When H&M this year hired British model Kate Moss to promote a new collection from designer Stella McCartney, it hoped her edgy image would attract young women who don't normally associate the clothing store chain with higher fashion.
But a week after a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, published photographs of the supermodel taking what the newspaper said was cocaine, H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB of Sweden said it was scrapping the campaign because Moss's behavior was inconsistent with its anti-drug stance.
The case demonstrates the risk companies take in mounting ad campaigns around a single celebrity: If that celebrity falls from grace, the advertiser can be left in the lurch. McDonald's Corp., for instance, did not renew a deal with basketball star Kobe Bryant in 2003 and Nutella stopped using him to promote its hazelnut spread when he was charged with sexual assault; the charges against Bryant later were dropped.
Initially, H&M stuck by the 31-year-old Moss. On Saturday, the company told the Associated Press that Moss had acknowledged taking drugs and apologized for breaking a contractual obligation to be "healthy, wholesome and sound." H&M was giving her a "second chance," a spokeswoman said, and would continue to use her in its ads.
"That was the first thought before we had time to evaluate the situation," H&M spokeswoman Liv Asarnoj said yesterday. "There should be no doubt" that the retailer is "strongly against drugs," she said.
A spokeswoman for Moss's London agency, Storm Models, wrote in an e-mail: "We can confirm that Kate Moss never makes public comments in reaction to media speculation or allegations about her private or business life."
H&M declined to comment on how much it paid Moss or planned to spend on the advertising campaign. One London publicist estimated Moss's contract with H&M was valued at $1 million.
H&M said it would re-shoot the ad campaign at a "marginal" cost. The campaign was scheduled to appear in all 22 countries where the company has stores, including the United States and most of Europe. Moss features in advertisements for several other well-known brands, including Burberry, Christian Dior and Chanel; they all declined to comment.
H&M's hiring of Moss to appear in promotions for a line of clothes designed by Stella McCartney, daughter of the musician Paul McCartney, was partly an effort to boost H&M's image. McCartney's label is scheduled to go on sale Nov. 10 in its 1,100 stores. Last year, H&M released a similar collection by Karl Lagerfeld.
Almost since she started modeling at age 14, Moss has been the center of controversy. Her breakthrough contract with Calvin Klein in the early '90s pioneered the ultra-slim "waif" look and was criticized by some for promoting an unhealthy body image. She also has been a tabloid staple, for her lifestyle and her boyfriends.
Until now, that lifestyle has made her attractive to advertisers seeking a combination of beauty and street credibility. "Kate Moss has always been a fairly good bet [for advertisers] because she was edgy but was an incredibly responsible and professional person," said Grant Duncan, the British chief executive of ad agency Publicis. "She was at the coolest parties at 3 a.m., but was always on the right side of public approval."
He added that celebrities often are extremely effective at promoting a brand. Still, they also carry the danger "like you have with Kate Moss -- they go and do something stupid," he said.