Sheen Profiteering Not Just a Twitter Thing

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We've reported on the companies that are cashing in on Charlie Sheen mania on Twitter, but corporate marketing schemers aren't confining their efforts to the short messaging service. Spirit Airlines, for one, is using Sheen's themes in its latest e-mail blast advertising the "Living the Dream Sale: Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA Not Required."

Spirit, as Jezebel's Irin Carmon pointed out on Twitter, has a history of tasteless e-mail bombs, including plays on the oil spill and (really?!) muff diving. For shame!

I'm cataloging all these for you because I think this is a fascinating marketing story. All these companies are trying to figure out how close they can get to the Charlie Sheen flame (err, jet fighter) without getting burned. Notice that this Spirit Airlines ad doesn't even mention the name Charlie Sheen but merely drops his memetic gifts into its language.

It's another version of buying the promoted tweet for the hashtag #Winning on Twitter and then running an ad on it that doesn't reference Sheen at all. All the brand association for a self-selecting audience, none of the risk that you look awful when Sheen is committed or does something heinous. In corporate speak, that's a win-win! In Madrigal speak, it's cowardly and parasitic.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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