A recent Instagram clash of words between DJ Euphonik and his former girlfriend Bonang Matheba got us thinking about how brands go about choosing celebrities to endorse their campaigns.

In the #MCInHerShoes campaign featured in the latest issue of Marie Claire, DJ and entrepreneur Euphonik (real name Themba Nkosi) is one of the local male celebs dressed in a suit and high heels denouncing violence against women.

Marie Claire promoted their campaign on Instagram yesterday with a behind-the-scenes video of Euphonik playing around in stilettos, accompanied by a brief interview. Some saw this as ironic in light of the 2012 media reports that suggested that Euphonik had allegedly assaulted his then-girlfriend Bonang. In response to the Marie Claire post, the Front Row on Metro FM presenter tagged her choreographer friend Somizi Mhlongo on the video post followed by three laughing emoticons.

Euphonik, known for his social media outbursts, responded to Bonang by saying: “Maybe next month they’ll discuss the crying wolfs (SIC)”— recalling his insistence throughout the saga that Bonang had falsely accused him of physical abuse to get back at him after a lovers’ quarrel.

The comments between the former lovers sparked a debate between their fans with some saying that Bonang had no right to comment because she trivialised abuse against women when she dropped the charges and fell back into Euphonik’s arms shortly thereafter. Some female commenters said they didn’t understand why Bonang was being attacked when she was the one who had suffered.

What the consumers remember is not what the brand had intended to communicate but what the celebrity in question is alleged to have done, which explains the social media outburst in Marie Claire’s choice of Euphonik

The truth of the matter is that Euphonik never stood trial for the physical abuse, but instead faced a trial by the media that left the public to impose judgement.

All of this begs the question: Was it irresponsible of Marie Claire to choose someone who had been accused of physical abuse to be an ambassador for such a sensitive issue?

Speaking to News 24 via Skype, Marie Claire South Africa editor Aspasia Karras said she couldn’t comment on DJ Euphonik’s private life, but went to explain why his participation was imperative.

“It should be remembered that those charges against Euphonik were subsequently dropped and I feel that it’s unfair to try people in the public media. But what is important in having Euphonik in this campaign is that he’s the most sincere person to feature because he has been previously accused of physical abuse,” she explained.

CEO of cross-cultural branding agency Moonchild, Sizakele Marutlulle believes that “branding is a game of a promise made and a promise kept. All of this depends on what a brand has promised their consumer,” she explains.

Marie Claire’s tagline is “Think Smart, Look Amazing”, which Marutlulle believes promises nothing about protecting women, but instead alludes to helping their readers look and feel a certain way.

This said, she clarifies that it’s important for a brand and their celebrity campaign ambassador to be the right fit. “The celebrity and brand still need to be aligned,” she says. “Even though Euphonik didn’t stand trial for the alleged physical abuse charges, perceptions are real in the minds of the public. What the consumers remember is not what the brand had intended to communicate but what the celebrity in question is alleged to have done, which explains the social media outburst in Marie Claire’s choice of Euphonik,” she concludes.

The men in heels campaign is not new to the publishing industry. Last year, Blaque magazine ran a similar campaign featuring their Editor-In-Chief Monwabisi Thethe, practising attorney Sifiso Mthethwa and Executive Creative Director at Joe Public Xolisa Dyeshana accompanied by a coverline that read “Understanding Women Better”.