Ad Rant: David Spade brings pal Chris Farley back from the dead to shill for Direct TV
The minor-league SNL alum's close buddy Chris Farley died at 33 of a drug overdose in 1997, and the grief must be eating away at Spade's brain cells (and ethics) all these years later.
How else to explain the monstrous lack of judgment involved in Spade's new commercial for DirecTV? The ad uses the wonders of modern technology to meld Spade's pitch for the satellite TV giant with a scene from Tommy Boy (1995) showing Farley trying to squeeze into a too-small suit jacket. Farley frequently made fun of his own girth -- which does not mean that a minor fat joke is how he would have liked to be remembered.
Using dead celebrities to sell products is not new, of course -- Direct TV even did this before, with a much-derided ad in 2008 featuring Poltergeist child star Heather O'Rouke, who died in 1988. Perhaps Spade wanted to get Farley into that particular Hall of Shame along with Gandhi and Einstein (for Apple computers), Audrey Hepburn (The Gap), JFK (Omega watches), and Fred Astaire (Dirt Devil portable vacuum cleaner). And don't forget Judy Garland (M&Ms), and -- oh, my favorite -- Rosa Parks for Chevy.
The David Spade ad underclasses them all, I'm afraid, because Spade is not just some advertising exec with a wild idea for a tasteless new campaign. He was an actual friend of the deceased, and was so distraught over Farley's death that IMDB.com quotes him as saying he could not bring himself to attend Farley's funeral, because "I just couldn't have gone into a room where Chris was in a box." (What does Spade say now? He gave a statement to our pals at Asylum that says the Farley family and friends all agreed to the ad.")
The poor thing. He doesn't want to be in a room with his friend in a box, but it's OK to cash in on the corpse's celebrity to hawk a different kind of box, the television kind. (Or maybe he doesn't see TV as a "box" anymore, now that there are slim flat-panel displays. They're really not box-shaped, right?)
Because Spade therefore sounds like a really sensitive guy, let's not put all the blame on his caved shoulders. After all, the estate of Chris Farley approved the ad. That estate, by the way, is (or at least has been) run by one of Chris' brothers, Tom Farley.
In 2006, Tom approved the first-ever commercial use of his brother's image and received $25,000 for Chris to hawk Prometa, a treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. The first ad appeared on a 20-by-60 foot billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard, that swath of broken dreams-and, incidentally, very close to the Chateau Marmont where Farley's idol, John Belushi, died under similar circumstances.
As Tom Farley told Matt Lauer at the time of the Prometa folly, "We're happy to find a program like this that can utilize the same, you know, brand assets that Chris still has."
Oh, those brand assets. Gotta love 'em. Tom further defended the move by pointing out how much good it would do the world if these ads could spare just one person from the kind of drug-related death that took Chris from the bosom of his family.
"We've turned down so many offers for, you know, Bobbleheads and Ringtones for-for three, four, five times that," explained Tom. "I mean, it's really not about that. This is -- it's not a lot [of money] comparatively and, again, it's all going-it's going right back to doing what the [Chris Farley] Foundation's been doing for six or seven years, and that's helping people, you know, get better."
In other words, it was a humanitarian act to take that $25,000. Not at all like taking blood money to advertise bobblehead dolls and ringtones.
I wonder how much they got for the David Spade ad? I wonder what David Spade got for the David Spade ad?
Most of all, I wonder how many people will "get better" when they see Chris Farley's "brand assets" recommending signing up with DirecTV?