Brad Pitt recently pocketed $7 million for his 30-second commercial touting the French fragrance Chanel No. 5. Not a bad day for the 48-year-old uber star. Of course, after actually watching the clip we have to wonder: What were the executives at Chanel thinking?
The commercial went viral upon its release, with over 4.5 million views on YouTube already, and that in itself is a coup for the decades-old fragrance company. What could be better than publicity you don’t have to pay for?
Viral is good for getting people talking about your company, but blogs lit up last week with people asking: “Is it brilliant or just plain bad?”
In the flick, Pitt, long-haired and sporting a goatee, looks into the camera and says, “It’s not a journey. Every journey ends, but we go on. The world turns, and we turn with it. Plans disappear, dreams take over. But wherever I go, there you are. My luck. My fate. My fortune. Chanel No. 5. Inevitable.” Artistic is one thing but many are calling the commercial “nonsencial” and just plain “uncomfortable.” Fox News called it the dumbest fragrance commercial ever. Doubtful Pitt, already a Hollywood powerhouse, will suffer in his career for the short, existentialist, rather confusing monologue, but we think Chanel might have been better off spending a little less on Pitt and a little more on script writers. The male part of Brangelina flew to fame by taking his shirt off in the early 90s film Thelma and Louise and today is the ultimate Hollywood A lister, but why would the 75-year-old perfume company pay that much for him - or anyone - to spout off such nonsense? Especially since he kept his shirt on.
The commercial should have made Anderson Cooper’s “RidicuList,” an aptly-named blog featuring silly or downright stupid things people do or say. We liked Cooper’s recent spot that showed an underwear-clad German guy attempt a cannonball into a frozen pool. Needless to say, like Pitt’s commercial, it didn’t work. The German guy nursed his wounds and we hope Pitt does the same, bouncing back as only such an icon could do from this embarrassment.
Pitt will still get movie roles and Chanel will still sell expensive perfume. But $7 million worth?
Pitt’s the first man to pitch the women’s perfume but did his scruffy, long-haired look match up against some of the famous women who’ve pitched it throughout the years? Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman, Lauren Hutton, Cheryl Tiegs, and Kiera Knightley have all used their looks to tout the perfume. They just rightly avoided the monologues.
Chanel said the Pitt campaign throws “the perspective of a man on the most feminine fragrance of all time.”
Whatever your thoughts about the ad, Chanel got some free publicity and Pitt got spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Funnyman Conan O’Brien said the commercial got stranger the more he watched it. All this hype made us watch the commercial - sometimes multiple times to try and figure it out.
And maybe that’s the point. The ad did what it was designed to do: confuse people enough that the media kept it in their headlines for at least an entire news cycle.
But Chanel likely didn’t mean this to be a joke. And maybe the joke’s on us - the public - because they’ve gotten a ton of free publicity.
Advertising works. Of that there is no doubt. But give us more ads like the dancing M&Ms breaking down to “I’m Sexy and I Know It” any day. It’s light and entertaining, gets us to thinking about how good eating M&Ms is without making us wonder what the talking chocolates are actually selling.