So, Brooklyn Beckham shot the latest Burberry fragrance campaign. This is a move that was bound to cause a stir. Whilst some point to Beckham as a shoo-in for the role, thanks to his mother’s fashion prowess, his younger brother’s history fronting campaigns for the brand and his supposed affinity for photography, many have derided the decision for its unashamed nepotism and disregard for other, more qualified, experienced professionals.
Of course, Beckham wasn’t chosen for his skill. He hasn’t spent years honing and studying his craft and he hasn’t paid his dues the way the majority do, by testing, assisting and testing some more. In their article anticipating the shoot, the Telegraph noted: “Anyone who follows Brooklyn on Instagram will know that he is a keen photographer…” but an Instagram account does not a photographer make, so what’s the deal? The deal is, he’s a Beckham and a teen heart-throb with an Instagram following that currently stands at 5.9 million. Burberry aren’t buying into his talent, they’re buying into his name and the audience that comes with it. It’s an increasingly common marketing ploy in the fashion industry: inviting celebrities in under the guise of a ‘creative’ role in order to piggyback off their social media reach.
Perfume is an attainable entry level purchase. It allows the buyer to own a slice of a high-end brand on a low-end budget. It was a savvy move, then, on Burberry’s part to bring Beckham in on a fragrance campaign rather than, say, ready-to-wear. His predominantly young, female audience is exactly the type of customer they seek to target. Perhaps they’re just starting to earn their own money, or beginning to develop a more sophisticated taste. Brands such as Burberry are aspirational yet, on the whole, out of reach. So how do they buy into the name? They grab a bottle of the latest fragrance. And if Brooklyn Beckham has been endorsing that fragrance since day one then all the better and all the more desirable.
There’s no denying that it’s a clever move but the anger and dismay trained professionals have aired at the decision to choose a name over talent is not to be overlooked. We’re living in a time when creativity is shamefully undervalued, and social media hierarchy and a recognisable name are king.
Why champion a young photographer who has dedicated years to creating a reputation when Brooklyn Beckham can create an industry-wide buzz with a single Instagram post? Why take a risk on an up and coming designer when Kylie and Kendall could ‘design’ one for you that will sell out in seconds?
The short term impact of favouring names over talent is a little outrage and a lot of sales. The long term impact is a stagnating creative scene whereby we lose our brightest and best because a career in their chosen field is unsustainable and simply nonviable. We get the culture we deserve and if celebrity and commerce continues to trump creativity, ours will falter to the point of no return.