OPINION: Celebrity endorsement & false advertising

HOTmilk director Lisa Ebbing discusses how celebrity endorsement can be false advertising.

I am the first to admit that having paparazzi shots of your brand photographed on a red hot celebrity is a major coup. Let’s face it, these shots drive a whole industry.

What I find somewhat unethical, is the claims made by some companies that celebrities are endorsing their brands – and hence driving sales – when in fact they have only been sent product and then usually only to their publicist.

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We do rely on the celebrities we send product to, to formally acknowledge receipt and use of it. Then, and only then, do we share this information to our clients and their customers, and – I am completely honest here, when I say – we shout that really loud!
In its most literal sense, and that is what I feel needs to be clarified here, the term ‘endorsement’ needs a signature or qualifying comment.

This does not cover sending product to an address where a celebrity might receive it, if their publicist decides to pass it on. The correct procedure when asking a celebrity to lend you their might, to add some leverage commercially to your product, is to seek written approval from them.

I am proud to say we have always gone down this route when sending HOTmilk lingerie to pregnant celebrities. And, I am delighted that because we have stuck to ‘the rules,’ we have more often than not received a thank you and a note from them to say they are loving the product, wearing it and are possibly also recommending it.

When we first approach a celebrity via their publicist regarding sending product and we receive information on the celebrity’s size, we also receive a message from the publicist along the lines of the following: “Please be advised that our acceptance of the products supplied is by no means an official endorsement of the products supplied and neither does it allow for you or your clients to use or infringe any of the IP rights for xxxx.

“Obviously, this does not apply to instances where xxxx may be photographed in public areas using the product.”

Now, this is standard procedure and these notes or responses are generic and passed to all companies. My point being, are those companies who make claims celebrities are wearing their brand not guilty of false advertising? In a market which is apparently trying to clean up this type of issue, I feel these companies should be held accountable. The repercussions, I predict, are that we will soon all find securing credible celebrity endorsement that much harder, as celebrities strive to protect their own IP and also begin to demand more.

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