Theatrical dance-pop performer Lady Gaga skyrocketed to international relevance upon release of 2008's "Just Dance"; the record from which it came, The Fame, broke a record for the number of consecutive weeks it spent on U.K. charts.
But at what price? Has Lady Gaga sold out?
In 2010, Lady Gaga brought in an estimated $31 million with a 106-date tour that grossed $95 million, and also made a considerable fortune from her corporate sponsorships and product placements, teaming up with Polaroid, Virgin Mobile, Monster Cable, HP, and Viva Glam.
Product placement abounds in her videos--in the official version of "Telephone," NME counted nine separate products:
1:34: Heartbeats earphones
2:06: Virgin Mobile.
2:17: Diet Coke
4:15: Virgin Mobile (again)
4:24: HP Envy 'Beats Limited Editon' laptop from Monster.
4:28: Plenty Of Fish dating site.
6:36: Miracle Whip
8:31: Polaroid (again).
And others took issue with her exploitation of homosexuality, referring to the video as an example of "lezz-sploitation".
NME also noted that Telephone was not the first instance of product placement gone amuck in Lady Gaga land, and counted a slew of products in her video "Bad Romance":
The products NME counted included:
0:12: Parrot by Philippe Starck
0:18: Ukrainian vodka Nemiroff
0:39: Heartbeats earphones
1:59: Burberry trench coat.
2:44 Nintendo Wii
2:45: HP Envy 'Beats Limited Edition' laptop from Monster
3:28: Alexander McQueen outfit
3:47: White Safari Carerra sunglasses
Now, Lady Gaga did not invent product placement, and claims, in fact that several of the brands were included at her behest for reasons unrelated to financial motivations and thus got the spots for free. Troy Carter, CEO of Coalition Media Group, told AdAge that "several of the brands were Gaga's ideas and did not pay to be included. A scene in which Gaga curls her hair with Diet Coke cans was an homage to her mother, who used the exact same grooming technique in the '70s. Another sequence, in which Gaga poisons a whole diner full of patrons, is interspersed with footage of the singer making sandwiches with Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip. Mr. Carter said Gaga wanted to juxtapose the poison sequence with all-American brands, and suggested Wonder Bread for an unpaid placement. Miracle Whip, meanwhile, made a paid appearance to appear in the clip." Regardless, those brands benefited from the exposure.
And since Lady Gaga has made no secret of her support for issues pertaining to social justice, gay rights in particular, it bears mentioning that some of the brands she features in her videos donate to anti-gay politicians.
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Miracle Whip is owned by Kraft Foods, which donates almost exclusively to Republican candidates --including several who have gotten scores of 0 by Equality California, an organization whose mission it is "to ensure and promote dignity, safety and equality for all of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians."
Hewlett-Packard's donation record is also mixed in this respect, contributing to some candidates with solid voting records in favor of LBGT issues, and some against.
But Chevrolet's parent company contributed primarily to social conservatives, including House Whip Eric Cantor, who voted yes on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and voted no on enforcing specific punishments for anti-gay hate crimes.
So, Lady Gaga, maybe in 2011 you'll make a point of repping products backed by corporations that practice what you preach!