During a pause in a recent episode of NBC's new drama "Lipstick Jungle," there was a Maybelline New York vignette featuring the cosmetics marketer's spokesman/makeup artist Chuck Hezekiah. He promises tips on how to get that "Lipstick Jungle Look"--how to take on the same presence as one of the show's main characters.
In that Feb. 14 show, Hezekiah intends to offer help to those aspiring to look like "Nico," a high-powered New York magazine editor played by Kim Raver.
"Nico," for sure, has a certain look that could indeed inspire aspiration. But anyone that parses Hezekiah's description of her might be a bit spun around. "She's strong, driven, confident, but secretly vulnerable," he says. Then, he cuts right into "Nico's skin has that natural, healthy look."
It seems unnatural.
Hezekiah then attempts to demonstrate how to give a woman the character's look (the show is based on a book by "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell and focuses on the lives and loves of three high-powered friends in the Big Apple). He uses Maybelline's Mineral Power liquid concealer on her (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX).
When finished, he looks into the mirror (camera, really) and displays a thumbs up, then offers a "Wow."
"Powerful, with a little bit of innocence just like Nico," he concludes. (Viewers are then directed to NBC.com, where there is a Maybelline micro-site.)
It's not clear exactly why--the enthused thumbs-up which seems like something out of an ad when hula hoops were all the rage, the hint that using a Maybelline product can make one look like a very camera-ready actress, or something else--but the whole production feels less than genuine. Sort of like filler programming during the overnight hours.
More broadly, it makes one feel a bit chagrined for the entertaining Hezekiah, who pleasantly doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. In 2006, he had a role as a Maybelline representative on the WE network's reality-competition series "Dirty Dancing." And the production quality on that show may have been worse than a corporate software training video.
Crafting successful branded entertainment, like all advertising, is of course always a shot in the dark. And the ability to find the right milieu can hardly be found in a textbook, but maybe Maybelline just wasn't born with it.