The 5 Most Offensive Celebrity Endorsements
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It is now officially Super Bowl season, which means that it is also officially Super Bowl commercial season -- a time when celebrities have been known to endorse any number of questionable companies, products and services. (The ads generate so much buzz we've even started to see teasers for the commercials themselves.)
But, of course, celebrities get paid to shill products year-round. Often those endorsements are cringe-worthy, and sometimes they're downright offensive, featuring products and services that are bad for society. Let's take a look at some of those -- the endorsements from the past few years that celebrities really should have turned down, for our sake and theirs.
1. Suze Orman for MasterCard
Financial advice mogul Suze Orman has become the latest celebrity to jump on the prepaid debit card bandwagon. That puts her in the company of stars like Usher, Hilary Duff, Russell Simmons, the stars of Twilight, and the Kardashian sisters (whose Kardashian Kard was so fee-laden and anti-consumer that Business Insider dubbed it the worst card ever).
The problem with prepaid cards -- especially those that feature celebrity names and/or faces -- is that they lure in consumers who may not be financially stable or inclined to read fine print (e.g., teenagers), and then they hit users with massive fees.
Shouldn't Suze Orman, a personal finance guru, know better? Turns out: yes and no. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, Orman's card has lower fees than Green Dot or American Express prepaid cards. "However, there's a fee floor, so to speak, which means this card will always cost you something," said Odysseas Papadimitriou, the founder and CEO of Card Hub, which evaluates credit card deals.
For now, one thing is certain: Suze Orman's fans are not happy about the endorsement. ConsumerAffairs.com says that Orman's "positive net sentiment rating," as judged by comments on social media, went from around 80 percent before the prepaid card deal to nearly zero afterward. Ouch.
2. Hulk Hogan for Rent-A-Center
Hulk Hogan may no longer be at the peak of his stardom, but it's safe to say that many Gen Xers and Yers still hold him in high esteem. That's why it's so disappointing to see Hogan, along with former Cowboys star Troy Aikman, shilling for Rent-A-Center -- a company that makes money off of low-income people who can't afford to purchase household items outright.
Rent-A-Center and other rent-to-own companies are a huge rip-off for consumers. "They prey upon the financially illiterate in certain communities," New York's Rev. Taharka Robinson told the Daily News in 2009. And once those customers are in the store, they're pressured to "rent" furniture and electronics at a high weekly rate.
Time magazine noted that in one of Hogan's Rent-A-Center ads, "he enthusiastically touts a 52-inch TV for around $40 a week -- or roughly $160 a month -- for a two-year contract. This works out to more than twice what a comparable product would cost if you purchased it at a big-box electronics retailer."
3. Alec Baldwin for Capital One
Capital One's latest ad campaign features actor Alec Baldwin doing a riff on his 30 Rock persona Jack Donaghy. (Jimmy Fallon also appears in recent ads.)
That might be unremarkable, except for the fact that Baldwin identifies as a progressive guy. Should progressives really be helping to push credit cards and other financial products at major banks? Probably not!
Even worse, Baldwin swung through Occupy Wall Street back in October to show his support. Naturally, many of the occupiers weren't too thrilled to have the support of someone who sold out to the nation's eighth-largest bank, which received $3.5 billion in the 2008 Wall Street bailout. As one occupier tweeted, "Hearing @alecbaldwin is at @occupywallstnyc discussing influence of corporate $$$. He's an expert in this field, as a shill for Capitol One." [ via]