Let’s be Gods. Let’s be Ugly.

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This title of this post comes from a line in Ayn Rand’s 1943 book,The Fountainhead and is from a conversation between a woman and the main character, Howard Roark. Her point was that any attempt to create beauty is futile when compared to the beauty of nature and that we should abandon any desires to create beautiful things. She wanted to rise above nature and create something ugly.

Fast forward to August 1st, 1981 and we saw the Buggles proclaim Video Killed the Radio Star back. The nature of music celebrity had changed. For the first time, the look of the band was immediately known (without them selling millions of records) and for the first time a band’s image was at least or as equally important as the music. It quickly became apparent that image was going to surpass talent with the birth of New Wave. Bands with minimal talent but a new look were thrust into the limelight with a video in heavy rotation. This makes sense since something that is seen and heard is more compelling than something that is just seen. (Less imagination needed but can be more compelling.)

Today music videos are rarely shown on MTV and when they are, the artists are for the most part categorically attractive. (If the artist is not attractive the video is peppered with good looking people. Most rap videos that I’ve seen use this method.) This is especially true of women with almost none overweight. I seriously doubt Janis Joplin (voted the ugliest male at her college) would have made it today. Bands like Steely Dan & Jethro Tull would also most likely have not made it. I’m in no way saying that image did not matter in earlier years. I am saying that for the first time, talent was overshadowed by image. Remember what happened to C&C Music Factory? (Yes. I’m that old.)

Well . . . like all things, we are now deep into a reversal of fortune for those that have a face for radio or at the very least are more talented than good looking. The Internet has allowed everyone to be a niche celebrity if they so chose. (The Internet also facilitates people with no talent.) We are back to looking at people that could be (and very well may be) our neighbors. Beauty will always be valued and yet with an increasing number of overweight people in television ads (for those of you without a DVR) we have come full circle in some sense. This, of course, relates back to transparency and in my opinion it that it can be a good thing. If customers see people that look like themselves representing business they will be more likely to relate and incouraged to do business.

Let’s be Gods. Let’s be ugly.

By Michael Myers

I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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