Achy Breaky Art?

April 29th, 2008

In her haste to emulate superstars before her like John & Yoko, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger and Whoopi Goldberg (yikes) who once posed for Annie Leibovitz, Miley Cyrus seems to have forgotten one little detail—they weren’t 15 years old when they posed nude for the iconic photographer. And neither were their fans.

Sure, the awkward student by day / cool pop star by night storylines of Hannah Montana are far from original, and it may be a little weird that she’s single-handedly transformed her dad from one-hit wonder to Disney darling. But until pictures from her racy photo shoot for next month’s Vanity Fair surfaced, Miley seemed to have the formula for squeaky-clean success so down pat, even Mandy Moore started to wonder whether the ripped jeans she wore back in ’02 might have been a little too risqué for her fan base.

Is he her dad or her date?

Regardless of whether or not the moral majority approves of Miley’s racy spread, one thing is clear—she (or her managers, at least) neglected a cardinal rule of branding: empathize with your audience. And when your audience consists of impressionable pre-teen girls, empathize with their parents.

Annie Leibovitz has already dismissed the uproar over the photos, “apologizing” to people who “misinterpreted her art,” but it’s really Miley and her own parents who have become the subject of scrutiny from outraged parents and critics around the country. Everyone from Howard Stern to Hilary Duff is weighing in on Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus’ careless parenting and forecasting the horrible choices Miley is sure to make in the future.

So what’s a ‘tween queen to do when her throne is in jeopardy? Simple. Blame it on the photographer. Despite the fact that her omnipresent hanger-on—er, I mean dad, Billy—was present, statements from the Cyrus camp (including Hannah Montana network Disney Channel) imply the singer was duped by Leibovitz, who said the photos would look “artistic.”

Some may hypothesize this is the beginning of the end of Miley’s wholesome reign. Not quite. Although a recent NY Times blog groups her with other scandalized starlets Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Lynn Spears (topless photo and teen pregnancy scandals, respectively), the brand that is Miley will endure. My guess is the Christian values the Cyrus family has always touted, along with a barrage of finger-pointing, have probably do the trick.

But don’t be surprised if the pop star’s management throws in a few PSAs on the dangers of peer pressure in for good measure.

[Related story worth mentioning: In the tradition of “Eliot Spitzer Night,” minor league sports has given us yet another wildly creative discount night, courtesy of the Cyrus family. Tomorrow night, the Fresno Grizzlies baseball team will host “Hanna Montana Ride Your Kid’s Coattails Night,” a ticket discount promo being held “in honor of Billy Ray's opportunism, and his trailblazing path that can serve as a roadmap for parents of talented children.” Brilliant.]

Posted Under: Art & Design, Branding
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