Though Marilyn Monroe passed away in 1962, she still has an advantage over today’s starlets like Miley Cyrus when it comes to her career. Yes, even postmortem. And we use Cyrus as an example because everyone is still talking about her weird, cringe-worthy, twerk-tastic VMA performance.
Cyrus’ unexpected performance – similar to a Lindsay Lohan DUI, an Amanda Bynes mental breakdown, a Paula Deen racial slur, or a Tiger Woods sex scandal – are all risks that a corporate advertiser can’t plan for when they enlist a star as a spokesperson or as the face of a brand.
A star like Monroe, on the other hand, cannot draw any of these headlines, and is a safer bet for a company when major money is on the line. And that’s one reason why Monroe is still big business. At least that’s the perspective of Jamie Salter, Chairman and CEO of Authentic Brands Group, which owns the rights to Monroe’s estate including the late actress’s name, likeness, dimple and lips. (Salter also managed the Bob Marley estate in the past).
In August, Monroe began appearing in a series of new ads for Sexy Hair. The ads aim to appeal to women 18 to 25 and include photos of Monroe with quotes from the late star such as, “In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hairdo.”
That’s not all. In March, Macy’s debuted a Marilyn Monroe clothing line for teens and young women. Three Olives introduced a Marilyn Monroe Strawberry Vodka the same month, with the iconic image of Monroe standing over a subway grate in her white dress on the label.
Salter says Monroe has worked with Christian Dior and MAC Cosmetics, and has been tapped to appear in the ads for another famous fragrance company debuting in October (Salter won’t say which one, but we can recall Monroe famously saying she slept in Chanel No. 5).
So why does an actress who has been living only in memories for more than 50 years sell products? Check out the video above to find out.
Salter is coy when it comes to how much it costs to buy an estate like Monroe’s, but he says they paid “many millions” for it, and the business has grown to four times the price they purchased it for. The Financial Times cites "people close to the deal" who say Authentic Brands paid about $30 million.
When Monroe is up for a “job,” Salter says they ask for the going rate of what a living actor like Sarah Jessica Parker or Brad Pitt would get.
And when it comes to the “gold standard” of the posthumous celebrity business, Salter points to Michael Jackson, who is making more money dead than alive.
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