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What's the message Ricki-Lee?

By Greg Donnelly - posted Friday, 8 June 2012

Appointing an ambassador for a product, service or organisation to promote its image in the public domain is nothing new. It is a marketing strategy that has been around for a while. Bathing in the reflected glory of a well known sportsperson, celebrity, national hero just to name a few identities has been seen as a smart move when it comes to profile raising.

However, things do not always go to plan and we have seen in recent time the challenges that can arise. The use of soft power by businesses to create or cultivate brand awareness and consumer loyalty, particularly when it involves so-called personalities, does deserve some examination. Who and why are companies signing up certain people to be their ambassadors and what do those ambassadors represent? These and other questions came to mind when I saw an advertisement on television recently for Woolworths promoting their Earn and Learn program for schools. The advertisement was fronted by Ricki-Lee Coulter, an Australian singer, songwriter, television and radio presenter, or at least that is what her Wikipedia entry says.

I thought to myself, now that is an interesting choice to be the public face of a campaign specifically targeted at families with school aged children. To me, there was something there that did not quite fit, but what was it? Enter her name into the PC and click, there she was on the front cover of the November 2011 edition of Maxim Australia. For those including myself who are not subscribers, Maxim modestly describes itself as "The World's Number-One Men's Magazine". And if the magazine cover did not provide enough exposure, the webpage had further additional photographs that were buried in the magazine between articles titled "Role-Play Sex Made Easy" and "Supercar Special 1689kW of Raw Power".


Hmm I said to myself, there appears to be a little more to Ms Coulter than meets the eye, this deserves some further investigation. I then clicked onto the YouTube clip for her current single "Do it Like That". Surprise, surprise I was not the first visitor. In fact 731,249 had checked-out the clip before me. Of those visitors I wondered how many were teenage girls and how many were teenage boys? Furthermore I thought to myself what message or messages are they expected to take away from two minutes and 49 seconds of colour, pelvic thrusts and lyrics that if not explicitly, are implicitly sexual in nature? What were young minds to make of:

you gotta have what you see, asap
just slow it up, baby don't rush it now
cause I got what you need, yeah
I brought the recipe.

Or what are we to make of the lyrics when in the video clip, Ms Coulter bends over in her briefs or bikini bottom rolling her backside from left to right saying:

so hot, you just can't take it
got the whole place burnin' up
got you thinkin' that you gonna be gettin'
a little more than just a show
one taste of my apple pie, satisfy your appetite

Perhaps I was making too much of what I was seeing and hearing. She was wearing a black singlet with the briefs.

Had enough? Perhaps, but there is more. For connoisseurs there is the Ricki-Lee – Behind the Scenes clip. This is one minute and 32 seconds of analysis of the making of the music video. We find out that the song is playful and cheeky. Was there a pun intended when she said the clip was cheeky given the generous view we are provided of her backside?


Perhaps though, this was a one off frolic; Ricki-Lee was a singer of substance. I clicked onto the lyrics of another song "Can't Touch It". I was not disappointed:

Ladies, let me see your hands up in the air
Ladies, show 'em what you got
Shake it all around, yeah, yeah

And just in case that was not clear enough:

E yo, you wanna little of this?
You want a little, wanna little of this?
E yo, you wanna little of this?
You want a little, wanna little of this?

Once you think you think you got it
You can't touch it

I suspect that those at Woolworths, or their marketing/advertising advisors, who thought that Ricki-Lee Coulter would make a great front person for the Earn and Learn program for schools may not have looked at her CV closely. I must say that with a PC and a few clicks, it took me less than 10 minutes to get a pretty good idea of her body of work. An ambassador holds a privileged position as they are a representative, in some sense a personification of the organisation that appoints them. In looking with fresh eyes at Ricki-Lee Coulter and what she is communicating through her singing and dancing the question is does she embody what one would want in an ambassador and all that goes with such a role? Or on second thoughts, should her visa be stamped cancelled at the earliest available opportunity?

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About the Author

Greg Donnelly is a Labor Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. He has been in the Legislative Council since February 2005. He is currently the Deputy Opposition Whip in the Legislative Council. He is the Chair of General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2 and Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Issues. He is also a member of the Privileges Committee, the Committee on Children and Young People, the Select Committee on the Legislative Council Committee System and the Select Committee on Human Trafficking.

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