Just when you think our celebrity-worshipping, star-infatuated, I-would-chew-off-my-arm-to-get-my-15 minutes culture has moved way beyond any shot of hope or redemption, Digital Death comes along and, whammo, just like that, it proves you wrong. Well, maybe not. But what happened with Digital Death demonstrates just how brittle our assumptions about the role of fame in our society really are.
Alicia Keys had every reason to believe her idea would work. Well, why would it not. I mean, here you had every celebrity from Justin Timberlake to Kim Kardashian tweeting their hearts out, broadcasting every waking moment of their glossy existence to the rest of us. When we weren’t lapping up what Justin had for breakfast, we were gobbling up the minute by minute happenings of Alicia, Gaga, Seacrest, and Serena Williams. We couldn’t get enough of it.
What if we all just stopped tweeting, Alicia thought. What if our digital selves just, well, died? Went away. Took a dirt nap. Dead as a digital doornail. Why, all those star-starved fans would just be besides themselves. They’d be like a crack addict gone cold turkey. Surely, they’d do just about anything to bring their idols back from the dead. Maybe they’d even raise $1 million for World AIDS Day. And if they did that, Keys figured, then we’d all agree to start social networking again.
When the campaign broke, I thought it was smart. The idea of celebrity deprivation seemed like a good one to me. It reminded me of Goodby Silverstein’s “It’d Be Weird Without Beer” campaign for Anheuser Busch. Except that was fiction. This was different. Digital Death was going to actually deprive millions of people of their daily celebrity Twitter and Facebook updates. Real stars were going to go dark, ostensibly driving their fans into an insane frenzy that would have them frothing at the mouth until they ponied up a contribution.
Except for one little problem. The fans. Froth at the mouth, they did not. In fact, three days into the campaign, the tidy, but way far off the mark, sum of $200,000 had been raised. Days later, the campaign was still struggling, ultimately pulling in $500,000. A good thing it was that big pharma billionaire, Stewart Rahr, kicked in with the other $500K. Which sort of makes Digital Death a success. Technically. But it showed me that maybe we aren’t the drooling, slathering, glassy-eyed zombies Hollywood thinks we are.
Freelance Creative Director