Walking Billboards

When we first hear the term “product placement” our minds invariably flash to ill-disguised attempts by companies to sling their brands into popular television shows and movies. The movie Transformers 3 was bashed for looking like one giant advertisement for a litany of companies including Mercedes, Nokia, and Apple.

But what about the infamous red carpet? As stars twirl their way down these crimson lanes, they will all face one important question: Who are you wearing? By having a star tout your brand, it raises its stock tenfold. For instance, in 1998, Kim Basinger arrived at the Oscars in an Escada gown raising the then relatively unknown German fashion house’s profile to an international status. Jewelry also has a big stake in the red carpet industry. Jeweler Harry Winston can usually be found dripping off of no less than 20 celebrities, but when rival brand Chopard wanted a part of the red carpet action they offered celebrities Hilary Swank and Charlize Theron a six-figure paycheck to wear a pair of their earrings.

Off the red carpet, celebrities are still walking billboards for fashion companies. Take a look at the Australian footwear brand UGG. After the tabloids started picking up shots of Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson flouncing around town in their boots, sales went through the roof. At this point, almost everyone either has a pair of UGGs or knows at least two people who do. And in this vein, when The Today Show featured a segment about Madonna’s infatuation with designer Steve Madden’s Iglou boots, the company racked in 240 orders for the boots in a grand total of 13 minutes giving the company a whopping $30,000 in profit. 

So what does this all mean? Must our favorite celebs only be seen as walking product placements? Do they not have any taste of their own? Of course, they do. But the next time you run out and buy a pair of shoes because Kim Kardashian was wearing them at her birthday party, think how you might be doing exactly what their marketers intended.

-Jessica Kingman, Alaethea Hensley, and Lauren Phelps

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2 thoughts on “Walking Billboards

  1. This post was rather interesting! Personally, I never really think about the product placement that goes on with celebrities. It feels as if it is “normal” to use product placement among celebrities. I think that if you are a celebrity being a walking product placement is part of the job; in movies they try to sell themselves to the public, in real life they try to sell other brands. It’s a great marketing strategy for companies to either put their name “out there” or help reinforce it. As if celebrities don’t get enough endorsements and attention, they sometimes even get free products if they help pitch something that causes popular consumer interest. 🙂

  2. I fall victim to this way too often. Not necessarily about certain brands, but definitely about certain trends. It’s a very smart move for a brand or company to have celebrity endorsements, because in our society at this moment, celebrities are very influential to the younger generations and they are very impressionable. People see celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who is gorgeous, and they want to be just like her. Even if shes not necessarily endorsing a brand, if she tells her fans what kind of makeup she is wearing, they go out and buy it because they think it will help them look like her. Again, its very smart of these companies to do it and I’m sure they bring more money in then what they put out by paying celebrities. Especially for red carpet events, where they are specifically asked what they are wearing. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing for consumers. I personally don’t care what prompts me to buy a certain product or brand so long as that product or brand is actually good.

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