Seymour, Stomach Less

First of all, my apologies. I know this is MediaPost, one-stop shopping for all things digital marketing, but I'm gonna go all analog on you. This is about one of those things from the TV machine. What do you call them? Oh, yeah: commercials. This is about a very, very special commercial from a very, very special person.

Jane Seymour.

Yes, the erstwhile "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," who showed America an entirely new dimension as a reality show dancer, is so much more. The actress is also a painter -- which, as she tells everyone, is how she expresses her true essence. And even more than that, she is a jewelry pitchwoman, spinning inspiring tales of pretend human generosity.  

That’s right, as Seymour says to open the spot for Kay Jewelers: “Behind every heart there is a story” -- three stories, to be precise, told in five-second montages featuring attractive actors acting out triumph over adversity. There’s a para athlete wheeling over the finish line into the arms of her able-bodied husband. A middle-class mom hugging her vaguely punk/Goth daughter with the pink hair and Lewinsky beret. A gorgeous African-American couple wearing Habitat for Humanity-ish t-shirts helping an even gorgeouser possibly Latino couple into their even gorgeouser new house.



Oh, Jane, such transcendent goodness and tight editing! Tell us…what is it all about?

….about winning the race, no matter what the obstacles. About rebuilding the bonds between a mother and a daughter. Or about helping rebuild homes for others, because you remember what it felt like not to have one.

Right, Jane. We’ve got that. But what does that have to do with mass-marketed jewelry?

When you keep an open heart, amazing things happen. That’s what the Open Hearts Collection at Kay Jewelers, the number-one jewelry store in all America, is all about. Keep your heart open, and love will always find its way in.

Awww. Every kitsch begins with Kay.

But wait. Open your heart? No, unless by “heart” they mean “wallet.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you open-heart sorcery: the black art of combining celebrity, cheap sentimentality, self-delusion, greed and borderline consumer fraud.

Those in my worldwide cult of acolytes already know my views on cause marketing, which can be summed up as follows: ‘We resort to this sort of marketing cause we’re gonna make more money.” As it is most often practiced, CM is not charity or philanthropy; it is a licensing deal, wherein the brand uses, say, breast cancer, the way McDonald’s uses Hello Kitty.

The practice exploits consumers’ emotions and invites them to delude themselves into thinking a product purchase is an act of charity. But it is not charity. It is sales promotion, perhaps slightly enriching the licensor, but surely at the cost of actual charitable giving by those who think they’ve tithed by buying an overpriced necklace.

In other words: a racket.

It’s really difficult for a marketer to behave more cynically, yet Kay Jewelers and Seymour somehow manage to triumph against just such adversity. Because a purchase from the Open Heart Collection, no matter what is implied, does not result in a donation to para athletes or Habitat for Humanity or the Association of Formerly Estranged Moms and Daughters Now Able at Least to Squeeze Out a Hug. It results in a donation to Signet Jewelers Ltd., owner of Sterling Jewelers, owner of Kay.

That’s correct. Fake cause marketing. And at the heart of it all is Jane Seymour -- who, the more I see of her, looks softer in focus and harder in sell. The Open Heart Collection is based on her design, which in turn -- she asserts -- sprang from her painting oeuvre. I’ll leave it for you to scan her work and decide if she is the artist she has fashioned herself as. (If you’re impressed, but a $2000 “limited edition” inkjet Seymour print is too costly, you might just check out the annual art show down at the community center. Lots of seascapes and angels, very affordable.)

When, on video, she explains the provenance of the design, she speaks in gibberish straight out of a Christopher Guest parody. (“And when you love, you love someone or something. And so, hence, it came about that I had two open hearts that were joined together. So it was kind of like your heart is open and it’s touching another open heart. When I was asked to join 'Dancing With The Stars'"...)

But this is no joke. Nor is it just another mawkish holiday ad. It’s the apotheosis of American cultural, ethical, commercial bankruptcy. It’s a lie, wrapped in a charade, inside an embarrassment. The actress presumes to offer us love and redemption. Uh-huh.

Dr. Quinn, heal thyself.

11 comments about "Seymour, Stomach Less".
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  1. Howard Brodwin from Sports and Social Change, December 1, 2014 at 12:28 p.m.

    Points well-taken, as always Bob. However there is one thing to be clear on here: This is not "cause marketing"; this is what's known as "cause-washing" - associating a brand with a cause or issue without actually doing anything to support it. And you're right, it's disgraceful.

  2. Jerry Shereshewsky from GrownUpMarketing, December 1, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.

    I totally agree. Faux cause marketing really sucks. Howard Broadwin is absolutely right. Cause Washing, like Green Washing and other pathetic attempts to put one over on us usually falls flat. And if, for some reason it doesn't, then we all ought to yell "Fraud" at the top of our lungs and make this crap go away.

  3. Esther Dyson from EDventure, December 1, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

    Thank you for this! May your voice ring out as often as needed....which unfortunately is a lot!!

  4. Tim Letscher from Colle+McVoy, December 1, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    Spot on, Bob, especially the Christopher Guest reference. I forced myself to watch the video of Seymour and had difficulty discerning if this was parody or not. Obviously (and sadly) enough people are falling for this or Kay wouldn't be doing it.

  5. Patricia Friedlander from Word-Up!, December 1, 2014 at 1:58 p.m.

    Keep 'em coming, Bob! I clicked on "her work" link--good grief! and now I have a new word: "cause washing." I already have a clip in my head with Christopher Guest as spokesangel.

  6. Katie Rottner from Vallejo Island, December 1, 2014 at 2:19 p.m.

    Also, it looks a snake.

  7. Jim Pothier from Hero Digital Network, December 1, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.

    A current case in point is the Red Kettle Cookie from Papa John's. If you buy a $6 cookie, they will donate a part of the proceeds ($.50) to the Salvation Army (only up to $300K). This is nothing more than pushing an incremental menu item disguised as charity.

  8. Linda Moskal from WNPV Radio, December 1, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.

    I'm not sure which I loved more ... your article or the fabulous comments! I always cringe when I see (or hear) these crappy, sappy ads because they give all of us in legitimate advertising a bad name!

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 1, 2014 at 7:23 p.m.

    So Papa John gets a $300,000 tax write off and you get taken as a $6 cookie fool.

  10. George Parker from Parker Consultants, December 1, 2014 at 8:55 p.m.

    In the video she claims to be in her mid-fifties. According to Wikipedia, she is 63... The "tubes" tell all.

  11. Mahni Festo from GoodCause, December 2, 2014 at 12:37 a.m.

    I'm with Linda Moskal! Great comments! Sometimes the Grinch is right!

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