Charlie Sheen drinks the Kool Aid *

* disclaimer: I have no evidence that Charlie Sheen drinks Kool Aid.

It’s no secret that the advertising industry is under pressure to invent new ways of reaching an increasingly savvy and cynical audience. It may be one step ahead of the average consumer – but not us cool Internet kids – we own this place. We trained our eyes not to look at banners, we laughed in the face of FarmVille, and now we’re hiding Groupon from our News Feeds (so last year). We win at Internet.

Sometimes though, I realise I’ve not been quite cynical enough. Like when I found out Cassette Boy was getting paid by ITV. These moments are a little reminder of how the world really works.

Oh, Charlie

What Charlie Sheen is doing would normally (in traditional media)¬† be seen as a massive sell-out. I feel sad every time I see Iggy Pop making a fool of himself selling¬† car insurance. Whether it’s a young, cash hungry star, or an old has-been with no options left – it’s just a bit embarrassing.

And yet the Internet (particularly the Twitterverse) seems oblivious to the marketing machine that is the manufactured Charlie Sheen meme. Whether his meltdown was genuine or not (he’s an actor, remember) he’s now publicly cashing in on it. At first glance I just accepted it as another crazy internet meme.

Meet Ad.ly

Ad.ly is a firm that “runs celebrity endorsements in social media”. Short version: companies pay Ad.ly to pay celebrities to mention their brands on social media platforms like Twitter. It’s modern product placement. According to some copy on their site, an Ad.ly employee may even send the Tweets.

Why is this not an embarrassing sell-out, because it’s on the Web? If he was doing a Sugar Puffs TV commercial we’d all be tweeting that Charlie Sheen’s career is over. But we’re all falling in line. Whether we’re lapping up the pseudo-motivational rhetoric, or just finding it all rather funny. We’re just a bunch of eye-balls poised to consume advertising.

Nice try Advertising, but I win because I have Tiger Blood – what else have you got?