Kelleth Cuthbert, social media influencer and newly named ‘Fiji Water girl’, hit headlines this week after photobombing multiple celebrities at the Golden Globes 2019, estimating to have earned the equivalent of $12m in paid advertising. Considered to be the first meme of 2019, Cuthbert’s audience on Instagram rose from an already secure 54k to 208k in just three days, and continues to rise.
Jamie Lee Curtis was one of the first to speak out about this apparent PR stunt. She audibly stated she didn’t want to be seen advertising for the brand, but with the mass of cameras at hand, even when moving away, Curtis can still be seen pictured with Fiji Water.
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So, my husband, who doesn’t look at a lot of show business news sites, just mentioned that I was on the CNN website. I specifically moved away from the blatant promotions by Fiji and Moet where young women with their trays filled with their wares stood near a designated camera. I knew why there was a photographer poised there and I moved away as I said out loud that I didn’t want to be doing advertising for either. Clearly this angle shows that I moved from her being behind me and yet from the side it still happens. The sponsors of events need to get permission from people when they get them to take their picture next to products.
Clarence Chia, VP of Fiji Water, has responded, stating: “We don’t specifically tell the Fiji Water brand ambassadors to look at the camera; we just tell them to be themselves … Cuthbert is such a natural in front of the camera, the photos took off.”
But has this publicity stunt breached laws regarding product placement? The answer is likely not. The law states there must be ‘editorial justification’ for a product to appear, and as one of the event’s photography sponsors, the products were bound to be in shot at one time or another. Could this be seen as unethical? If a celebrity doesn’t want to be involved in a brand sponsor, they should have that choice. But it also can’t be helped if they’re pictured with a brand that sponsors an event they’ve agreed to attend. It’s a lose-lose situation for the celebrities.
But of course, the most important thing to come from this is the parodies – bring on the memes.
— FIJI Water (@FIJIWater) January 9, 2019
— FIJI Water (@FIJIWater) January 8, 2019
— Millie Norman (@EmiliaFNorman) January 7, 2019