Celebrity endorsements IV

Kate_mossOnce you start looking, they’re everywhere!

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. 

8 thoughts on “Celebrity endorsements IV

  1. fouroboros

    Bravo! Seriously.

    Can’t say more, I’m off to find a hooker and a bottle of Irish Whiskey*.

    (*Page 21; Section 3; Para 4: Standard rider in the Creative Director’s contract.)

  2. jessica

    I think it’s funny how quickly everyone has jumped on Kate Moss for the photo of her cocaine usgae. Obviously, cocaine use is something to take seriously. However, for ages we have bemoaned how celebrities look, especially models (like Kate Moss) during the heroin-chic era. People say catty things and start rumours of celebrity drug usage, which is all taken as a matter of fact in the business, passed around with a grain of salt. (How else do lots of them stay so terrifyingly thin?) But once there is solid evidence and honesty, we are horrified, eager to blame and point fingers and shun. Come on.

  3. CarolGee

    I know this is a “dumb” question, but here goes: Do celebrity endorsements actually work to increase sales? Do ad agencies sometimes use this technique because they can’t come up with anything more creative? What does the data say?

  4. Irene

    Would it be too old-school to suggest that Nike’s Michael Jordan-Spike Lee spots changed how we look at the celebrity endorsement? It wasn’t hucksterism anymore, it was entertainment and Lee — who was not yet hugely famous but was hugely loved by film critics — lent the campaign artistic cachet. All of a sudden, every athlete wanted a campaign as long as it was funny. These spots are 20 years old which means a whole generation of people like Uma and Nelly grew up with stylish, entertaining ads starring celebrities. It’s all OK to them. Maybe their attitude has swayed older celebrities to get in on it too.

    Also: a few months ago, I read how an agent approached his reluctant band with the topic of selling songs for ringtones. He said to them, “If this is how your audience wants to enjoy your music, you have to respect that.” That’s a brilliant way to frame the “selling vs. sellout” debate. For agents at least.

    I’m done wildly surmising now.

  5. Grant

    Fouroborous: Glad to hear you have escaped the healthy and wholesome clause. Keep running! Grant

    Jessica, I agree. “In places we care not to think about, we NEED them on that wall.” Thanks, Grant

    CarolGee, Yes, I think they do usually make their money back. But then of course marketing lives in a noisy air space and its sometimes hard to know what caused what. Best, Grant

    Irene, great suggestion, great observation. That may very well be it. Brilliant. Thanks, Grant

  6. debbie

    Define irony: it was okay for Kate to look like she was taking heroin during her “heroin chic” days but it is not okay for her to actually take cocaine.


    So Grant, what do you think of Chanel and Burberry dumping Kate?

  7. Grant

    Debbie, Oh, brilliant. I wish I said that. Chanel and Burberry are hypocrites, too. Time for a boycott? Not just buying, but wearing. Someone’s got to stand up for these fabulously beautiful, incredibly wealthy people! Thanks, Grant

  8. Margo

    I find it so hard to understand why everyone was so shocked that Kate Moss does take drugs. I just took it for granted that she did and it was part of her lifestyle. It was surely her glamourous and ‘life on the edge’ atittude that made the likes of Burberry, H&M, Rimmel etc use her. However, i do see that these brands cannot stand by and let their spokesperson endorse drug taking, especially as Kate Moss is such huge role model for young girls.

    I would also like to add it really irritates me when these stars get caught doing drugs, drinking too much, fighting and in a PR stunt they are rushed off to rehab to convince the general public they are changed people.

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