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The Soul of Advertising

This week, we lost someone dear to the heart of many a music fan. Whether or not you love soul music, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Aretha Franklin. To describe her as a music icon would fall a little short of the impact she had on music today.

But many are unaware of her impact on advertising. AdAge published an article entitled “Respect: Remembering Aretha Franklin’s Legacy in Culture and Advertising” which details many of the advertisements that either had a song of hers or even Aretha herself in an acting capacity. From the automotive industry to rivaling brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi, she did it all.

Which brings to light a very interesting question: what effect do celebrity endorsements have on our culture? It is speculated that some form of celebrity endorsements have been around since 1760, and they’re still incredibly popular. But most celebrities market products specific to the industry in which they are best known — such as athletes marketing athletic shoes, for example. As Forbes explains, “using celebrities or athletes to promote something that their audience has little interest in will not produce a big marketing splash.”

For celebrities like Aretha Franklin, however, their fame goes beyond their success in their industry and this allows them to endorse almost any product because of their far reaching success.

With celebrity endorsements, we find a sort of cyclical relationship: the culture influences which celebrities are popular, these popular celebrities then influence which products are popular, and both products and celebrities influence the trajectory of the culture.

As we look back on Aretha Franklin’s legacy in advertising and music, we see that she really brought a wholesome aspect to both. If you watch a lot of her advertisements, there was always a feeling of friendliness, an air of safety, and a comfortable level of joy that is not notable in many commercials today.

So we would say without a doubt, Aretha Franklin had a immensely and wholly positive influence on our culture in music, advertising, and beyond. You might even say she was a standard by which much celebrity advertising should be measured against today.

Who will be the comparable celebrity endorsers of tomorrow?

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