Ad.ly managed to persuade Sheen to join Twitter – a move which has brought them and their partners HUGE amounts of publicity.

But the rights or wrongs of Ad.ly’s coup is not what I want to discuss here… Nor will I get into my opinion of the media figures (come in Piers Morgan, your time is up) who are using Sheen for viewing figures – after all, that IS their job. And I won’t go in to the ethics of turning a convicted felon (and alleged domestic abuser) in to a “folk hero”.

But what I DO want to address is the current trend of companies/brands exploiting the madness (pun very much intended) around Sheen on their social media profiles. Here’s a few examples:

Sheen also recently tweeted that he was “searching for an intern” – a move which, as it turns out, was simply a clever marketing-drive to promote burgeoning website Internships.com.

With so many brands jumping on the band wagon, it seems that taking advantage of the media circus Sheen has created is now perfectly acceptable. But what does it do for a brand’s public image to associate themselves with such a controversial figure? Is there a new form of “bad taste #hast-tag hijacking” going on here? People are always very quick to cry foul when brands jump mis-use hash-tags relating to conflicts, uprisings, natural disasters or the like – is this much different from that?

As somebody who has been tweeting the hash-tag #UnfollowCharlie for the past few days, I have to say I lose quite a bit of respect for companies who are associating themselves with Sheen.

It’s not that I feel Sheen is being exploited – if anything, I think he’s exploiting a lot of other people here. I just find it hard to accept that glorifying and encouraging a man who is clearly having some major issues at the moment is going to end up in anything but bad news. As my metaphorical Gran used to say, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”…

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