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Are celebrity Creative Directors the new secret weapon for brands to attain cultural credibility?

What do Molly-Mae Hague and Kendall Jenner have in common? The former has 6 million Instagram followers, the latter 187 million. They both, arguably, shot to fame through a reality TV show and went on to become social media influencers in their own right. And now, they have a new string to add to their bow: they are the new creative directors (CD) for Pretty Little Thing and FRWD, respectively.

Celebrity CDs aren’t a new thing. Last year, model Emily Ratajkowski joined face mask brand Loops as CD, model Cara Delevigne was also named co-owner and creative adviser of sex toy company Lora Dicarlo, Dakota Johnson for sexual wellness brand Maude and Jennifer Aniston for Vital Proteins. Going back further, Lady Gaga was CD for Polaroid back in the early 2010’s and Ashton Kutcher for telecoms startup Ooma. So why this sudden resurgence of the celebrity CD – and will we see others follow suit?

It’s a good move for some brands looking to drive a major spike in PR, tap into new audiences and establish cultural credibility amongst Gen Z– after all, these celebrities are influential figures who have amassed large follower bases and they know their audiences well enough to understand what appeals to them. Not only is it a good move for attention and awareness, it also plays into the trend or desire we’re seeing for talent and influencers to create more long-term, multi-layered partnerships rather than a simple one-time buy. However, it’s not effective or relevant for every brand or every talent.

There has to be an alignment on expectations for the partnership; clarity of goals and objectives is paramount – for both sides – to ensure success – in the same way it would be required for any brand or agency CD who has worked their way up to that level. Is the goal to drive hype and awareness? To establish design credibility? To reach new audiences? The approach and selection of partner for the job will vary depending on these objectives.

A celebrity CD can work wonders as part of a brand refresh for targeting younger audiences, especially for an accessible brand, but the same approach doesn’t always land for more luxury, heritage brands. Remember the controversial appointment of Lindsay Lohan as artistic director at Ungaro?

While Hague for Pretty Little Thing has certainly driven PR buzz and brand appeal amongst fast-fashion fans, her appointment doesn’t exactly deliver design credibility or enhance perceptions of quality and craftsmanship. There has already been speculation and curiosity from fans of what exactly the job entails, considering the -reported – seven figure pay cheque. Similar speculation has followed the appointment of Kendall Jenner at FRWD with many on Twitter questioning if her Instagram following makes her equipped for such a lofty title as Creative Director. Experience aside, Jenner’s new role has already got both the press and the public talking, so she’s doing something right.

As with any brand x talent partnership, casting is key – a celebrity can bring broad awareness, desirability and cultural caché amongst some audiences but may lack the necessary skills for the actual day job. That’s not to say the latest string of CDs don’t have those skills – only time will tell. Sometimes a press-facing CD ticks the right boxes but other times it’s best to stick to the experts.

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