Kering to appoint ‘brand safety’ boss; decision comes after Balenciaga saw dented sales following ad backlash

French luxury group Kering is creating a position at the group level to oversee “brand safety” after a backlash from a Balenciaga advertising campaign dented sales in the final weeks of 2022.

A series of high-profile public relations embarrassments, including the split between Adidas and rapper and fashion designer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he made antisemitic remarks online, has piled pressure on companies to protect their brands.

Balenciaga drew fire last year after an advertising campaign featured imagery of children that critics said was disturbing and inappropriate, forcing Kering executives, including Balenciaga’s creative director and CEO to apologise. Chairman and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said there had been “errors of judgment” and the advertisements had immediately been withdrawn.”We are going to take extra steps,” he told journalists at a presentation of the group’s annual results.

The new “brand safety” chief would review major advertising campaigns, challenge them and consider how they might be perceived and criticised, he said. The group will also hire an external agency to help oversee marketing and advertising. Balenciaga restarted ad campaigns in the United States and Europe at the end of January.

Pinault said the outcry over the withdrawn campaign had “a big impact” on Balenciaga sales in Britain, the Middle East and the United States in late November and December.”Balenciaga has a lot of work to do to restore its image in the United States,” he said.

The label’s upcoming fashion show by creative director Demna Gvasalia, known as Demna, is scheduled for March 5 in Paris and will serve as a reset, Pinault said, with the event more focused on the clothing and “less theatrical”.

Sportswear maker Adidas earlier this month showed how costly the breakup with Ye could become when it said it could plunge to a loss in 2023 as it may have to write off the whole inventory of the designer’s Yeezy brand.

A 2018 advertising campaign by Dolce & Gabbana in China showing models struggling to eat typical Italian food with chopsticks was decried as racist by local celebrities and social media, leading to the brand being removed from Chinese e-commerce.

The same year, a display in a Prada store in Manhattan featuring items with “Blackface” imagery provoked an uproar, prompting the company to hire a diversity officer and put staff through racial equity training. 

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