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Saturday, July 3, 2010

And Another Thing: Everybody's a Legend Nowadays

The advertising campaign for Blackglama mink, with it's often imitated headline "What becomes a legend most?," is one of the most famous of all time.

It had a simple premise: iconic, legendary celebrities (Judy Garland, Bette Davis, and yes, Ray Charles) were shown wearing nothing more than an elegant, expensive black mink coat in striking photographs by the great Richard Avedon.

So successful was the campaign that it has continued off and on from its inception in 1968 to the present century. If it's not broken, don't try to fix it.

For the most part, the subjects of the Blackglama ads were, indeed, legendary, as in meaning someone or something that is extremely famous.

Nowadays, PR people commonly invoke the L Word to describe anyone and anything even the slightest bit acclaimed. Take PR Newswire, the main channel for distributing news releases – we said news releases, not news – to the world's media.

If you look at their website, you quickly come to the cheerless conclusion that pretty much anyone with a publicist is considered to be a legend of some sort. This includes everyone from athletes who are in the twilight of mediocre careers to software developers about whom surely no legends ever have been or will be written.

Legendary should be used only to refer to (1) someone or something that has been celebrated or described in a legend (Paul Bunyan or King Arthur's Court, for example) or (2) someone who is extremely famous.

Here's a sampling of L Word references in more than 500 press releases on PR Newswire over the last 60 days. Which ones fit our description?
  • legendary journalist Dan Rather
  • legendary Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris
  • legendary music photographer Rob Shanahan
  • legendary songwriter Carole King
  • legendary West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd
  • legendary music mogul Kevin Liles
  • legendary concert promoter Leonard Rowe
  • legendary software developer Kent Beck
  • the world's most legendary queen, Cleopatra
  • legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman
  • the legendary Waikiki Beach
Cleopatra: legend; Kevin Liles: just a record producer

By our count, the only bona fide legend here is Cleopatra. While Dan Rather, Robert Byrd, and Carole King are well known in certain circles (and even may be nice guys, to boot), it would be a stretch to call them extremely famous. Waikiki Beach is a nice place to sip a pina colada, but please show us the legends that have been written about it.

As for Kent Beck, Leonard Rowe, and Kevin Liles, all we can say is, "Huh?"

PR professionals take note: the L Word should be used sparingly, if at all.

1 comment :

  1. Just wanted to leave a quick 'thanks' for your blog and your posts. I just discovered it today, but I'm enjoying

    reading it, and I'll be back again soon.