Will Alicia Keys/BlackBerry End the Celebrity ‘Creative Director’ Trend?

In the past we’ve commented on the ridiculousness of big brands giving “creative director” titles to celebrities who can’t open a successful movie: Justin Timberlake, Ashton Kutcher, Will.I.Am, etc. But the current “are they or aren’t they” status of Alicia Keys and BlackBerry nicely illustrates how awkward the whole trend really is.

In case you haven’t looked up from your iPhone screen in three years, BlackBerry is about to join Friendster and Pets.com in the “I knew you once” graveyard. Today the company announced that it will replace its CEO and fire 40% of its staff, but Keys apparently won’t be among that number.

While everyone insisted that Keys would be doing real-life work for the brand when they hired her, they now risk making themselves look even worse by keeping her on.

Company reps claim that she has “helped drive engagement with BlackBerry through her vast network” but don’t go into specifics; this vague certainty threatens to diminish BlackBerry’s reputation for innovation and, as Fast Company puts it, the morale of the people who actually have to show up at the office every day. Remember them?

The idea that Keys has anything to do with the company’s inner workings or promo campaigns is about as believable as her claim that a tweet sent from an iPhone after she signed the contract wasn’t her responsibility because her account got hacked. Let’s be honest here: unless you’re working on a carefully planned, highly visible project a la Pepsi and Beyoncé, the value of a celebrity “director” is equivalent to the number of his or her Twitter followers.

(We don’t have anything against Keys, by the way: we’ll defend “Empire State of Mind” even though Jay-Z totally mailed that one in.)