At first, I was annoyed. A lot of people were annoyed. What was Matt Damon doing, shilling for cryptocurrency? Hadn’t he made enough millions of dollars in his career already?
In a slickly produced television ad, Damon spewed forth inspiring words while strolling past images of people doing brave things like climbing a snowy mountain or getting ready to head off into space. In the end, he seemed to gaze out the window at Mars, as if challenging us to leave all the ordinary people behind and strive to reach new heights, to fulfill our potential and become successful beyond our wildest dreams.
Initially, I couldn’t understand why this 60-second ad stuck with me and made me so angry. I didn’t hold it against Tom Brady for advertising mattresses or Jennifer Aniston for her skin care commercials or LeBron James for suggesting what soda I should drink. After all, we viewers are smart enough to know that these are celebrities, selling a product, right? Brady is good at a lot of things, but it’s not like he’s an expert in making comfortable mattresses.
It was completely within Damon’s right to go out and get paid to do whatever commercials he wanted. Why should I get upset about this one?
But this commercial was different. This wasn’t just Dan Marino telling us what kind of gloves to buy or William Shatner suggesting which website to use to book our hotels. Damon was telling us where to invest our money — and he seemed pretty adamant about it. History, his script seemed to say, is littered with losers too timid to take a leap — and the brave, who “embrace the moment and commit.” This all sounded a bit too high-pressure for me.
Because while it’s unfortunate — but relatively low-stakes — if a consumer overpays for a pair of sneakers, for example, because of an ad featuring Michael Jordan, it’s a whole lot more serious if someone trusts in a celebrity endorsement and risks their life savings on something like cryptocurrency.
I did some soul-searching, went back online and took one more look at the commercial. Suddenly the clouds in my brain parted and my irritation ceased. Aha! I owed an apology to Damon; I completely misunderstood the point his commercial was trying to make. When he said that “fortune favors the brave,” he wasn’t talking about would-be cryptocurrency investors. He wasn’t implying that dumping hard-earned money into an unpredictable and relatively unregulated digital asset was an act of heroism or bravery. After all, that would be ridiculous!
Instead, he was talking about himself. Yes, it’s an ad for Matt Damon, a celebrity being courageous enough to withstand the public blowback that would result from this blatant cash grab. Look at me, he seemed to say as he walked by the astronauts and, for some reason, a couple about to kiss at a nightclub; I was brave enough to say yes to being paid a ridiculous amount of money for a few hours of work. History gave me this opportunity to go from being a rich celebrity to being a richer celebrity, and by golly I embraced the moment.
Now I understand what Damon was trying to tell me. Fortune really does favor the brave.
BILL ZUCK bravely favors the fortune cookies in his take-out bag. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.