Lady Gaga And Polaroid: Beautiful Music Or Bad Romance?

Picture this. When Polaroid announced its new relationship with pop diva Lady Gaga, it rocked the CES haus and nearly brought down Twitter. The former Stefani Germanotta, looking wonderfully preposterous in a hat made of her own hair, was shakin’ it as the brand’s Creative Director. She even showed off her new business card.

Okay, the pairing might be a stretch. At least on its face. What’s a nostalgia-inducing instant camera brand got to do with a bi-friendly, 23-year-old pop star known for bizarre costumes, explicit lyrics, and over-the-top theatrics? And, the reaction among media and bloggers has been mixed. But who cares? When’s the last time you thought about Polaroid? Exactly. The brand has nailed the first rule of relevance in our celebrity-saturated, paparazzi-loving, “instant” culture. It has everyone talking.

Polaroid has struggled through two bankruptcies and changed ownership twice over the last seven years, so it’s exciting to see it take center stage. And, it pulled off the PR announcement with real flair, creating a reasonable context for the Gaga relationship, leveraging CES to the hilt, and virtually stealing the show. It’s a far cry from James Garner and Mariette Hartley.

But, techies wonder, why not just invest in R&D instead of renting a celebrity? In my view, that’s missing the point. The Gaga hook-up is about positioning the Polaroid brand for the younger crowd, the digital natives, the fashion-forward. For me, it’s also about aligning it with creativity and pure fun. And the 2010 new product lineup seems to be right in the same frame.

Personally, I think Gaga’s an inspired choice. She’s a very visual entertainer who’s all about image, but with real talent under her eccentric get-ups. And, her sexualized, androgynous, no-holds-barred style puts it all out there, so there’s little risk of a nasty surprise, a la Tiger Woods. The only bombshell here is Gaga herself.

But by giving her a lofty title and taking pains to describe the relationship as a true partnership, Polaroid is pushing limits, including those of credibility. It begs the question of what, exactly, her role will be. It would no doubt have been easier – and maybe more authentic – to announce a conventional brand-sponsor endorsement deal. Polaroid would still have the benefit of Gaga’s creativity, fashion iconography, and monster fan base, but without straining plausibility.

But, I’m willing to wait and see. The bigger picture won’t be clear until we see the kinds of specialty products designed under the Gaga imprimatur, and whether the Polaroid gig is actually integrated into her music, fashion, and artistry. It’s a bold move, but at the very least, one thing is certain. We’ll all be watching to see what develops.

CES Gets Its Mojo Back

To me, the international PR and gadget-fest that is the Consumer Electronics Show has always been an adrenaline-charged kick-off for the new year. For starters, it’s in Las Vegas, where everyone’s welcome, and anything – and I do mean anything – goes. Both the show and the town are an orgy of imagination and commerce, and both are over the top.

Yet, last year’s CES was the lowest-wattage one in recent memory. The 2009 show came on the heels of the economic meltdown, and last January, Vegas was a subdued, almost gloomy place. It was actually easy to hail a taxi…and to get a dinner reservation. That may sound like a good thing, but, trust me, it’s not.

Well, I’m happy to say that CES is back. The attendance numbers might still be depressed, but the mood is pretty upbeat. That could be because the e-reader craze has attracted a whole new industry to the show. Then again, it might be the slightly surreal presence of pop icon Lady Gaga, who’s here today as Polaroid’s new Creative Director. (More on that later…) Or, maybe it’s just because we’re all so damn grateful that 2009 is over.

One aspect that’s bigger than ever is the show’s power as a PR platform. It’s not by chance that Google launched its Nexus One smartphone earlier this week, even though it was in Mountain Valley, not here. And, Apple seems to have timed another “controlled leak” about its much-anticipated tablet for CES week. Here on the floor, CES 2010 is already pulsating with news around 3D  TV, VUDU apps, solar-powered cell phonesKindle-killers, new four-color LED TV technology (debuted by my client Sharp), and mobile everything.

But, what feels different this time is the buzz outside the Vegas bubble. It’s always attracted high-decibel media attention, but this year the news is flying at what feels like 4G speed. The day before the show opens is a press day, which means back-to-back media briefings that generate bursts of coverage and help drive crowds to the exhibit floor over the next several days.

We’re accustomed to having our client’s news posted before the room has emptied. But, this year’s flood of tweets, live-blogging, and micro-posts was unprecedented. Not only did Sharp’s new LED TVs get a flurry of pre-promotion, but there were instant updates about every detail of the set-up, powerpoint slides, even one speaker’s sudden scratchy throat.

Social media has definitely added some extra fizz to an already exciting CES and maybe even changed how it’s experienced by those of us here. What happens in Vegas just doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore. It’s everywhere.