In 2008, Sharon Stone, then a brand ambassador for the Dior Capture skin-care line, caused a scandal in China with remarks she made at the Cannes Film Festival suggesting that a deadly earthquake in Sichuan Province was “karma” for the country’s mistreatment of Tibet. Before you could say “J’adore,” Dior had pulled her ads from China and issued an official apology in her name.
In 2005, when photographs of Kate Moss published in The Daily Mail seemed to show her snorting cocaine, she was dropped from planned ad campaigns by Chanel, Burberry and H&M.
And in 2009, when Tiger Woods admitted to numerous extramarital affairs, his contracts with Tag Heuer and Procter & Gamble were curtailed.
Yet after weeks of Johnny Depp, the face of Dior’s Sauvage men’s scent since 2015, in court for his defamation case against his former wife Amber Heard, and her countersuit — a case in which both sides were exposed as deeply flawed — Dior continued to stand, albeit silently, by its man. And his ads.
Just as it did in 2020, when Mr. Depp sued The Sun newspaper for calling him a “wife beater,” and lost, with the British judge stating that he believed multiple alleged violent incidents had occurred and that Mr. Depp had put Ms. Heard “in fear of her life.” This time, the jury found that both Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard had been defamed, though Mr. Depp was awarded more money.
Dior’s silence comes despite the fact that the year before that trial, Sauvage itself was at the center of a controversy over an ad campaign that featured Mr. Depp wandering lonesome on the plains, as somewhere nearby a Native American performed a tribal dance (and a product name that is awfully close to a historic racial slur appeared). After two weeks of a public outcry, the commercial was taken off the air.
What gives? How is it that this time, when faced with the ad — on Dior’s website — featuring Mr. Depp’s smoldering self strumming his electric guitar in the desert and intoning, “In the wilderness, fearless and human, Sauvage,” there have been no particular protests? No calls to sign a petition boycotting the scent on change.org? That even the fashion watchdog Diet Prada has yet to weigh in on the Depp-Dior relationship?
Something has fundamentally changed. And it may say as much about our tolerance for bad behavior and our relationship to celebrity (and cancel) culture as about the marketing model of luxury brands.