Whiff of Fiasco: Chanel No. 5 & Brad Pitt

Normally discussions about Chanel No.5 revolve around high class, luxury and elegance. But in the social media circles and its virtual watercooler, now all anyone can talk about is Chanel No.5’s much lampooned Brad Pitt commercial.

The actor stands in front of a drab background, filmed in grayscale. He wears a simple shirt and pants, sporting long hair and his signature scraggly beard. Not quite the beginning of luxury perfume ad that you’d expect, but it gets worse.

Brad stares awkwardly at the camera and then off into space, mumbling these strange lines:

It’s not a journey, every journey ends but we go on, the world turns and we turn with it. Plans disappear and dreams take over. But where ever I go – there you are. My luck, my fate, my fortune. CHANEL N°5. Inevitable.

Soon after, Saturday Night Live debuted a spot-on parody of the commercial, mocking its faux-seriousness and Brad’s unappealing attire. Conan and YouTube users have posted their own parodies of the odd advertisement as well.

Chanel is known for releasing “films” instead of commercials, but there’s something to be said about conveying abstraction for the sake of abstraction and confusing your audience. Yes, Brad Pitt is an A-list actor with a huge following thanks to his glamorous on-screen and off-screen persona, but as the first man to star in a Chanel perfume ad, he sorely missed the mark in terms of effectiveness and charisma.

The story continues in a Part 2 spot called “Wherever I go,” that is a much improved version of the original ad featuring Brad and should have been released originally. It actually illustrates the mythical, magical aura that Brad’s strange poeticism was trying to describe by showing a  woman in an elegant dress, a beautifully lit setting and mysterious building. This clip doesn’t have as many views as Part 1, so either it still isn’t interesting enough to consumers or everyone is too busy focusing on the strangeness of the initial spot.

The question is then is any publicity good publicity? Was Brad Pitt worth the $7 million investment for the company as the face of the new campaign? Everyone is talking about how ridiculous the commercial for Chanel No. 5 is, but at least the brand is now committed to memory for people who perhaps hadn’t heard of it before or didn’t think too much of it when deciding to buy perfume.

The idea I’d want people to have of Chanel No. 5 if I worked for the company would be of sophistication, elegance and glamour. Parodies mocking my product for as silly or amateur could endanger the long-standing image we’ve built up and lower current consumers’ pride and loyalty. Exactly who is the demographic that Chanel was trying to reach through this Pitt commercial? The tagline “inevitable” is clumsy but also powerful, so the campaign better reflect that certain memorability in a positive way.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to try a unique, unorthodox concept to stand out from the crowd, but if it makes your consumers ridicule you and doubt the legitimacy of your classic brand, then it’s “inevitable” that you’ll risk the respect of your brand–even if you have a top celebrity backing it up.

I think Chanel should stick to Audrey, Nicole and Keira in the future and avoid confusing philosophy. Perfume should make us feel alluring, not disoriented.

This entry was posted in Prime PR. Bookmark the permalink.