Kate Moss's live-on-the-edge lifestyle was part of her allure to the fashion marketers that spend around $9 million a year to have her as the face of their brands. But after a photo broadcast that drug-tinged lifestyle to the public in black-and-white those marketers have suddenly changed their attitude.
"It is a carefully balanced line: Companies wanted [Kate] as a party girl, not someone hosting Girl Scout dinners," said Mark Stevens, CEO of global image consultant MSCO and author of "Your Marketing Sucks." But, he said, actual pictures of Ms. Moss with cocaine turned her from a "mysterious party girl into a cheap drug user," something he noted is far harder to harness as cool.
The full-page pictures in Britain's Daily Mirror of Ms. Moss fully engaged in a lifestyle she has long been rumored to live, kicked off a furor among the many marketers who use her in their ad campaigns. Retailer H&M was the first to say it was being forced by consumer reaction to distance itself from the supermodel, despite initial plans to forgive and forget.
Also compelled to present an anti-drug stance, luxury marketers Burberry and H. Stern announced plans to drop Ms. Moss as quickly as their media schedules would allow. Chanel announced its plan not to renew her contract after it expired in October, though, in the way of many marketers caught in such situations, it did not expressly link the cancellation to the scandal.
"I find it interesting how quickly celebrities allegedly in trouble are abandoned," said Ken Sunshine, president of his eponymous public relations firm. "Nobody runs to the hills faster than lily-livered advertisers."
Sam Shahid, creative director of fashion ad agency Shahid & Co., argued that Ms. Moss's behavior is certainly "nothing new" in the fashion world and certainly couldn't have surprised the marketers who "hired her, love her and for whom she does a great job selling products."
The decision was a wrenching one, though, for many marketers for a host of reasons including the hit to both budgets and schedules when dropping an already-developed campaign. Coty Beauty's Rimmel London brand-sold initially in Wal-Mart Stores when it crossed the ocean from the U.K. to the U.S. and since expanded to equally mainstream outlets-was waffling on whether to keep its contract with Ms. Moss late in the week.
"I get e-mails [from JWT, London, which handles the Rimmel ads and others involved] every two minutes and it appears from the latest thing I'm seeing that we may well be staying with her," said Rick Goldberg, VP-cosmetics, Coty Beauty U.S.
Mr. Goldberg noted that while Rimmel execs found the front-page photo in the Mirror "shocking," he said Ms. Moss has done a lot of great work in TV and print ads since 2001 not as a spokesperson (he is quick to point out she is only photographed and has no speaking role), but as a part of "a very stylish, very individualistic representation of London today, which is what the brand is all about."
Coty's official statement last week offered support for Ms. Moss following her apology and announcement that she would take steps to resolve her problems and said only that it would continue to "review its relationship" with her.
Neil Kraft, president of KraftWorks, noted that for most fashion companies, the earliest that dropping Ms. Moss could affect them would be December, since magazine-media schedules are already closed through November. That leaves them plenty of room to ready a new effort in time for spring. But Rimmel, as a year-round marketer, he said, "probably has more to lose."