A Celebrity Bank Card, if Not the Bankroll
They’re the faces of everything unapologetically excessive about pop culture: from Rodeo Drive shopping sprees to sex tapes to Nascar. So why wouldn’t the Kardashian sisters, nouveaux-celeb stars of the reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” promote a prepaid debit card?
Most consumers don’t have the bank accounts to back up Kardashian-level profligacy. As such, the so-called Kardashian Kard, bedecked with images of the sisters Kim, Khloé and Kourtney, has been criticized since its debut this month for its fees and weak consumer protections. Consumer groups also worry that it encourages bad spending habits.
It is hardly the first celebrity card. Recent years have seen cards featuring the likes of Usher, Kiss, Elvis and the quarterback Vince Young, but many disappeared fairly quickly. The Kardashian Kard, and a few others like it, may reflect a new breed that focuses more on teenagers and young adults.
Gretel Going, a founder of Channel V Media, a public relations and marketing firm, said she thought the Kardashian Kard seemed well targeted.
“Previous endorsements could have failed because the celebrity’s story, or what they were famous for, didn’t have a justifiable tie-in to the product,” Ms. Going said. “The celebrity’s background didn’t allow consumers to tell themselves a story like the Kardashian Kards do: ‘If I spend frivolously, I’ll be glamorous like the Kardashians.’ ”
Similar cards may be more about simple fandom. A company called Myplash recently issued a “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” prepaid gift card, featuring characters from the movie and book series beloved by teenagers.
More than 30 different reloadable debit cards for teenagers are planned for the first week of December, with the likes of the surfer darling Kassia Meador and the countercultural comic character Emily the Strange — just in time for holiday spending.
Given the attitudes toward celebrity endorsements, the apparent shift makes sense. A 2009 survey by Adweek, the industry publication, found that 78 percent of adult respondents said they were not influenced by celebrity endorsements; 12 percent said they were less likely to buy products endorsed by celebrities — a number that went up with age.
Gail Hillebrand, a lawyer and financial services campaign manager for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publishers of Consumer Reports, cited “wariness” among experienced adults toward celebrity and banking gimmickry.
“Perhaps it’s: ‘Get the customer young and get what you can from them before they get more savvy about how to manage their money,’ ” Ms. Hillebrand said of bank strategy.
For example, the Kardashian Kard, available to those 18 or older, includes a $7.95 monthly fee, $1.50 A.T.M. fees and a $1.50 fee to speak with customer service representative by telephone. Consumers Union has even circulated a “Stop the Kardashian Kard Rip-off” petition.
A version of this article appears in print on November 28, 2010, on Page ST7 of the New York edition with the headline: A Celebrity Bank Card, if Not the Bankroll.