Rock stars: they’re not perfect. Sometimes all those riches and spoils eventually dry up, and you find yourself in desperate need of fast cash. Perhaps maybe greed has overtaken your soul, and any means by which additional income can be scrounged up begins to take hold. Or maybe even still, you believe so passionately in a product that you just have to get on TV and tell the whole world what they’re missing out on.
None of these scenarios seems to fit David Bowie in 2003, which is when the legendary singer appeared in an ad for Vittel Water that referenced his ever-changing personas. It’s unlikely that Bowie needed the money, or particularly cared about shilling bottled water, which makes the advert even more confusing.
The spot itself is unremarkable: Bowie doesn’t even say a word. Instead, he walks around an apartment while running into various guises from his past, including Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, his appearance on the cover of Low, his brief pirate persona during the ‘Rebel Rebel’ era, his long-haired Man Who Sold The World look, and his expressive central mime character from the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video. Most disturbing of all, Bowie comes face to face with the half-man, half-dog version of himself that graced the front cover of Diamond Dogs.
The YouTube comments are full of praise, but I’m far less sympathetic. What were you thinking, David? Who did you owe a favour to at the Vittel company? How did the man who was famous for being reductive when it came to his past wind up in such a basic self-referential mess of an advertisement? Some questions and answers are simply lost to time, I suppose.
In the pantheon of bizarre celebrity endorsements, Bowie’s hawing of Vittel ranks somewhere between John Lydon’s ‘Country Life’ butter advert and Iggy Pop’s Swiftcover car insurance commercial.