Of Fame and Virtue
Mark Dolliver’s comments about the virtues of sports heroes and the apparent lack of any merits accruing to Princess Diana must surely qualify him for the Mike Tyson Sensitivity Award [Takes, Sept. 8]. The idea that “Sports heroes can’t be famous just for being famous. They have to produce, in statistically quantifiable ways” would imply that Michael Jordan and his NBA brethren actually do something, apart from giving men the self-anesthetizing impression that they’re participating in the sport themselves, that is.
Sports figures do not, in fact, accomplish much, if anything. They are paid enough to feed certain countries for a year, yet their idea of philanthropy often ends with buying mom a new house. Diana, on the other hand, used whatever access fame provided to attempt, at the very least, to enrich the lives of others in tangible ways. Yet Mr. Dolliver apparently believes, like the paparrazi, that no good deed should go unpunished. Indeed, far more deference was shown to the male Magic Johnson when he revealed that he was HIV positive than was ever shown to the female Diana Spencer or Jackie Onassis or Marilyn Monroe, for that matter.
Most of us may never have the athletic skill of professional athletes, but all of us-with the right lottery ticket, the right spouse or the right rich uncle-can join the ranks of the wealthy, travel in style, attract a better class of lover and, with any sense of decency at all, give something back to those who were not quite so lucky. Diana knew she was lucky. And she tried to share that luck with many others.
Peter Altschuler, Creative director
Wordsworth & Co., Santa Monica, Calif.
Selling the Non-sell
Debra Goldman fails to grasp the strategic brilliance, and great selling power, of non-advertising [Postscript, Sept. 1]. Marketers responding to surveys showing how much today’s young people resent being sold are quite aware that these same young people realize it costs millions of dollars to run a big campaign. These marketers also know their prospects are sufficiently intelligent to recognize that no company would really spend all that money for the purpose of not selling anything.
Non-advertising’s strength, then, is its calculated, deliberately transparent pandering. By affirming the prospect’s cynicism about advertising, it positions the non-advertiser as (in relative terms) a straight shooter. Who better to patronize for jeans and beer than folks who make no effort to conceal their grubby, manipulative nature behind a facade of information about their product and its benefits?
Norman K. Carrier, Consultant
Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York
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Of Fame and Virtue