"Brad Pitt" - that's rhyming slang for...


by Ashley Morrison.

..the new Chanel No.5 advert.

It is the most pretentious, pointless, self-indulgent load of nonsensical advertising I've seen in years. In case you're yet to join me in the rapidly growing involuntary projectile vomiting clan, the shaggy-haired, goateed Brad Pitt is the new face of Chanel No.5 in a series of commercials for the legendary fragrance.

The first instalment could arguably be as much an advert for Pitt as it is for Chanel if his performance were passably good. I actually quite like the chap and have enjoyed many of his films; Fight Club, for one, is a spectacularly good movie. The Ocean's trilogy are all great fun and Inglourious Basterds was terrific. But during Chanel's agonising 30 seconds of life you won't get back, you just get a sense of Pitt acting very, very deliberately. An uncomfortable watch, it looks like he's rather desperately and nervously searching for the set, only to realise...oh, this is it.

I know a bad workman blames his tools (though he's not blaming anyone - I am) but when you look at the script he had to work with, perhaps it's not surprising that, since its launch a week ago, he has been the object of unending ridicule from the media on both sides of the Atlantic. I suggest you watch the video below to get the full force of the skin turning which I and the rest of the telly-viewing public have had to endure, but if you really can't face it, here's the script verbatim, just to hammer home how bile-inducingly up itself it is:

"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.


Watch it here.

Er, what is inevitable? Sorry, I need a bit more of a hint. And who is there? Plus, frankly, for most people who aren't down with the Hollywood set, it's dreams that disappear and plans to pay off the mortgage and credit card debts take over. What an inordinate load of surreal - not to mention inaccurate and out-of-touch - nonsense.

I can hardly believe that it's advertising the same product as that magnificent epic of a mini-movie featuring Nicole Kidman, directed by Baz Luhrmann. It oozed classic sophistication without appearing to be overly self-indulgent, despite the colossal budget. Whilst most certainly opulent, it was clearly a nod to the age of the silver screen where film stars were film stars and not merely overpaid 'celebrities'. You'd never have seen Cary Grant poncing around the world on a motorbike like Ewan McGregor, and Katharine Hepburn would never have graced the pages of Heat.

Joe Wright, who 'directed' the Brad Pitt commercial - if there was anything to direct at all - did a splendid job on the Coco Mademoiselle ad featuring the chintastic Keira Knightley (poncing around Paris on a motorbike and quite often gracing the pages of Heat, as it happens). But I am yet to find a single commentator who stands up for Pitt's Chanel commercial against the barrage of criticism. I'd hoped that the days of Calvin Klein's sexy but vacuous ads with off-the-wall messages were behind us; apparently not.

Pitt himself has explained the ad - if not defended his involvement and performance:

What's important to remember about Chanel No.5 is how revolutionary the fragrance is. When it was introduced, it broke all the rules by discarding meaningless ornamentation for an honest and open aesthetic, and a scent which embodies liberation from trend, creating a fragrance which remains as modern today as it was during its inception.

Right, so let's discard 'meaningless ornamentation' and replace it with 'meaningless monologue in handsome mode', shall we? He continues...

The beauty of its success for all these years is both elegantly simple and complex at the same time. That's what I see as being the appeal of this campaign; it goes beyond the abstract emotion or beauty to evoke what is timeless - a woman's spirit.

The first sentence in the above paragraph I actually agree with. But the next bit? I just don't see how that correlates with or applies to such a cringe-worthy script.

Is it all a ruse, though? Something to get people talking around the water cooler? I remember the days when the first Orange commercial came out. They advertised absolutely nothing for weeks and weeks; there was no clue that they were selling mobile phones. There was just some fairly random imagery and the strapline, 'The future's bright. The future's Orange.' It befuddled us all - and that's why we talked about it.

As any copywriter will tell you, for advertising to work, there has to be a clear message. The right words sell products (if the product's any good, obviously). Poor messages don't. Only rarely does a complete absence of message work - as in the case of the Orange ad - but this isn't one of those cases. There's no doubt that the Chanel ad has got everybody talking, and especially those in advertising (albeit all from the same side of the fence); so if the old adage that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about is true, then perhaps the decision makers at Chanel are absolute geniuses.

The cherry on the cake, though, has to be last weekend's Saturday Night Live spoof. If something is lampooned on SNL, you know it's going to be hysterical. Unfortunately, for rights reasons, the video has now been blocked on YouTube (another ruse to get people searching for it, perhaps?) but if you can find it, it's worth a watch. Played by Taran Killam as a mockingly less articulate Pitt, but complete with mane of hair and self-absorbed 'I wasn't voted sexiest man on the planet for nothing' glower, the spoof cuts in and out of 'Pitt' speaking to us on camera and to the director off camera:

I'm sorry, is there really no script? Because I've been talking to myself for like two hours straight and I'm starting to sound insane... I'm sorry, is it just me or do I look super homeless? That's what you want? OK, then. Rock 'n' roll.

Ashley Morrison is a blogger, copywriter and editor.
Twitter: @Ashley_Morrison


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