Culture

Jeremy Clarkson's real role with Amazon: Pitchman

Technically Incorrect: Some wondered whether Amazon was overpaying for the boorish Brit "Top Gear" presenter and his friends. But he's already appeared in two Amazon ads. Might there be more?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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A clever move by Amazon?

Amazon/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When Amazon decided to leap into the erratically-driven Bugatti that is Jeremy Clarkson, some wondered if the former BBC "Top Gear" presenter and his entourage were worth the money or the trouble.

It was reported that Amazon paid a $240 million for the services of Clarkson and his fellow British presenters, who all travel together in a frightfully bromantic manner and play around with cars.

Clarkson had occasionally driven himself into high-profile controversies as if his hands weren't always on the steering wheel. These ranged from alleged racism to alleged annoying of everyone in Argentina to, finally, allegedly smacking a producer in the face. This last incident led to Clarkson departing the BBC and now facing a racial discrimination lawsuit .

How could he possibly be worth it, some mused.

A little clue has now emerged. Clarkson hasn't merely been hired for his upper-class Brit, shame-the-Empire-is-dead bombast. He's been hired as a pitchman.

In recent weeks, he's fronted an amusing ad for the Amazon Fire TV Stick, in which rode a Segway and mocked the BBC with some gusto.

On Sunday, however, he also fronted Amazon's latest attempt to get you excited about Cyber Monday, while you simultaneously get excited about an Amazon drone delivering your little girl's soccer shoes.

In this ad, he's very much himself as he tells the story of a little girl, a dog, a soccer shoe, a drone and a very large lawn.

This second Clarkson outing into pitchworld is a rather witty move by Amazon. It makes Clarkson a prize symbol for Amazon's corporate attitude, which appears to be: Stay feisty and don't follow everyone else's rules.

This was vividly evident in The New York Times' description of the company as a somewhat nasty place to work. It was certainly evident in Amazon's response to the article, a witheringly chilling piece written by the company's senior vice president for global corporate affairs, Jay Carney.

It was equally evident last week, when the company's ads for its "The Man In The High Castle" series -- which featured Nazi and Japanese war symbols -- fell foul of certain sensitivities in New York.

Instead of bowing to authorities, Amazon issued a statement that included words such as "high-quality" and "provocative" and a sentiment that suggested New York's governor and mayor should get a life.

Could it be that the company has now chosen Clarkson as its symbol of that quality provocation? Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dangers of leading with Clarkson will be evident should he drop his trousers in public while holding a pint of real ale, performing an ill-judged Morris Dance and singing "Land Of Hope And Glory."

One of the reasons Amazon may have signed the not-always-great Brit is precisely that it wants its brand image to be anything but anodyne.

Which for a retailer is a rather optimistic and even noble intention.