Just when you think the popular culture is Hades-bound in a handcart, we learn of “Stand In,” one of MTV Network’s hottest new properties. It’s about celebrities as surprise, guest instructors at institutes of higher learning. It’s actually the spin-off MTVu, which is aimed at college campuses.
OK, you go where your market is, and you have to do something when it’s not Spring Break. If you’re MTV, this is smart. But it also requires the considerable cooperation of the institutions. This smarts.
Granted, some guests, such as Bill Gates talking about new technologies and career possibilities to a University of Wisconsin computer programming class, are beyond reproach. The ultimate, real-world input for students that is also a promotional coup for UW and Microsoft. Hey, best of all worlds.
The series actually began last year with the maestro of self-promotion, Jesse Jackson, and has included Kanye West, Ashley Judd, Snoop Dogg, Sting and the ever-edgy Sen. John McCain. Madonna has appeared at Hunter College, Marilyn Manson at Temple University and Cameron Diaz – speaking on building designs that protect the environment – at Stanford University.
Let’s call this what it is. Absent a Gatesesque guest, it’s a sell-out by universities that would allow their good offices to be commercialized in such a cheesy, pandering fashion.
But if they need the publicity and a link of “relevance” to their “market” so desperately, at least book these self-serving acts into Marketing 101, where they belong.