from the cannon-ball-run dept
As you Techdirt readers know, we regularly publish posts on the weekends taking a sweet look back at what was going on on our pages in past years. The powers that be around this joint never let me get my hands on that post, probably either because I’d simply fill up the space with my own comments from the early days of Dark Helmet’s existence, or because I dedicate my weekends to getting really, impressively drunk and scaring my neighbors. But a quick trip down memory lane brings up a thing tech companies used to do some years back that we used to have some fun with: appointing artists and celebrities as Chief Creative Officer, Chief Creative Director, Chief Creativity-Gasm Producer or some such nonsense. There was a rash of these announcements in 2010 and 2011, tapering off before it appeared like the world generally acknowledged that all of this was a giant waste of time and money, roughly around 2014. Sort of, oddly, like RadioShack, which found itself making some wildly bad financial decisions around 2011 or so before falling into disrepair and bankruptcy in late 2014 and early 2015.
Did you know RadioShack still exists? No? Neither did several of my Techdirt compatriots when I mentioned the company to them. But, yeah, RadioShack is still a real company with real aspirations to once again become relevant to the real world in the hopes of making real money. And, to accomplish this, the company has boldly decided to go back to the 2011 well and hire its own Chief Creative Officer: Nick Cannon.
Does this “hire” mean anything more than seeing Cannon’s face on advertisements, as has been the case with many other major tech company celebrity hires? RadioShack certainly wants us to think so, as the company’s announcement gave a vague list of Cannon’s CCO duties, the biggest of which appears to be the “development of RadioShack-exclusive products.” Cannon will also be tasked with in-store music curation, event promotion, and helping the company “continue to grow” its educational and STEM-specific initiatives. RadioShack didn’t specify what existing educational initiatives it is running, and its home page currently offers no official information about such initiatives.
Now I had the same reaction as my fellow Techdirt writers had to “RadioShack” when Nick Cannon’s name came up: “That still exists?” But, it turns out, that isn’t Cannon’s fault, as he’s been fairly relevant to the current music and television scene, including a role in Spike Lee’s film “Chi-Raq.” And I can’t say I know a whole lot about Cannon’s business acumen, or his ability to develop RadioShack exclusive products, or grow educational initiatives. What I do know is that seems like an awfully diverse list of big responsibilities to place on the shoulders of a singer/entertainer who happens to have a decently known name and not much else notable in terms of a corporate resume. He is, I have learned, the chairman and creative consultant for TeenNick, the Nickolodeon outlet, but does that really prepare one to direct a zombie-retailer that refuses to die back into relevance?
However, while Cannon has launched tech ventures over the past few years, the results have spoken less to RadioShack’s maker mentality and more to its modern, suffering incarnation, including budget-priced tablets sold on QVC and Beats-like headphones. Cannon previously served as an “entertainment ambassador” for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, apparently to promote a line of “Ncredible” tablets. Those devices included a built-in multimedia sharing app designed to let aspiring entertainers pitch their acts directly to Cannon’s production company.
That sounds like a pitch-man and peddler of low-budget electronics, not a creative force for a retailer that nearly found its previous involvement with budget electronics to be fatal. Much like the surprise that RadioShack was still alive, I can’t believe this entertainer-as-creative-director thing is still going on.