There was a famous commercial on British television before the advertising of tobacco was banned in the UK media. The clip showed a decapitated Sir Francis Drake in gorgeous Elizabethan dress, carrying his smiling head under his arm. He was placing a cigar between the lips and the head was sighing with satisfaction. Bach’s ‘Ode on a G String’ was playing and a soft voice over said, ‘Hamlet Cigars’. That’s all it was but what a memorable commercial!
If you don’t like Hamlet cigars you can get the famous Cuban Romeo y Julietta panatelas and the Falstaff cigars instead.
The connection between Shakespeare and advertising began when the publisher, Jacob Tonson, based his trademark on the Chandos portrait. Since then countless manufacturers, suppliers and service providers have hitched their wagons to the famous stars of Shakespeare’s plays.
If you were to win an unimaginable sum of money in a lottery you may go looking for your own private jet. The first one you’ll come across will be the Learjet.
The practice has been dubbed Shakesploitation – the branding of companies and products with the names of Shakespeare characters.
Some of them are apt, like Ariel Air Conditioning, Ariel Steam Showers, Ariel washing powder and the small, snappy British car, the Ariel Atom; or Falstaff Beer and Royal Dalton’s Falstaff Toby Jug. Others seem whimsical, like Brutus Trim Shirts, Brutus Diamond Drill Bits, Brutus Sunglasses and Brutus jeans. Cleopatra Cosmetics works, as does Cleopatra Hair Supplies, but Cleopatra Halloween Costumes is pushing it a bit. The British band, ‘Brutus’, works well in a funny way.
Othello gets a good airing but how he connects with his products is known only to the people who named them. Othello Safety Razors may be to do with his cut-throat image. But what about Othello Wristwatches? The Texas chain, Othello Gas Stations, has left me racking my brains. And as for Othello Toner Inkjet Printers. Well! In trying to work out Cassius Eyeware, a range of sunglasses, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s either brilliantly perceptive or a nothing. John Gielgud plays Cassius in the famous film with James Mason as Brutus and Marlon Brando as Mark Antony. I’ve seen the movie many times and I’m always struck by the way Gielgud seems to be squinting all the time. Could that be it?
I like Caesar’s Palace – the famous venue in Las Vegas: it has the right feeling of wealth and power. But what I like best is the naming of newly discovered celestial bodies after Shakespeare characters. The old celestial bodies were named by the ancients, long before Shakespeare but it’s time now to get with it. Cornell astronomer, Philip Nicholson, and his team have proposed names for Uranus’ two ‘new’ moons. They have decided on characters from The Tempest – Caliban and his mother, the witch, Sycorax. Wonderful.
Shakesploitation will continue, but why not? It doesn’t do anyone any harm.