Salaried Celebs

Oct 01, 2002

CNN's new policy of full disclosure of celeb-rities' financial ties with pharma companies drew media attention from the New York Times and other outlets. Megan Mahoney, who works in CNN's public relations department, said that, in light of recent attention surrounding paid celebrity endorsements, the company became aware that some celebrities discussing health problems might be paid and changed its policy.

However, using salaried celebrities is not new in public relations or advertising, says Mary Semling, Edelman senior vice-president of entertainment marketing, in an interview with PR Week. "What is new is the media saying they did not know about the drug company connection."

Although that may lead to a better informed public, it remains to be seen if coverage of celebs touting disease awareness will dwindle. "The fact remains that the public has an appetite for celebrities that the media continues to feed," says Bob Brody, media specialist for Ogilvy Public Relations. He also notes that those campaigns serve a purpose by increasing consumers' awareness of diseases for which they may be at risk.

Cynthia Amorese, vice-president for Noon-an Russo PResence Euro RSCG, says good public relations people always disclose who they represent. She also says that companies may benefit from the new guidelines because corporations will receive coverage that they otherwise wouldn't get. Amorese points to a recent Larry King Live show that featured former Texas governor Ann Richards discussing osteoporosis and noting that she was a paid Eli Lilly spokesperson.

This is not the first time that media reports have shined a light on celebrity spokespersons in pharma. In October 2000, Washington Post reporter Sandra Boodman accused the industry of hyping osteoporosis because of the many simultaneous celebrity campaigns focused on the disease.

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