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