How Celebrity is Sold

CBC’s The Hour is Canada’s late night talk show. Hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, it’s unlike any program on television. The Hour is a hybrid of news and celebrity, reflected through in-depth conversations, covering topics such as politics, the arts, entertainment, the environment, human rights, and sports etc. It’s even won seven Gemini Awards (Canada’s equivalent to an Emmy Award). Like any talk show, the “get” – the big celebrity interview is what keeps the show producers hopping because famous guests mean higher ratings. Yesterday, Hollywood heavy-hitter Harrison Ford was scheduled to arrive for a 4:30 taping. Usually the celebs show up in advance – to meet George, get into make-up and prep for their interview. Oftentimes the bigger the star, the more they are trying to pack into their day. I was curious to see Harrison Ford in person for some reason. I’m not usually ga-ga over celebs, but this was Han Solo from the StarWars franchise, so I made an exception. I accompanied half of my department (ostensiously on a cigarette break tho I never touch the things) downstairs and outside the building to hang around the John Street entrance, where the celebs are whisked into our building. Mr. Ford was fashionably late ‘natch so my team celebrated with a second smoke. While we were waiting I noticed a neatly dressed guy – perhaps in his mid-thirties clutching a roll of posters. He was pacing the perimeter, occasionally speaking to the small handful of folks chatting casually perhaps 100 feet from the building entrance. I wondered if he was with The Hour, but I didn’t recognize him from the crew so I didn’t give it much thought. I did notice however, when he walked over to an expensive-looking BMW to extract some hard-backed photos from his car. One of my art directors nodded towards the guy and wondered aloud how the autograph hounds knew that Harrison Ford was going to be at the CBC today. It’s not exactly top secret information, but you gotta wonder. And it wasn’t just him. As we watched, we realized that he seemed to be the leader of a well-organized contingent of professional-looking autograph seekers. At first there were just 3 of them. Then one or two SUVs pulled up and another 2 men joined the group. I realized that these guys must get autographs and sell them … on eBay? Privately? Are they really worth that much? Hmmmmm. Interesting. It was very hard to tell, but every time a dark Town Car or black SUV drove up John Street the leader’s body language tensed, and while not leaving his conversation, you could tell he was sussing out the odds of Harrison being in one of the vehicles. At one point he asked Matt, my AD if he wanted something signed. I thought that was very nice of him. When Matt said no thanks, he laughed and commented, “I guess it’s beneath you right?” Matt laughed and said no, but yeah, I guess if you aren’t into autographs, you don’t see what the big deal is. But the whole thing sure made for some very interesting people watching. Who were those guys? Do they do this full time? Do they actually make a living at it? How do the celebs handle the fact that these guys make money off them … that they’re not “fans” – that for them it’s a business? And how’d they get so organized? Eventually I came to realize that these guys were more fascinating than the prospect of seeing Harrison Ford live, in the flesh. Looking south on John Street, towards the Front Street corner we noticed another group of guys carrying rolled up posters. Suddenly they gave a shout and we saw a big black Yukon followed by another black SUV turn the corner and head north. “That’s him” I heard the leader say to the collected group.
We watched as the SUVs pulled up in front of the entrance, where 2 CBC security guards were waiting. All the autograph hounds ran to the entrance. We heard the leader say “Orderly line guys” and watched in amazement as the 8 men neatly and orderly formed a line – like a choreographed dance routine. Mr. Ford and his publicist got out of the car and he walked, much like royalty, towards the line where he stopped and signed the first poster held out, and then the second. As he did so a photographer suddenly appeared and started shooting. This seemed to annoy the assembled group, because seconds later the object of their income was whisked into the building amid shouts of “Mr. Ford – just one more!” Seconds later they were gone … leaving me to wonder about this side of the celebrity game.

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About Jill Atkinson

From concepts and smart headlines to original content and transmedia storytelling, to television pitch materials, directors treatments, long format writing, blogs and web copy with SEO, I write it all. I'm a writer, copywriter, and a content writer. My job is to help you say it better with ideas and language that get noticed. With copy and content that engages customers and audiences and ideas that make a connection with them. Ideas that generate a response. Materials that can sell a pitch. When you work with me you're working with the big boys: Maclaren, BBDO, Taxi, Sharpe Blackmore and also a great bunch of mid-sized agencies, b2b shops, a national television network (CBC), 15 specialty channels (History Channel, National Geographic, Showcase, Action, IFC, BBC Canada, + many more) and start ups who have taught me everything I know about how to get you noticed, remembered and sold. Or clicked. Or talked about. There are lots of ways to try to sell your products or to sell people on your offer or to engage them in your content and your show. But there is only one way to get it done right and on strategy. My experience is a foot in the door for your brand or your television idea . And no matter the size of your project, my commitment and attention to detail remain the same, big or small and always on deadline. Great conversations have to start somewhere. Give me a call or shoot me an email zookeepersboot@sympatico.ca Check out my work at http://jillatkinson.com
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