Thursday, September 3, 2009

Destroy the Paparazzi

The problems celebrities face in deterring or completely avoiding paparazzi are well known. So far, it has been a loosing battle. Steps such as pre-selling access to special events (weddings, births), the inclusion of house photographers in clubs, litigation, the occasional hit and run, and other measures have done little to stop the onslaught of photographers professional and amateur from taking and selling or sharing photographs of stars. Although there are benefits to the celebrities in some instances, the loss of control as well as the harassment and the occasional personal and professional costs can be painful

I have a plan on how to destroy the paparazzi.

Fundamentally, there is demand for images of celebrities — the more embarrassing the picture, the better, but the demand is not insatiable. It only seems so. Which just means the demand has not been satiated.

Celebrities attempts at control, by limiting supply, only drive up demand and prices. And when a celebrity, who might be sinking into obscurity, wants a little free publicity, they usually have to make themselves available and, often, in a controversial manner that may come back to haunt them if their star should rise again.

But, it is that very case that we find valuable. For, a celebrity (who is down on their luck) who makes themselves freely available, drives down the price for their images — thus the requirement of increasingly humiliating photos to get the paparazzi interested. That said, images, especially with digital cameras are essentially free, so the paparazzi are quite willing to take any shot that comes their way, as long as it is easy.

The one thing celebrities control in this market, is not really access to their image by 3rd parties — individual celebrities may win a battle or two, but that war has been lost. What they can limit is not scarcity, but ubiquity. Celebrities can provide a virtually unlimited supply of images to the market. For free. Dumping we call it. To destroy competition.

There are various ways to accomplish this. Here is one:

Celeb One is a giant star, let's call her "Britney", hires a photographer. She already has an entourage, so adding one more member to the masseurs, hair stylist, nanny, dog walker, manager, agent, drug dealer, whatever she has on staff won't break the bank.

The photographer has nearly full 24 hour access. Candid photos, no-makeup photos, cankle photos, nipple slips and upskirt — the full monty that the paparazzi would sell, her staff distributes for free. An unmatchable barrage of images. Even the bottom feeders of the paparazzi won't be able to make a living off of taking pictures of Britney.

This is the start. Next, B celebrities, studios, agencies, and others with an interest in regaining control, can share costs to create a photographer pool. The pool knows when and where their covered celebs are to be and they arrange to be there too. Mixing with the paparazzi they take the same images but, again, give them away. The Bs also arrange special sessions, providing staged (but impossible to verify as such) variations of whatever images the market is asking for.

Continue this process, escalate, repeat. Until the only person taking a picture of a celebrity is someone with a cell phone who is standing next to them.

The downside is image saturation. Celebrities are concerned about overexposure, but, that is happening anyway. They might as well get on top of it. There will certainly be a price to be paid by the celebrities, and unintended and unforeseen consequences. But that should be mitigated by the pleasure derived from the near term goal.

Destroy the paparazzi by attacking the one thing that really matters to them. Their income.

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