Marilyn Monroe’s Star Still Shines in Ad Campaigns

August 6th, 2013

FOR an advertising campaign that aims to appeal to women from 18 to 25, Sexy Hair, the hair care brand, did not hire a celebrity spokeswoman within that age bracket like Selena Gomez or Emma Watson. Rather, the brand is featuring an actress who, had she not died in 1962, would be 87 today: Marilyn Monroe.

A new campaign — with the slogan “Styles change. Sexy is forever.” — features photos of Monroe with quotations from her. “If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere,” she says in one ad. In another, “In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hairdo.”

The campaign, which is by Yard in New York, will be introduced on Aug. 22 and will appear in magazines including Cosmopolitan, InStyle and Allure, and on billboards and online. Sexy Hair, which was introduced in 1999, is available primarily in salons, and before this campaign had been advertised primarily in trade publications.

Diamonds may be, as Monroe sang in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” a girl’s best friend, but these days marketers are thinking of her in the friendliest of terms, too.

In March, Macy’s introduced its Marilyn Monroe collection, a clothing line that, according to the department store chain, is meant to appeal primarily to teenagers and young women from 13 to 22.

Also introduced in March was Three Olives Marilyn Monroe Strawberry Vodka, with a label featuring the classic image of the star standing over a subway grate, her pleated white dress billowing.

A line of Marilyn Monroe shoes will be introduced by the Will Rich brand in September.

Ruth Bernstein, chief strategy officer at Yard, said that it was integral to the campaign for Sexy Hair to include Monroe’s quotations, which are from published interviews.

“We wanted to bring out not only Marilyn’s timeless glamour but also her smarts and wit,” Ms. Bernstein said. “We are understanding her more and more as a trailblazer.”

According to Q Scores, which tracks the popularity of living and deceased celebrities, 96 percent of respondents know who Monroe is and, among them, 25 percent rate her as one of their favorite celebrities. That means she has what the company calls a Q Score of 25.

While awareness of Monroe is near the top of the 147 deceased celebrities the company tracks, her Q Score is only slightly above the average, which is 23.

At the top of the list is Lucille Ball, with a 97 percent awareness level and a 53 Q Score, followed by John Wayne, with a 96 percent awareness level and 46 Q Score, and Bob Hope, with a 94 percent awareness level and 46 Q Score.

Monroe, whose estate was acquired by the Authentic Brands Group in 2010, has a significant presence on social media, with more than 7.3 million followers on her official Facebook page and more than 153,000 followers on Twitter.

The Facebook page, which is administered by Authentic Brands, frequently promotes license holders, like a Marilyn Monroe beach towel line at Bed Bath & Beyond, the Macy’s clothing collection, and the Marilyn Monroe Caf?, which opened in 2012 in Oakville, Ontario, with the aim of duplicating the concept with franchisees.

When it comes to endorsement deals involving dead celebrities, or “delebs,” a portmanteau word popular with marketers, brands weigh factors similar to those they consider regarding the living.

“It has to be a good fit for both the brand and the deceased celebrity, as it does with living celebrities,” said Lisa Soboslai, a senior director at Corbis Entertainment who manages its GreenLight division. Along with representing the estates of figures like Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, Steve McQueen and Charlie Chaplin, GreenLight brokers deals between brands and estates it does not represent.

GreenLight has worked with Mazda, the automotive brand, to feature Thomas Edison in a television commercial, with BMW to feature Albert Einstein in a commercial and with Wells Fargo to feature Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Advertisers with limited budgets can find deceased celebrities appealing.

“It’s a little more cost-effective, since even a Steve McQueen or a James Dean is going to be less expensive than an A-list celebrity,” Ms. Soboslai said.

And more predictable.

“You know she’s not going to be stumbling down on the set or getting arrested,” said Jennifer Weiderman, vice president for marketing and education at Sexy Hair, referring to using Monroe rather than a living celebrity. “That’s not the reason we chose her, which is because she’s sexy, smart, sassy and iconic — but it’s important.”

Nick Woodhouse, the president of Authentic Brands, says he turns down many pitches for deals to use Monroe.

“I’ve had requests for painkillers,” Mr. Woodhouse said. He said he considered such requests in poor taste because a barbiturate overdose was ruled the cause of Monroe’s death.

Because she was what Mr. Woodhouse called “the original sex symbol,” he says it is understandable that he fields proposals from manufacturers of products of a sexual nature, but he rejects those, too — at least for now.

“It’s not like that’s a taboo subject, and I’m not ruling it out,” he said. “But it just doesn’t work for us at this time.”

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