Fragrances can be magical – they can drag up memories that have lain dormant for years, or can stir feelings not yet experienced, in one sniff. Yet how troublesome it must be to advertise scent in print or video when it is the most ephemeral of senses. Perfume adverts appear as two-minute blockbusters – a visual and audible explosion of seductive action, featuring some of the world’s most beautiful people. They assure us of our potential sensual and sexual allure and promise the possibility of adventure and romance. We may not be able to smell the product but we can guess at its overall effect.
However, when Chanel released its latest campaign, starring Brad Pitt, it was met with ridicule and confusion. When the house first announced their plans back in May, it was unclear as to whether Pitt was fronting a campaign for a No. 5 scent pour homme, or whether he was indeed about to become the first male face of the female fragrance. Their decision to take the latter option has subsequently provided Youtube with hundreds of parodies and piss takes of the most ludicrous fragrance adverts to date.
“We know that sex sells – whether it is Blake Lively having a really good time spritzing herself with Gucci Première, or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley naked under a raincoat for Burberry Body.”
Chanel No. 5 is possibly the world’s most famous perfume of all time. It speaks of sophistication, of old time glamour’. In recent years, the brand has kept to its roots by using actresses, such as Audrey Tautou, who evoked the notion of the classic starlet, and oozed in old school charm. We know that sex sells – whether it is Blake Lively having a really good time spritzing herself with Gucci Première, or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley naked under a raincoat for Burberry Body. We buy fragrances to feel sensual. A drop of musk behind the ear before going out gives a woman the sense of empowerment, of hidden sexual prowess. Each Chanel advert up until now has focused on the effect that No. 5 has on women – how it makes them feel, what journey it leads them on, who they send crazy with the scent.
Any exciting or empowering message gets lost behind the fug of Pitt’s bizarre one-liners. The glamour is gone too: Pitt has the appearance of an incoherent fugitive who hasn’t seen a barber in months. With a male lead in place, there is nothing of the brand’s original sophistication, beauty or excitement in this recent offering. Many Chanel fans will have been saddened by such a misguided attempt to reinvent something that was perfect just the way it was.