Celebrities are always looking to make a quick buck, and tech companies are always looking for ways to make their products more attractive so that they too can make more money. Combine these two elements and you get situations like Ellen DeGeneres visibly using a Samsung phone at the Oscars, even though she actually owns an iPhone.
These lame celebrity tech endorsements are nothing new, and you don’t need to look far to find more of them. Here are some of the most blatant examples of high-profile celebrities hawking products that they aren’t connected to in any way, some with hilariously awful results. Presented as a reminder not to be blinded by the presence of a famous face.
Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry – Windows 95 (1995)
The Internet has lots of nostalgia for the 90s, as evidenced by sites dedicated to taking you back to that decade. This instructional promo for the revolutionary Windows 95 starred Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry from Friends. It shows them using Bill Gates’ computer to learn about all the new features in Windows 95, and it has more 90s cheese than you might be able to stand in one hit.
30 minutes of corny jokes, goofy sound effects, awful acting, and state-of-the art computing will surely make you howl if you grew up in this era. Aside from inducing cringes, this is worth watching just to see all the once-revolutionary features we take for granted in Windows today.
William Shatner – Commodore VIC-20 (1981)
Here is an endorsement which is actually slightly less embarrassing than the others on this list. At the time, everyone knew Shatner as Captain Kirk, and Star Trek is one of the most widely recognizable geek franchises on the planet. So at least this one makes some sense.
The Commodore VIC-20 was the predecessor to the wildly successful Commodore 64 home computer, which you can still emulate today. Captain Kirk selling the technology of the future – for just $299! – was clearly a success.
David Beckham – Motorola RAZR2 (2007)
In the pre-smartphone era, the Motorola RAZR was one of the most popular flip phones ever produced. Its sequel, the RAZR2 (pronounced Razor Squared), didn’t fare nearly as well, thanks to smartphones approaching on the horizon. However, that didn’t stop this ridiculous commercial starring soccer player David Beckham from being produced.
What does watching someone kick a ball around for a few seconds have to do with selling a phone? Beats me, but it apparently wasn’t enough to make this device a success. Still, if you bought one, at least you can still use it as an emergency burner phone.
Jerry Seinfeld – Microsoft (2008)
Take one of the funniest people of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, and one of the most successful men on the planet, Bill Gates, and what do you get? Two guys trying on shoes in a mall.
What was the objective with this spot? What were they trying to sell? The majority of the footage shows Seinfeld and Gates staring awkwardly at each other while trying on shoes, and then a few references to Microsoft are thrown out at random, none of which make any sense. Seven years later, this ad still defies logic.
Oprah Winfrey – iPad (2010)
Oprah is probably the most well-known talk show host on television, and her endorsement for the iPad came not through a recorded commercial but on her own show. She spent nearly three minutes lavishing praise on Apple’s new device, calling it her “favorite invention of the century” and explaining all the joys it could bring to users.
Exaggeration much? Oprah, who basically has unlimited money and could talk about anything in the world, decides that her favorite thing ever is the iPad because she can play Scrabble on it. Which seems a bit suspect if you ask me, but just imagine how many people went out and bought one after seeing this endorsement.
Hilariously, two years after this show aired, Oprah tweeted about how much she loved the Microsoft Surface tablet – from an iPad. We guess that’s why Twitter tells you which app a tweet came from; to catch out disingenuous celebrities.
Beyoncé – Rhythm Heaven/Nintendo DSi (2009)
Beyoncé probably doesn’t play video games very often, if at all, but according to this video she simply can’t get enough. The spot simply shows her playing Rhythm Heaven, a WarioWare-style game that’s all about keeping the rhythm in various quirky mini-games. If you like a challenge, try playing this game with the sound off!
While not the most embarrassing endorsement on the list (she is actually playing the game, after all) it’s a bit tacky because of what she says in the extended version. Saying that this game is “simple” makes sense if you’ve only played the first few levels, as you need to be an expert to unlock everything this game has to offer; it’s deceptively simple!
Also, saying that the DSi is great because it’s “portable” and “has a stylus” is a bit cheesy, considering that the original DS and DS Lite also had both of these traits. The new features of the DSi, such as a camera and downloadable software, aren’t even mentioned by Beyoncé.
John Malkovich – Siri (2012)
Apple is no stranger to popular advertisements (see the 1984 ad, the “Mac vs. PC” series, and the silhouette iPod commercials). However, the company broke its long unbroken record of leaving out the celebrity endorsements in order to plug the iPhone 4s with Siri, and the results are pretty poor.
This one is just… off. It was a common complaint that Siri didn’t work as well as displayed in the ad (as he uses single-word commands), and the joke that Siri tells Malkovich isn’t even remotely funny.
Another ad in the same series starred Zooey Deschanel, who apparently doesn’t know how to look out of the window to see if it’s raining. Unsurprisingly, people have created parodies of these ads for your enjoyment.
Penélope Cruz and Mónica Cruz – New Super Mario Bros. 2/Nintendo 3DS XL (2012)
In 2012, Nintendo’s 3DS was only a year old and found itself in a bundle of troubles. To meet the release of the larger 3DS XL handheld, Nintendo also brought out New Super Mario Bros. 2; not one of the best platformer games of all time, but a decent one nonetheless. Of course, commercials were produced to promote it.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of this ad. The Cruz sisters are both extremely attractive and have done modeling; this aesthetic appeal combined with the playful banter between them and seeing Penélope dressed up as Mario makes this one a winner, for the most part. That is, if you ignore the fact that the pair had probably never touched a 3DS in their lives before shooting this ad.
Posthumous Bonus Celebrity: John Lennon – One Laptop Per Child (2008)
This one doesn’t count for the main list since it isn’t actually John Lennon, but it’s worth mentioning as a bonus example of celebrity endorsements. Although Lennon was murdered in 1980, his likeness has been used in select places for ads since then. His widow, Yoko Ono, gave this ad for One Laptop Per Child the go-ahead, but something about it just feels creepy.
The voice obviously isn’t Lennon’s, but rather that of a (poor) impersonator. Further, his lip movements don’t match the words, and the message of the commercial doesn’t really strike you. What is it about John Lennon that would make you want to donate to this cause, especially after he had, at the time, been gone for almost 30 years? The whole thing ends up feeling super uncomfortable.
This should be a lesson for advertising execs: don’t write new dialogue in your advertisements for celebrities who have passed away. At least stick to people who are still alive.
Don’t Fall for the Act!
Now that you’ve seen some of the most egregious celebrity endorsements of all time, it’s important to remember that just because a celebrity is advocating a piece of technology doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be great.
In the same way there are online reviews you should ignore, most endorsements are nothing more than cheap attempts to sell you something you probably don’t need. Almost certainly, some of the folks here pretended to be “geeks” without having ever heard of the products they were endorsing; such is the nature of our star-obsessed world.
What’s the worst celebrity endorsement you have ever personally seen? Would you ever buy something based solely on who was advertising it? Please share your opinions with us in the comments below!
Image Credit: devil hands holding paper by Elisanth via Shutterstock