Stars Ask for Payment to Wear Oscar Jewels, Dresses

February 26, 2004

Stars Ask for Payment to Wear Oscar Jewels, Dresses

Hollywood is buzzing with stories of actresses demanding payments to consider wearing jewels or dresses by jewelry brands or apparel designers to the Academy Awards on Feb. 29, Women's Wear Daily reports today. The story reports rumors that some jewelry brands are paying six figures to secure a place on a star. WWD is careful to point out, however, that not all brands are accommodating such requests and some refuse to do so. In related news, the Wall Street Journal reports today that consumers don't need to be stars to approach their jewelers for loaners for formal events locally.

The issue of paid celebrity placements is part of a larger advertising strategy of paid placement of products in various media, such as on television shows or through other nontraditional routes. In many cases, audiences are not clear whether a company sponsored the placement or the star and set designers simply picked the products because they liked them. There have even been paid advertiser efforts over the past few years to place "beautiful people" anonymously in bars so they can order certain branded drinks or cigarettes to increase the buzz about them, for example.

The paid placement of awards shows dresses and jewels is just the newest response to the same marketing forces, as brands work overtime to develop celebrity cachet for their products. Stylists, stars' agents, designers and jewelers interviewed in the article expressed a gamut of opinons about the practice. While many stars earn money endorsing products in traditional print ads without a problem, some draw the line at wearing or using products if it's not clear they're being paid to do so.

Big jewelry houses expressed their opinions to WWD. Carol Brodie Gelles of Harry Winston says "the spirit and the process of Oscar dressing have changed enormously. Celebrities and stylists are kids in a candy store with unlimited goodies available. That's great if you pick a Tootsie Roll because it's your favorite. But if you pick the candy corn because it comes with $100, that's another story. We may soon have to rethink how we play this game."

H. Stern's Andrea Hansen says it's the nature of the business beast. "Branding through red-carpet placement is important to retail. When you think about it as a business, it's inevitable that some people will try to pay for placement, whether to the stylist or the star. But if [viewers] start wondering too much, I might as well not come here."

Another "well-placed" but unnamed jewelry executive had this to say: "Like everyone else, I've heard rumors of an actress' managers making a five- or six-figure deal to guarantee she wear certain jewelry. I say more power to them."

Bringing It to the Local Level
How does all this affect jewelers who don't supply awards show stars? An article in the Feb. 26 WSJ discussed the common practice of jewelers loaning pieces to good clients to wear at formal events. All the jewelers interviewed made clear that these are true loans, with no "endorsement" payments and no pressure fo the client to buy the jewel, either.

But the motivation for loaning jewels to prominent locals is the same as that which leads big jewelry houses to loan to the stars, say the jewelers interviewed. Fellow guests at formal events often ask where the socialite got her necklace and the jeweler's shop gets a mention. Some loaned items do get purchased, the jewelers also pointed out, such as the high-end watch one jeweler loaned to a customer while his was being repaired. The customer lusted after the loaner watch for years and ended up buying it after getting used to having it on his wrist.

Among the negatives jewelers mentioned: if you loan a really distinctive or one-of-a-kind piece, it may keep it from selling if it's seen on one or more prominent people who travel in the same social circles. Damage or loss is another risk, though Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. will begin providing $10,000 in extra coverage for such loans starting this spring, according to the company.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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