The Dead Rise to Advertise
"You celebrities need to realize that the public owns you for life! And after you're dead, you'll all be in commercials dancing with vacuum cleaners."
There was a point when the Uncanny Valley
was theoretical. Today, we have proof. Horrible, horrible proof.
Computers have given producers incredible abilities to manipulate images and create breathtaking effects for film and television audiences. However this power has a very controversial dark side.
Famous but long dead celebrities have been digitally resurrected to lend their endorsements to numerous commercial products. Photographs or scenes from their filmed appearances are digitally processed to show them interacting with various products or people hawking those products. These appearances aren't limited to film and TV stars. Historical figures have given their digital support to numerous products and services as well.
The use of dead celebrities' images has diminished over the past decade, especially in North America. This is in part due to the public's growing distaste for the trend, but another influence has been the implementation of inconsistent personality right laws across the continent that leave advertisers unsure as to whether they need to obtain expensive permission from a dead celebrity's estate to use the deceased's image. Twelve states (and Quebec in Canada) have laws on the books that prohibit the unauthorized use of such images, but the length of time these rights exist after death varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and in most states the use of an image in a "work of art" is excluded - but in most cases nobody has defined whether advertisements are works of art. It's easier just to hire a double.
A variation of this is to use historical footage of said celebrities from when they were still alive.
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- Guitar Hero World Tour features Jimi Hendrix as a playable character. Unlike the other playable versions of real musicians (Zakk Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne, Sting, et. al.), who were personally digitized and mo-capped for the sake of authenticity, Jimi was presumably recreated from photos and mo-capped by a professional impersonator.
- The Canadian audio comedy group Radio Free Vestibule did a skit in 1995 called "Laurence Olivier for Diet Coke", which purported to be an ad for Diet Coke assembled by splicing together things Laurence Olivier said in his many films and interviews. ("I wish I could have some now. But I can't, because I'm dead!")
- The restaurant chain Moe's (not that one) used to adorn its shops with posters of various musicians, both living and dead. They eventually had to pull all of the posters after being sued by the estate of one of the musicians. At first, they replaced the artwork with generic music-themed images, then later used pictures of celebrity look-alikes... with the disclaimer that there is no implied endorsement by any actual celebrities whom the pictures might resemble.
- This is actually the driving plot point for one of the segments of The Simpsons 2008 Halloween Episode, "How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising". Homer gets a job killing celebrities (such as George Clooney, Prince, and Neil Armstrong) for corporations so they can use their likeness in advertisements (along with the likenesses of celebrities who have been long dead such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln); when their spirits and those of other dead icons find out that they've been reduced to postmortem shills, they come after him.
- Also referenced when Krusty becomes an edgy stand-up comedian and briefly discusses the trope in a routine. "You've got poor old Vincent Price floating around in a toilet keg telling me about the horrors of an unfresh bowl!"
- In Deus Ex, Jesus is seen on a billboard advertising a brand of cigarettes: Holy Smokes! (Apparently, "They're saviorific!")
- In Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, you learn that a two-bit criminal has been selling buggy illegal VIs of Shepard while the latter was dead (s/he got better). You can convince him to give Shepard a copy or a cut of the profits.
- Shepard can also give his/her endorsements to various (even claiming every one of them is his/her favorite) stores in the Citadel, making him/her a literal example of this trope.
- The Alliance themselves got in on the action using Shepard's likeness to advertise joining their military, however it apparently fell through by the time Shep came back.
- Near the end of the "Year of the Bastard" arc in Transmetropolitan, the late beloved Senator Longmarch's image and voice are used in a political ad endorsing would-be candidate Gary Callahan; Spider remarks that the nomination must be in the bag already for them to be stooping to such tactics without fear of backlash.
- In "Mike Tyson Grill," a MadTV parody of the George Foreman Grill, Abraham Lincoln advertises the grill, though it's actually the same guy who is playing Mike Tyson dressed up as Lincoln.
- In chargesdotcomdotbr, there's na animation of Steve Jobs recording commercials before his death to be used after it. It was a Take That to the fact Apple products tend to be more compact than previous models.
- Mulberry provides a literal example when they reveal that the then-latest Orville Redenbacher commercials star a zombie! Reddenbacher (sic).