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At last week’s Design Strategy conference put on by Patrick Whitney’s IIT Institute of Design, I had an epiphany (after listening to the great presentations by Motorola’s Jim Wickes and Scott Durschlag). Everyone under 40, well maybe 30, is creating their own personal celebrity in Facebook, MySpace or any number of other social networking sites. They’re also using their Apple technology to create their own unique music libraries. At some point HP may come up with the iPod for photos and we can have our own special photo and video libraries. People are already creating ads for companies on the net—and a lot of them are better than what the ad agencies are creating.
And then there is the whole IDOL phenom on TV.
So, bottom line, we are making ourselves celebrities, challenging the status of movie stars and athletes, singers, crazy ad folks—you get the idea. When everyone can be a celebrity, the nature of celebrity changes. It gets cheaper, just like coal and corn, and the products and services now being outsourced to Asia. That’s commoditization and we are seeing the commoditization of celebrity.
Now I don’t make my living at the celebrity game (OK, maybe Yves Behar is kind of a celeb but Larry Keeley?). But there are a lot of other people out there who do—like Time Warner, Conde Nast, all of TV, Hollywood, Murdoch, etc. So what happens when we no longer celebrate celebrity—except for our own? Things change. Stuff happens.
I did make my living for one year off of celebrity. I was the Executive Editor of Manhattan Inc. in the mid-80s. The magazine wrote about the newly rich of New York, mostly Wall Street types but media and marketing types too. We tried to write strong, narrative stories about their lives. With tension. Sometimes it worked. But all the subjects wanted to be seen as heroic and handsome or beautiful and they often were the advertisers so many stories failed and were puffy.
That was before I discovered the world of design and innovation. A much better—and far more important—space to inhabit.
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