What’s that smell?
It’s Eau de Brad Pitt—otherwise known as Chanel No. 5.
Yes, Mr. Jolie himself has signed on to become the first-ever male spokesperson for the iconic perfume, joining the ranks of Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou, and, of course, Nicole Kidman.
The move has certainly raised eyebrows, given that Chanel No. 5 is, after all, a women’s fragrance. While some industry experts have argued that if any man can fill this role, it’s the perennially sexy Pitt, other critics (at least from my unscientific sampling of comment feeds) have used the words, “smelly,” “old,” and “bearded homeless man.”
Of course, it doesn’t help that every post I’ve read on this announcement features a picture of Pitt looking like a smelly, old, bearded homeless man.
However, as Businessweek notes, Chanel is likely not going after Brad Pitt just for Brad Pitt. His endorsement “is a way of saying Angelina Jolie without saying Angelina Jolie,” notes William M. O’Barr, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of ADText, an online textbook about advertising and society.
Sidney J. Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Arizona, points out that with Pitt as spokesman, “There is also the implication that the fabulous Ms. Jolie might use the perfume, and thus be worthy of emulation.”
O’Barr also observes that Pitt embodies the “classic beauty” element that Chanel No. 5 has consistently portrayed in their ads. This would likely explain why they didn’t go after a Ryan Gosling or Zac Efron type, for example.
And, not surprisingly, this unconventional endorsement has already garnered more publicity than your average celebrity fragrance announcement (unless you’re Adam Levine), so there is something to be said for the shock value of it all—especially in a category where everyone and their mom seems to be peddling a scent. (Except for yours truly—it takes all my strength not to gag and pass out when I wander into the perfume section of a department store. Too. Many. Smells.)
Actually, I think this endorsement could work for Chanel. My guess is, Pitt—who is reportedly getting paid seven figures for this deal—will clean up just fine for the ads and give the classic fragrance a bold new flavor (er, smell?) that is still in keeping with their brand personality. In any case, we won’t have to wait long to find out—Pitt’s first spot will hit the airwaves overseas later this year.