Lauren Conrad: Reality TV as a Business Model
The star of Laguna Beach and The Hills and now a fashion designer plans a reality show to track her efforts to become so successful that she no longer needs TV!
She's coming off a successful campaign as the exclusive spokesperson for Avon's Mark cosmetics. Since 2006 she has had endorsement deals with toy company Hasbro, leather goods maker Linea Pelle, and AT&T. Her fashion line for Kohl's, LC Lauren Conrad, has been a "consistent top performer in our women's category," says Donald A. Brennan, a senior executive vice-president for the retailer. Her slightly more upscale line, the Lauren Conrad Collection, was sold in more than 500 stores before she discontinued it last year to focus on Paper Crown. She's even done her own "Got Milk?" ad.
MTV also initiated a reverse product-placement scheme in which it offered clothes—similar to the styles Conrad wore on the show—for sale on its SeenON!MTV e-commerce site. That year the site produced $20 million for the network.
Conrad, who made $75,000 an episode, as first reported in In Touch Weekly, says she didn't get a penny of the ancillary revenue and left the show after the 2009 season. She says she also felt restricted by DiVello's decision to edit out the ways in which her rising stardom affected her life. And that, she says, "was a dealbreaker." As a result, her new series will function as a "weekly 30-minute commercial," she says, for the LC brand. To ensure this, Conrad is an executive producer, hoping to capitalize, as Stubblefield puts it, on "more potential upside."
She's also putting her own capital at risk. Conrad has invested "a large amount" in Paper Crown, she says, to retain complete creative control. "This is mine to lose," she says. "I've learned that when you are not your own boss, you always have to meet in the middle." As a designer, Conrad says, she's often reminded that Kohl's target customer exists in, as she puts it, the "broader market." When she was designing the Lauren Conrad Collection, "I didn't always have the final say," she admits, "because someone else was financing it." Perhaps as a result, The New Yorker referred to one of her collections as "sub-Old Navy."