By Harry McCracken | Monday, December 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm
The One Laptop Per Child Foundation has a new spokesman for its XO “$100 laptop.” He’s admired the world ’round, and isn’t someone you associate with product endorsements–in part because he’s been dead for close to three decades. He’s John Lennon, and he promotes the XO through a voice over done by a (not very impressive) impersonator and old footage synched with the new dialog through (not very impressive) digital trickery.
As everyone who’s writing about this is pointing out, deceased celebs (such as Fred Astaire) have been doing ads for a long time, and Apple’s “Think Different” campaign commandeered not only John Lennon’s image (along with Yoko Ono, who presumably granted permission) but that of the Mahatma himself. And there’s nothing sacrosanct about the Beatles in an age in which their music is featured in diaper ads.
But the Lennon-XO ad is unusual in putting words into the late endorser’s mouth–words that don’t make much sense, since “Lennon” seems to say that the purpose of his music was to give children access to “a universe of knowledge.” The obvious, crude fakery of the ad lends a cheesy air to the proceedings, too. The more you like John Lennon, the less you may like it.
Look, OLPC is an exceptionally noble nonprofit undertaking (I’ve paid for laptop donations in 2007 and 2008 and plan to do so again) and it’s entirely possible that Lennon would have been an enthusiastic supporter if he were still with us. If Yoko Ono thinks he’d have appeared in spots for it, I believe her. But that kind of doesn’t matter, since the ad that OLPC made is creepy, not inspiring. (One in which Ono said Lennon would have loved OLPC would have been entirely different. Geez, Ringo extolling the virtues of XO would be a vast improvement.)
The ad gives me the willies, so I would almost rather not embed on this site…but here you go:
And what the heck, let’s do a T-Poll on it: