Once upon a time, when the celebrity endorsement was born, so was the awareness that a brand entered into the relationship at its own risk. The potential upside was high: Unlike a model, who was effectively a blank slate onto which a brand projected itself, a celebrity was a vessel already filled with associations, be it glamour, masculinity, philanthropy. If cracks appeared in that facade, however, they could send shock waves to the products.
“In the past, when a celebrity was accused of something, almost anything, even before they went to trial, a luxury brand would distance itself,” said Robert Burke, the founder of a luxury consultancy. Luxury brands were notoriously averse to controversy, and any association that could upset consumers or tarnish the golden glow of the brand’s name.
But, said Lucie Greene, the founder of the forecasting and strategy company Light Years: “We’re also seeing some big celebrity bounce backs and redemptions. Almost to the point of being cyclical.” Think, for example, of Kourtney Kardashian’s Dolce & Gabbana-“hosted” wedding, which was another stage in that brand’s return after multiple offensive statements by the designers.
“The general public has gotten worn down by cancel culture and accusations, and brands are not as quick as they might have been to take a position,” Mr. Burke said. He and Ms. Greene believe this may be the beginning of a shift.
Johnny Depp’s Libel Case Against Amber Heard
In the courtroom. A defamation trial involving the formerly married actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard just concluded in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia. Here is what to know about the case:
Ms. Heard’s op-ed. Mr. Depp’s suit was filed in response to an op-ed Ms. Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Though she did not mention her former husband’s name, he and his lawyers have argued that she was clearly referring to their relationship.
The domestic abuse claims. In the 2020 trial, Ms. Heard accused her former husband of assaulting her first in 2013, after they began dating, and detailed other instances in which he slapped her, head-butted her and threw her to the ground. Mr. Depp has since accused her of punching him, kicking him and throwing objects at him.
The verdict. After a six-week trial, the jury found Mr. Depp was defamed by Ms. Heard in her op-ed, but also that she had been defamed by one of his lawyers. Mr. Depp was awarded $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages, but the judge capped the punitive damages total in accordance with legal limits for a total of $10.35 million. The jury awarded Ms. Heard $2 million in damages.
Reactions are no longer knee-jerk. That’s a good thing. But the silence, at least on the part of Dior, which did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment, seems less measured than calculated.
Dior may well be betting that despite the intense public interest in the Depp-Heard trial, consumers will be on to the next escapist distraction now that the verdict is in. That, as a company, Dior’s loyalty to its chosen celebrity, and the understanding that we are all fallible beings, will outweigh the sort of behavior Mr. Depp has already acknowledged. That upsetting Ms. Heard’s fans is less potentially damaging than upsetting his fans.