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Famous Authors Who Pimped Products

Look, if I ever make it big, like commercial-worthy big, I’ll be totally fine with endorsing a product that I actually use–that is after I poop myself for being commercial-worthy big. I doubt that will ever happen. 

There’s a certain temptation with a lot of writers/artists to “stay true” to themselves by not turning their art into something commercial. It’s kind of like the indie band who refuses to sign with a major label. Anyway, The Awl put together this eye-opening list (with videos) of famous authors who appeared in commercials to endorse product. Some are quite surprising.

For instance, did you know that…

Kurt Vonnegut appeared in a Discover commercial?

Or that Stephen King endorsed American Express?

And appeared in a pretty funny “This Is SportsCenter” skit for ESPN?

William Burroughs (Yes, that William Burroughs!) pimped Nike?

Or that George Plimpton endorsed a video game console (Intellevision) in the 1980s?

I’ll never criticize someone for endorsing a product–as long as they haven’t said something like “I hate the man,” and then appeared in a commercial for the man (i.e. Discover).

It’s kind of like Alec Baldwin. I think Alec Baldwin is hilarious as an actor. But how ridiculous is it that he’s the spokesman for Capital One and also came out in full support of the Occupy movement last year? Give me a break.

From this list of authors, I’ve got to say I’m most surprised by the appearance of Kurt Vonnegut and William Burroughs in commercials for companies like Discover and Nike. A little odd, maybe, for guys who were so anti-mainstream throughout their lives?

Are you surprised by any of these? Would it change your mind about an author if they appeared in a commercial for some mega brand or company?

Go to The Awl to see a few other commercials from famous writers.

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fun stuff. I remember the King Amex ad and the Intellivision ad, too. We had that console when I was a kid. I’m surprised Truman Capote hasn’t done any ads….he seemed the type.

    Like

    May 8, 2012
  2. William S. Burroughs a big surprise. Vonnegut runner-up. More like disappointment. At one time both probably either found it hilarious or twisted to participate in an advertisement, or join the consumer driven monster we call capitalism by hopping into the driver’s seat as the ad’s starring role. I can’t believe either took it seriously.

    Like

    May 8, 2012
    • Part of me wants to say they were trying to be ironic, but the other part of me just thinks they wanted cash.

      Like

      May 8, 2012
  3. bba #

    The trouble with not flaming out young is that your beliefs are seen as static. Or maybe the danger is that you live long enough to realize money is fun and you kind of enjoy having a lot of it.

    And not to defend a (funny/talented) blowhard, but can’t you simultaneously believe the richest 1% have too much power and credit cards can be useful?

    Like

    May 8, 2012
    • I don’t think you can simultaneously support a movement that is anti “corporate greed” and be the spokesman for the one of the largest money grabbing corporations on earth.

      Like

      May 8, 2012
  4. willhoekenga #

    And Hemingway was in an advertisement for…yup, you guessed it, booze! (He also shows a questionable amount of old-man thigh.)

    Ballantine Ale - Ernest Hemingway

    Like

    May 8, 2012
  5. The most stunning reminder of your list was the graphic quality of Atari/Intellivision. Compared to Madden, wow. I wonder if Plimpton would be equally as stunned.

    Like

    May 8, 2012
    • Can you imagine? I can’t figure out if that was a joke to have Plimpton in that commercial or if he was serious. No one seems more worthy to review a video game console.

      Like

      May 8, 2012
  6. Great post. Yeah, I’d consider endorsing something uncontroversial, like….I dunno, toilet paper or something. “Hello folks. I won a Pulitzer, but just like you, I must, at times, heed the call of nature. And in those moments, I turn to Charmin.”

    Like

    May 8, 2012

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