Claire Beale: Dior revives the celebrity blockbuster

On Advertising

Four of Hollywood’s most beautiful and iconic women star in a glossy new ad campaign for Christian Dior’s luxury fragrance, J’adore. It’s the usual fashion house formula, all fabulous frocks and flawless faces. But the interesting thing is that three of the actresses died decades before J’adore was even a twinkle up the perfumier’s nose.

Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly line up alongside Charlize Theron for the blockbuster campaign. Reviving big-name stars who have long since gone is nothing new in ads. Remember Marilyn with Griff Rhys Jones for Holsten Pils, Steve McQueen driving a Ford Puma and Gene Kelly singing in the rain for Volkswagen? Technology began to make posthumous appearances affordable and convincing.

Compared to live celebs, dead ones are wonderfully reliable brand ambassadors. Their global fame and cache is set, and they’re not going to suddenly be unmasked as a lovecheat or drug addict. And, compared to today’s Hollywood stars, dead ones are rather cheaper.

Then the backlash. Consumers started asking if it was appropriate for Hollywood legends to be used to sell stuff that, had they been around to be asked, they’d probably never have endorsed. A clever advertising technique began to lose effectiveness. So why has Dior resurrected the idea? Well, we haven't seen many dead stars in ads lately, so there’s surprise value. And digital technology has made the technique even more seamless. So, today’s Hollywood greats would do well to remember Fred Astaire in a Dirt Devil ad. As Homer Simpson said: “Celebrities need to realise that the public owns you for life!

And after you’re dead you’ll all be in commercials dancing with vacuum cleaners.”

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

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