Naughty Can Still Pay Nicely

Scandalous Celebs Get Endorsements -- Overseas

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The term "movie jail" is taking on an entirely different meaning for Hollywood and for Madison Avenue.
Lindsey Lohan managed to escape a harsh jail sentence, but her film career might be on hold for a while.
Lindsey Lohan managed to escape a harsh jail sentence, but her film career might be on hold for a while. Credit: Infusla

Usually a term of derision for a director whose last picture bombed, "movie jail" has become the literal provenance of celebs. Paris Hilton was locked up; Nicole Ritchie's knocked up. After two drunken-driving arrests in the past four months, Lindsay Lohan last week reached a cushy misdemeanor plea deal that will put her in jail for just 24 hours, a whopping 22 hours longer than Ms. Ritchie's 84-minute stint in L.A. county jail. Britney Spears drifts in and out of the Promises rehab facility, and though so far she's been proved guilty of nothing more than bad taste in matters follicular and sartorial, most stories about her are nonetheless filed under the heading "Train Wrecks" at

Never mind caring for Sean Preston; can a "Britney" be trusted with your brand? Will Madison Avenue "always have Paris"?

The answers might surprise you.

'Problem children'
"It's hurting me here," said Ryan Schinman, president of New York-based Platinum Rye, referring to the domestic business of the world's top provider of celebrity talent and music licensing for Fortune 500 companies and ad agencies. "There's less of a demand for, let us say, the 'problem children' than there's ever been. You schedule a shoot, and they're in jail. Or they can't leave the house."

But that's not to say Mr. Schinman isn't doing brisk business with coterie of enfants terrible overseas. Paris Hilton recently became the spokesmodel for Italy's Damiani jewelry -- a deal Mr. Schinman confirms as true, but declined to discuss, citing rigorous confidentiality agreements for all his celeb clients. He also notes a recent deal that put supermodel Naomi Campbell, who in January pleaded guilty to assaulting her maid with a cellphone, into a rich new endorsement pact in Russia.

"They don't get Perez Hilton over in Japan," laughed Mr. Schinman. "And while we're just getting used to the TMZs and US Weeklys, the tabloids in Britain have been that way since ever."

Blowing off embarrassments
After losing most of her contracts after being photographed allegedly sniffing rails of cocaine, Kate Moss rebounded to earn $9 million last year (mainly for brands running European campaigns), making her the second-highest paid model on the planet.

But in the States, William Morris Agency's co-head of celebrity endorsements, Brian Dubin, predicts the wave of celeb scandals and their substantial downside "will affect the type of personality who gets to endorse or build a celebrity brand."

It appears that it already has -- at least at Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Brand Sense Partners, which last August formed a strategic partnership with William Morris. Its president, Ramez Toubassy, said the raft of celeb bad behavior isn't just affecting who'll do the endorsing; it's also affecting what kinds of products are increasingly available for endorsement in America.

Said Mr.Toubassy, "No question, given what's been happening, we're becoming very careful about who we sign. We're looking for stable careers, stable reputations."

Safer endorsements
What's more, he says newly signed Brand Sense clients, such as Halle Berry and Sheryl Crow, are being used to launch less-racy products. "We're picking mid-American denim," said Mr. Toubassy of his plans for Ms. Crow, who'll soon launch a moderately-priced clothing line. "Mom and children's clothing. Maternity wear. The real opportunities are in categories that aren't saturated."
Britney Spears' scents sell despite image woes.
Britney Spears' scents sell despite image woes.

The shift in growth, experts believe, is as much literal as it is metaphorical.

According to Marshall Cohen, a retail analyst at NPD Group who specializes in following celebrity-branded products, "We're going to move from the bedroom to 'bathroom and kitchen.'"

Smells good
Meanwhile, for those stars who've managed to avoid incarceration, if not rehab, one stalwart category remains widely available: fragrances.

Say what you will about Ms. Spears, but she continues to sell perfume. Her "Curious" and "Fantasy" colognes distributed by Elizabeth Arden have generated over $450 million in sales. Mr. Toubassy says Arden will launch a third, as-yet-unnamed fragrance early next year, noting that over the past 24 months, Ms. Spears' scents have sold more than $300 million globally.

Regardless of the aroma of scandal that clings to Ms. Spears, Mr. Toubassy explains, "Once it's in use, no one knows what perfume you're wearing."
Tale of the tape
DOB July 2, 1986 Sept. 28, 1987
DISNEY BREAKOUT "The Parent Trap" (1998) "Lizzie Maguire" on Disney Channel, (2001-2004)
ATTORNEY ON SPEED DIAL: Blair Berk of Tarlow & Berk, the DUI dynamo best known for handling the drunken-driving cases of Mel Gibson, Tracy Morgan and Queen Latifah. Robert Thorne of the Robert Thorne Organization, whose last job was building the Olsen twins' Dualstar Entertainment into a global brand management company.
BRANDS SHE COMMANDS: None. (However, Kathleen Brown of Alcohol Monitoring Systems said that ever since Ms. Lohan was photographed wearing its monitoring bracelet, "we've gotten a lot more calls.") Stuff by Duff clothes and accessories for juniors available at Target, Wal-Mart in U.S. and exclusive to Zeller's in Canada. DIY Stuff By Duff clothing patterns launched at Michael's craft stores Aug. 8. Branded optical frames launching soon at Wal-Mart.
SCENT OF A WOMAN: Smelling salts. "With Love ... Hilary Duff" by Elizabeth Arden. New fragrance coming in fall.
ENDORSEMENTS: Prada's Miu Miu line (spring 2007), Jill Stuart (fall 2007). Candies shoes, Hershey's Ice Breakers mints (2008).
2007 BOX OFFICE: Sony's "I Know Who Killed Me" (worldwide gross: $7 million in August), Universal's "Georgia Rule" ($18 million, released in May). No films released. Three pending: "War, Inc." with John Cusack, Lionsgate's animated "Foodfight!" and indie "Safety Glass" in preproduction.
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