You may have seen the recent media buzz over Ted Williams, the homeless man from Columbus Ohio whose splendid baritone voice is rapidly spreading across the pop culture ionosphere. It didn’t take long for Marketing and PR people to take notice. They know a good thing when they see it.
A little recap for those of you who may have been busy sweeping out your cave the day this story hit the news. It all started when a Columbus Dispatch videographer discovered Williams on a highway exit ramp last month and shot a video of him with his cardboard sign promoting his “God-given gift of voice.” The clip was uploaded to the paper’s website and it quickly made it to YouTube.
Williams is now a genuine viral phenomenon. He’s been hired to do voiceovers for MSNBC and he appeared on the “Today” show and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” It’s also been reported that someone contacted Williams from the Cleveland Cavaliers organization offering him work. If that’s not enough, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is planning on using Williams for a TV commercial set to air on ESPN Sunday night during the telecast of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
The Ted Williams story is a wonderful piece of human interest real-life drama. Unfortunately I have a little cynical man that lives inside my skull that likes to remind me how quickly a feel-good story like this can mutate into a mass media commercial franchise. We’ve seen it before. In today’s reality-show environment, anything and everything can be made into an entertainment venue. And marketing execs have a way of taking a popular phenomenon and beating it to death.
Far be it from me to stand in the way of anyone trying to make a buck, but it does take the fun out of a lot of things. In the coming year, if we start seeing TV shows like “American Vagrant,” “Survivor: Skid Row,” or “Last Hobo Standing.” don’t say I didn’t warn you. We can only hope that “Dancing With the Chronically Unemployed” never makes it out of the network boardroom.