Last week, according to several major news outlets, Snoop Dogg quit smoking weed.
The Independent, the BBC and CNN all reported that the rapper, who has his own cannabis line, had decided to “give up smoke” after he shared a post on Instagram announcing that the move had followed “much consideration & conversation with my family” and asking the public to “please respect my privacy at this time”.
It makes sense that it would be deemed newsworthy: this is one of the world’s most successful artists, who is almost as famous for his love of marijuana, and who once declared on a TV talkshow that he has a full-time staffer to whose sole job it is to roll his blunts.
But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that every viral moment is probably an ad – and the outlets who chose restraint over traffic were rewarded a few days later when Snoop launched his latest product collaboration: a smokeless fire pit. He was giving up smoke. Cue eye roll.
Snoop Dogg isn’t the first celebrity to take advantage of an increasingly time-pressed and click-starved media industry. While marketing stunts are nothing new, this particular breed of bogus social media announcement has become rife in recent years. And we keep falling for it.
The formula is always the same: make outlandish social media announcement, win media coverage, reveal it was all a big joke, then profit. Or at least prompt a collective groan, and a second round of headlines.
Remember last year, when Queer Eye presenters Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski announced that they were “finally together”? Fans who had long been shipping the TV favourites went wild for what turned out to be a ploy to push their new brand of … pet food. By “together” they meant “together in *business*”. Slate called it “the Deeply Embarrassing Celebrity Stunt to End Them All” but of course it didn’t.
Earlier this year, reality star Ariana Madix shared a selfie with moving boxes on Instagram, writing that she was “ready to dip out”. It wasn’t, as fans had hoped, Madix genuinely leaving the home she shared with her cheating ex-partner after their headline-grabbing break-up. Instead Madix was just partnering with a bank who were helping her “move forward financially” – just one of a collection of brand deals that earned her a reported US$1m after the high-profile split. (Madix still lives in the same house as her ex, though; not even a reality star is safe from the cost of living.)
Last month Australian influencer Ella May Ding staged a fake proposal to her boyfriend of six months in paparazzi photos posted on the Daily Mail – before later clarifying that while she had popped a question to her partner, that question was whether he would open a shared Up bank account with her.
And then there’s repeat offender Gwyneth Paltrow, who likes to launch phoney products to Make A Statement (and drum up free marketing for her “modern lifestyle” brand Goop). In 2022, the actor announced she was launching a luxury diaper, named Diapér, priced at US$120 for a pack of 12 – a product perhaps not outside of the realm of conceivability for Paltrow, who has built an empire based on ludicrously priced wellness fixes. At least the diapers weren’t actually real: it was a stunt to call attention to the tax consumers pay on diapers in the US.
The same can’t be said for her previous release: a scented candle named “This Smells Like My Vagina”. The candle was a real product but it didn’t actually smell like vagina – rather, a pleasing mix of geranium, citrusy bergamot and Damask rose. It was, said Paltrow, “a really strong feminist statement” about how we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our natural odours, yours for just US$75.
It’s in the eye of the beholder whether these stunts are savvy marketing, or a sad reflection of how low celebrities will go and how far we’ll follow them. Like Gwyneth’s vagina candle that fights back against the patriarchy and makes your house smell nice: maybe it’s both.
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