Menswear names are not the only relative newcomers in trying to draw upon the marketing potential of the red carpet: beauty brands are staking a claim too.

Feeding viewers’ thirst for head-to-toe coverage of the stars, cable channel E! added the “mani cam” to its broadcast of the Emmys in 2012. Introduced at the height of the nail art trend, this miniature red carpet with close-up camera puts the spotlight on an actress’s manicure and finger bling. For the 2013 Emmys and the recent Grammys, E!’s mani cam was sponsored by CoverGirl, which counts pop stars Katy Perry and Pink among its faces.

At the Golden Globes in January, Elisabeth Moss (who plays Peggy in Mad Men) cheekily raised her middle finger to the mani cam. It cut away just in time, but the “bleep-out” moment caused a storm on social media, which in turn boosted the web traffic surrounding E!’s Globes coverage. The red carpet show also achieved its highest TV ratings in 10 years: more than 2.2m US viewers.

Suzanne Kolb, president of E!, part of NBCUniversal, says that while there is no space for the mani cam on the media-packed Academy Awards red carpet this weekend, she is not concerned about a repeat of the middle finger incident when it returns for the Emmys in September. “It was all in good fun and, overall, people behave appropriately on the red carpet.”

L’Oréal Paris's Disco Ball nail polish
Disco Ball by L’Oréal Paris

One thing that is fairly certain for the Oscars is that Jennifer Lawrence, the current face of Christian Dior, will be wearing not only one of the French fashion house’s gowns but its make-up too. The arrangement between the star and the brand gives Dior access to one of today’s most bankable Hollywood stars. And for those who can’t afford a couture gown, a lipstick or blusher worn by Lawrence should not be too much of a stretch.

Tom Bachik, a nail artist whose clients include Amy Adams and Jennifer Lopez, says make-up’s relative affordability explains the viewers’ fascination: “The red carpet is a rare special occasion where even celebrities play dress-up. Buying a star’s nail colour allows someone to become part of the experience even if they can’t afford the designer shoes or dress.”

A brand has a budget too, and if it can’t extend to a celebrity endorsement, it may stretch to a deal with a red carpet make-up or nail artist. These bring their own credibility as well as a tangential association with star clients. Bachik is global nail expert at L’Oréal Paris (Disco Ball nail polish, £4.99), and he has to be aware of any potential conflict of interest between his clients’ deals and the brand’s. “A lot of the time clients have competing contracts,” he says. There are ways around it: if make-up artists cannot publicise that they are using a certain brand on someone, they may, for example, offer ways to “recreate the look” using another product.

Either way, the fascin­ation with red-carpet looks is thriving. Bachik recalls a story about his client Zooey Deschanel: “She always posts a picture of her nails on Instagram in the car on the way to an award ceremony. Before she’s even arrived on the red carpet, websites are telling their readers how to recreate the look.”

But does such coverage actually drive sales?

Nails Inc’s black Leather Effect line
Leather Effect by Nails Inc

Alexa Chung wore Nails Inc’s Leather Effect nail polish (£12) to the British Fashion Awards in 2012. “After she tweeted a picture, Nails Inc made it available for presale and the product sold out before it even hit shelves,” says Emily Foley, who writes for the Red Carpet Fashion Awards blog.

Mark Tranter, fragrance and beauty buyer at Selfridges, says Lancôme’s Bafta Collection – their second limited-edition palette created to celebrate the brand’s partnership with the awards – has been a huge seller at the London department store.

The cosmetics line of make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, known for her red carpet looks for Penélope Cruz and Kate Moss, among others, has also been a major success, says Tranter: “It was one of the biggest brand launches we’ve ever had. There was a queue of customers at the front of the stores before doors opened.”



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