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.