Column: Pitbull’s advertising led to his exile

By Joey Groner

Wal-Mart’s promotion started simply enough. They took one of the world’s most popular entertainers and promised an appearance to the town whose Wal-Mart received the most “likes” on Facebook.

Wal-Mart selected singer/rapper/entrepreneur/all-around real-good-time-haver Pitbull to represent their brand. The rapper has numerous endorsement deals – this particular contest was brought about by his association with Sheets Energy Strips.

But then the Internet happened. Boston Globe writer David Thorpe led a campaign to exile the rapper to what has to be the most secluded Wal-Mart in the world – a store on Alaska’s Aleut Island, in the town of Kodiak. The town’s population is a little more than 6,000.

Thorpe’s campaign worked, with the Kodiak store receiving more than 70,000 likes, one of them being yours truly. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s almost 12 times the population of the town. The store was announced as the winner of the contest on July 15.

Being the upstanding gentleman he is, Pitbull obliged, releasing a video stating he will, “go anywhere in the world for my fans.” Pit has scheduled a promotional appearance in Kodiak on Sunday, July 29, with a show likely to follow.

It will be the rapper’s first performance in Alaska.

In the video, Pitbull addressed Thorpe, referring to him as “someone that thinks he was playing a prank.” He also invited him to come to the show, because Pitbull loves talking to his haters.

I almost feel bad for my dog, Pitbull. Either he simply doesn’t understand that most people voted as a joke, or he knows the whole thing is a farce but must keep a straight face to appease Wal-Mart and Sheets.

As funny as Thorpe’s campaign is on the surface, I have to respect the underlying reason for his desire to exile Pitbull. The rapper has endlessly plugged products in his music and videos. He’s turned himself into a walking billboard – a living, breathing platform for companies to push their brands.

The problem is, unlike product placement within a movie, Pitbull has done this at the expense of the music. His songs, such as “Give Me Everything” and “Vida 23 (featured in the infamous ‘Real Good Time’ commercial),” have poorly-constructed lines that were written only to advertise for Kodak and Dr Pepper, respectively. Not that the rest of Pit’s music is better than either of those songs, but it’s the thought of a song being sold as advertising space that’s disconcerting.

Surprisingly, Pitbull is upfront about his approach to music. He told Billboard magazine, “This is called the music business. It’s 90 percent business, 10 percent talent. There is no genius to what I do.”

For a guy who takes himself seriously in a dance party commercial for Dr Pepper, an honest confession such as this is impressive.

While I wholeheartedly supported Thorpe’s campaign, one must admire Pitbull for becoming as popular as he has.

When he stepped on the scene eight years ago, would anyone have guessed he would one day be selling out concerts across the world while singing about everyone’s favorite 23 flavors?

Sadly, Pit may represent the future of pop music.

Advertisements are everywhere these days, and music, or at least songwriting, is one of the last territories they’ve inhabited. Other artists may start modeling themselves off of Pitbull, getting rich by branding themselves like a company, not by selling albums.

But for now, let’s just enjoy the fact that we, the Internet, have outsmarted not only one of the world’s biggest chain stores, but one of the most annoying, omnipresent celebrities out there today. So grab a Dr Pepper and savor this moment, because I say a victory like that calls for a real good time.

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