Gwyneth Paltrow for Damiani
Courteney Cox for Kinerase
Cindy Crawford for Omega
Pierce Brosnan for Omege
Felicity Huffman for QVC
Kate Moss for H. Stern
Nelly, Nia and Ivana for Judith Leiber
Emily Procter for Charriol
Charlize Theron for Raymond Weil
Tea Leoni for Neiman Marcus and UNICEF
And the big "endorsement" news of yesterday: Kate Moss was photographed apparently snorting cocaine by the British press.
H&M, the fashion chain, dropped Ms. Moss like a hot potato. From the WSJ yesterday:
The retailer initially stuck by the 31-year-old Ms. Moss. On Saturday, the company told the Associated Press that Ms. Moss had acknowledged her drug taking and apologized for breaking her contractual obligation to be "healthy, wholesome and sound." H&M was giving her a "second chance," an H&M spokeswoman said, and would continue to use her in its ads. […] Two days later, H&M decided to cuts its ties with the model.
Contractually obligated to be "healthy, wholesome, and sound"!
H&M, you flaming hypocites! Clubbing till all hours of the morning. Suffering the presence of Pete Doherty. Consuming illicit substances. Forsaking most of what is healthy, wholesome and sound, this is what Kate Moss does for a living. This is the way she manufactures meanings for a brand like H&M.
If you’re Kate Moss, your job is to live fast without actually dying young. If you’re H&M, your job is to make a connection to someone with this kind of glamor and credibility. Coax them out of the forest is you must, but you are going to have to lie down with the beasts of the fashion world. Otherwise, you are just an overlit box of borrowed ideas and fabric on hangers. Derivative, opportunistic and a little sad.
H&M is a leveraged enterprise. It must somehow borrow some of the wilderness of the fashion world, or what it brings to market are the objects of fashion but not the meanings of fashion. It must borrow, that is to say, the very qualities Kate Moss has lived, quite conspicuously, since Calvin Klein ads helped make her the poster child for "heroin chic." H&M might find some celebrities who are "nice and safe," but then it’s not clear these people are well chosen. It is, finally, a simple transaction. If H&M wants credibility with its celebrity, it is going to have to endure moments like this. So, buck up. Restore the contract. Yes, you will lose some customers. But the good news, you get to keep your credibility.
As to the larger question: is celebrity endorsement back? I think the evidence says that it must be. A lot of the current endorsement activity is the kind of thing that used to be practiced by American celebrities secretly (and shamefully?) in Japan. So what changed? I remember seeing the TV work done by Susan Sarandon. I am guessing (and forgive me if this is unfair) but I think Ms. Sarandon is the kind of Hollywood liberal who believes that the market place is the plaything of the devil and that for many years she believes that the valley of celebrity endorsement was littered with the bones of Hollywood careers.
"Yikes," I said to myself, "If Susan is prepared to do endorsements, then someone must have sounded the "all clear" signal."" So what happened? Does anyone know what celebrities are now saying to one another? (Besides, "show me the money?") Surmise (sheer or otherwise) is most welcome.
McCracken, Grant. 2005. Who is the Celebrity Endorser? Culture and Consumption II. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Patrick, Aaron O. 2005. Moss Proves Too Edgy for Retailer. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2005.