Financial Institutions Hit the Red Carpet

Are companies like Prudential and American Express are making their way into fashion?

This spring Prudential paid actress Naomi Watts to attend the Cannes Film Festival wearing a gown designed by a retired New Jersey real estate agent. The idea was to promote the investment and insurance giant as a vehicle for realizing retirees’ dreams—like becoming a red-carpet designer.

The campaign was conceived by Prudential and Droga5, which, despite sounding like a boy band from Game of Thrones, is a New York ad agency. It connected the retiree with Marchesa’s blue-chip designers, who collaborated on a dress. The result was the most talked-about marriage of financial branding and fashion since Lizzy Gardiner got her 1995 Oscar for Best Costume Design in a dress made from American Express Gold Cards.

Could it be the start of a red-carpet trend? Maybe we’ll see Angelina Jolie in Geico-branded Spanx for “extra insurance.” Or a range of plus-size gowns from insurance company Aflac to promote “maximum coverage.”

After financial institutions plunged the world into economic crisis, it’s nice to know that some are trying to put the shirt on your back.