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O.J. JOINS FORMER PITCHMAN RANKS OF MICHAEL JACKSON, TYSON, OTHERS

SHARE O.J. JOINS FORMER PITCHMAN RANKS OF MICHAEL JACKSON, TYSON, OTHERS

O.J. Simpson's lucrative career as a product pitchman crashed the moment murder charges were filed against him last Friday.

"Hertz is shocked and saddened" at his arrest and arraignment, company spokesman Joe Russo said. "Obviously, Hertz has no plans to utilize Mr. Simpson in advertising."Simpson has been under contract with Hertz since 1975 and made those catchy running-through-airports ads, among others, for the car-rental company. His last TV commercial for Hertz aired two years ago. But recently, Russo confirmed, the former National Football League star made personal appearances on Hertz's behalf.

Simpson, who just three months ago signed a three-year personal services contract with NSA Inc., based in Memphis, Tenn., is the latest star whose marketing prowess flamed out amid controversy.

Simpson, nicknamed "The Juice," was to promote NSA's Juice Plus line of concentrated nutritional supplements.

Celebrity endorsements are always risky, marketing experts said.

Pop star Michael Jackson had a reported $7 million to $10 million contract with PepsiCo Inc. last year when he was charged with sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy.

The Florida Citrus Commission dropped the services of actor Burt Reynolds when he filed for divorce from Loni Anderson last summer.

Pepsi had also used boxer Mike Tyson, until he was charged with wife-beating, and singer Madonna, until she made her provocative "Like a Prayer" video.

"What makes the Simpson case so devastating to the advertising industry is that here is a clean-cut athlete with an impeccable reputation who has gotten himself into the most serious trouble anyone could imagine," said Al Ries, partner in the marketing strategy firm of Trout & Ries in Greenwich, Conn.

"This will put the fear of God into anyone thinking of signing up any celebrity," Ries said.