NEW YORK – What a difference an ocean makes.
Just across the Atlantic, David and Victoria Beckham (search) are the equivalent of Ben & Jen and Brad & Jen -- combined.
But here, England's most famous soccer star and his wife, the chanteuse formerly known as Posh Spice, are utterly unrecognizable.
It's not for lack of trying.
The Beckhams, who are packing their bags and heading home tomorrow, have just wound up a three-week, self-promotion tour of both coasts, under the patronage of Vogue's Anna Wintour (search), who'll feature them on the cover of a special supplement in the mag's September issue.
The dynamic duo went to the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, met with record producer Damon Dash, sat for an interview on 20/20 and made an appearance on the MTV Movie Awards (search).
Oops, scratch that -- Americans missed that (un)star turn, because the Beckhams only made the cut for the European/international broadcast of the show.
"They were shot specifically for the U.K./international version," explains an MTV spokeswoman.
Posh and Becks, as they are known on the other side of the Pond, had hoped by now they would be as famous in the United States as they are in their native Britain.
Instead, they're going home as anonymous as when they arrived.
"They did all the right things, they met all the right people, they hit all the right spots," says veteran publicist Bobby Zarem. "Yet, they didn't manage to translate that into a high profile. They didn't get the mass audience. The average person doesn't know who they are."
So what went wrong?
One problem is that no one in the United States seems to know exactly what the Beckhams are for.
It's been a long time since the Spice Girls (search) generated headlines, not to mention record sales, and Victoria's solo career has yet to hit a single right note (she was dropped by her record label, Virgin, last fall).
And while the U.K. may be mad for soccer -- and its biggest star, David, the inspiration for the film, Bend it Like Beckham -- here, it's a sport largely played by young girls.
"Soccer has been struggling here, and although there are signs of life, it's going to be an uphill battle," says Charlie Leerhsen, executive editor of Sports Illustrated.
"Beckham may have a better shot at becoming one of those celebrities whose fame feeds off itself, although what they actually do is of no interest. A bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor."
No one seems to know what the couple are offering the American public -- least of all, the Beckhams themselves.
The closest they've come to defining their objectives was in a newspaper interview in which Posh declared, "We want to have our own brand . . . There are so many things that interest us. Fashion, makeup . . ."
Not much of a business plan.
The Beckhams' publicist, Thomas Martin, insists, however, their trip has been a success and that reaction to the Beckhams has been "phenomenal."
When asked what the Beckham brand is all about, he replied: "I'll have to think about that for a minute," before saying, "They're working. He has an autobiography coming out in the fall. She's in the studio recording with Damon Dash, one of the hottest producers in the business."
But a fizzled media blitz won't sell all those books and albums.
"David's been here once, Victoria twice," says Martin. "You can't judge their popularity based on three visits. We are patient."
We can be patient, too. How about coming back . . . never?