Audrey Hepburn advertise Galaxy chocolate bars? Over her dead body!
Audrey Hepburn has come back to life to flog chocolate. She’s not the first posthumous saleswoman, reports Simon Usborne
A fictional, yellow celebrity perhaps best summed up the weird lot of the famous dead person. “You celebrities need to realise that the public owns you for life,” Homer Simpson said. “And after you’re dead, you’ll all be in commercials dancing with vacuum cleaners.”
Simpson was referring to Fred Astaire (d.1987) whose controversial, computer-assisted number with a Dirt Devil in 1997 was authorised by his widow but led his daughter to say she was “ saddened that after his wonderful career he was sold to the devil”.
Now Audrey Hepburn has become the latest face to be disinterred for promotional purposes, returning to the screen 20 years after her death to advertise a chocolate bar.
A minute-long spot for Galaxy, revealed during ITV1’s Mr Selfridge, places a young Hepburn on a bus in traffic on the Amalfi Coast in the 1950s. A Galaxy bar tempts her from her handbag. She makes eyes with a hot man in an open-top, swiftly swapping vehicles before tucking in as they speed away.
This time, Hepburn’s sons, who control her estate, authorised the use of her image, for which they will have received a fee. Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti say their mother would be “proud” of her new role, adding in a press release that she “often spoke about her love of chocolate and how it lifted her spirit”.
But, as the words of the younger Astaire show, the image rights and posthumous fortunes of the departed can lay legal and ethical minefields for brands, and raise the morbid question: who owns dead people?
Last year, a Los Angeles judge ruled it was legal for General Motors to use the image of Albert Einstein’s face planted on top of the rippling torso of a model bearing an e=mc² tattoo. The scientist’s estate had sued but lost because, the judge said, the right of expression trumped an estate’s right to control an image more than 50 years after a death.
British law affords no such rights at any time. Rules vary in the US but are perhaps tightest in California, home of Hollywood’s great graveyard. Trade there in the images of the dead is hugely lucrative. CMG Worldwide represents many estates, including Marilyn Monroe’s. She reportedly earned £4m in one year of Mercedes Benz ads.
Forbes, meanwhile, keeps a dead-star rich list: Elizabeth Taylor was chief among 13 names last year who had earned a combined £350m during the previous 12 months.
Beyond the law, public taste can influence the use of and reaction to dead celebs in ads, particularly now technology makes it possible effectively to colour in ghosts. Nike faced criticism for trying to rescue the Tiger Woods affair(s) by using the voice of his late father in an ad in 2010. Critics called it “creepy”, a feeling more nobly exploited in 2007 when Bob Monkhouse promoted prostate cancer awareness beside his own grave three years after the disease had killed him.
If there is a risk that such revivals creep out an audience, or harm a celebrity’s image by association with cleaning equipment or the confectionary aisle, for a brand there is at least the reasonable certainty your star will not do something to harm yours.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding