Monday, October 25, 2010

Tracking Britney's Brand

I have quite the fascination with Britney Spears, but not just with her personally. I am also fascinated with all the marketing around her. What makes me different than a lot of people who write about her is that I am actually a fan. Lots of people who write about her, especially from an academic angle, usually do so from the angle of her being somehow symbolic of the dumbing down of culture, how she represents things like superficiality, objectifying of women and youth, bla bla bla. I'm not saying I disagree with any, none or all of these arguments, but I will say that I am a fan, and I don't write about her from a perspective of maliciousness. Also, I have enjoyed each of her albums, some more so than others. I especially like her last 2 albums Blackout and Circus. And I do actually own the Britney Spears Barbie.

After a fascinating interview with award-winning filmmaker and lecturer Judy Hoffman, director of a documentary starring Britney Spears' called Stages: 3 Days In Mexico, I've been trying to find the executive producer of the film, Jim Forni. He ran NVU Productions, a celebrity-brand marketing services firm, who approached Judy Hoffman to do a Britney Spears documentary. I am interested in talking to him about the movie, since he might be the one who has the deleted scenes. So what the movie is, it's this hour long behind-the-scenes look at the end of Britney's Dream Within a Dream Tour in 2002, when she was turning 21. It's an oversized book but then it has the DVD of the documentary in the back. The idea was that she wanted something to give to her fans. As a birthday present I guess. (Is that like bringing your own treats on your birthday to school? How cute!)

Just to give you a feeling for how deep the branding goes, here's something I stumbled onto for everyone to see on the internet:

NVU Productions On Tour With Britney Spears; Creative and Brand Management Work Showcased. | Company Activities & Management > Product Management from

Forni's company NVU ran Britney's webdesign for a while, but now is run by a different company called BrandcastingUnlimited, which if you go to that website it will blow your mind because the only thing on the screen is this sort of almost dystopian Brave New World Big Brother Is Watching thing, all cryptic, where to even get any info at all you have to fill out this form, where you sort of almost have to apply first. Maybe they try to make people circumlocuate to get into their mainframe so that nobody hacks into "the architect" bla bla bla. As if we're really going to find out that there is no Britney, and there's just some robot, etc. etc. etc., which is probably what some peoples think already about Britney Spears now anyway, at least MEAN PEOPLE do. Here's screenshot to show you what I mean, and this is the only thing on their site for us proles who merely land on their home page, with no other links whatsoever:

I would love to chat with Forni about him running her site and her design, etc. I wonder if his company was running when Brit's website was strangely, well, less censored would be the best way to describe it? It looked like the picture below for a while, during some of her more troubled times a few years ago. Her main site (or sites, she's got more than one, as you might imagine) looks all slick again now, but I remember when it looked like this:

The juxtaposition of the "Down Boy" and then "Integrity" and then "Dignity" -- I have a whole mess of thoughts on that one that you probably do too. Anyway, I think that was up on her site right before Blackout came out. So I guess non of those made the cut. Did I vote? No, I did not.

Just as a sidetone: I am reminded of an ironic line in her song Circus which is "I'm runnin' this like a circus" which is interesting because it's almost like she's not really running it herself because of her contractual tour obligations to record companies (as Steve Dennis wrote about in his book Inside the Dream: Britney The Biography) and her father is actually co-conservator of her estate and most major decisions. In the book I just mentioned, a thorough yet compassionate overview of Brit's life, the author postulates that Brit's dad who was an alcoholic while Brit was growing up, is actually stepping into the father role that he neglected while Britney was growing up. I myself speculate that maybe it's good to have someone in your life who can help you make those type of decisions.

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