Chanel’s New Spokesperson is the Pitts

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.

Photo by Georges Biard

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.

Mr. T and Old Navy Best-Tees are Besties, Fool

God, I miss the 80s.

The fashion. The music. The neon. So much hairspray. So many laser-beam school portrait backgrounds.

Ah, the Punky Brewster-ness of it all.

Now that you’re aware of my unabashed love for the most tubular decade ever, you can imagine my delight at seeing Mr. T as the new spokesperson for Old Navy—wait for it—tees!

Yes, everyone’s favorite mohawked gold-chain enthusiast is here to save us all from sporting uncomfortable, boxy T-shirts. In the words of B.A. Baracus himself: “I sympathize with the fool who wears a scratchy tee.”

The spot getting the most buzz features an infomercial spoof with Anna Faris, who admits that she was a “real dillweed” before Old Navy’s reinvented Best-Tees changed her life:

Mr. T and Ms. Faris are perfect fits (OK, at first the pun was totally unintentional, but then I decided to leave it in) for Old Navy’s signature quirky ad style and the brand’s current “Funnovations Inc.” campaign. More importantly, these ads seem to address very directly—and effectively—the issues that Old Navy was called to task for in 2011 after a disappointing first half.

Last August, Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc. (which comprises the Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta brands), noted in the company’s second quarter earnings call that while he was pleased with Old Navy’s latest, improved product offerings, recent marketing efforts—namely the “Old Navy Records” campaign—hadn’t been as effective as everyone had hoped.

“The message, while people thought it was good and they remembered it, it wasn’t anywhere near the call to action needed to get somebody into the car and make a trip to Old Navy,” Murphy observed. “I’m disappointed in the leadership that we’ve been unable to get enough people and the customers we target to come in and see what [our chief creative officer] has actually put into the store.”

Nancy Reagan and Mr. T. For real.

With all that in mind, I found myself becoming an even bigger fan of the Mr. T spots as I watched them on YouTube. Using humor, these ads focus heavily on the attributes of Old Navy’s latest product and handily convey that these tees are a revamped version of a clothing classic, worthy of a second look. (Don’t you want to take a jaunt over to Old Navy today and feel a softness greater than baby chicks, kittens, and puppies on your skin?) Plus, these T-shirts are not only comfy, but they will flatter you in ways no ordinary, boxy tee ever could (thanks to the sculpting power of Mr. T’s trillion-and-a-half-dollar Best-Tee Machine). After all, just look at how they manage to complement the figures of everyone from models and actresses to fake doctors and big ol’ Mr. T himself! It’s fun for the whole family!!

At two minutes in length, the infomercial spot in particular is quite effective at driving these points home (over and over again) by disguising the whole thing as one giant parody. And, of course, Mr. T’s floating head gruffly instructing viewers to “Go to an Old Navy store, right now!” serves as a final—and awesomely appropriate—push for the call to action.

Frankly, I am PUMPED about going to Old Navy to check out a T-shirt. I mean, it’s just a T-shirt—the most basic item of clothing on the planet—but the visuals, jokes, and originality of the ads succeed in making me believe (or at least “strongly hope” enough to venture into a store) that this latest version of an Old Navy tee is actually different than the status quo and truly stands a chance of resolving the very real tragedy of ill-fitting T-shirts. (Seriously, folks, this problem has turned me into a dillweed on occasion—when you bring 20 items into the dressing room and only two fit, tempers flare.)

Sounds like this is exactly the kind of reaction Glenn Murphy is looking for, no?

Adam Levine Smells Like Mean Spirit

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine recently got a very public reminder that sending your personal musings out into cyberspace sometimes comes back to bite you in the arse—like a digital boomerang of regret.

Last week, the musician and coach on NBC’s talent show The Voice announced that he will be launching new fragrances next year for men and women, called “222″ (his lucky number and the name of his fashion line and record label).

This would be all well and good if Mr. Levine hadn’t taken to Twitter a year ago to express his disdain for star scents:

Of course, this passing sentiment might have remained hidden among his countless other thoughts and feelings and dreams—if it weren’t for Christina Aguilera. (If I had a nickel for every time a sentence ended with those exact words…)

Yes, Levine’s fellow coach on The Voice—and a celeb with her own line of fragrances—took to her Twitter feed following the 222 announcement to call out her colleague on his hypocrisy and link to his March 2011 tweet:

Levine soon responded to Aguilera’s comments—which he called “funny and silly and friendly”—with another admission that he does, in fact, “hate the idea of a celebrity fragrance, absolutely, 100 percent.” But, he counters, “I want to do a thing that’s never done properly.”

I think Elizabeth Taylor just rolled over in her grave.

In the end, I don’t think Mr. Levine’s little slip-up will really do much damage. If anything, it’s given his fragrance a great deal of publicity already—and it won’t even be launched for another year. Plus, I think the folks who would actually buy 222 care more about looking at (and, I guess, smelling like) Adam Levine than about giving any real thought to what he says. After all, part of his persona is wrapped up in being a d-bag, so this whole episode is really just par for the course.

In the words of Levine himself: “’You wouldn’t be a complete band without a slightly cocky frontman, would you?’”

Reeling and Dealing: Celebs Cash in on the Red Carpet

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I’m not gonna lie—I watch every blessed moment of the Oscars, from the opening montage to the “Wait, when did they die?” in memoriam reel to the feast of awkward celebrity banter and the inevitable interpretive dance/circus portion of the evening.

I love all the pomp and circumstance, even if there is more than a kernel of truth to host Billy Crystal’s wisecrack last night that “Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving golden statues to each other.”

Or, you know, getting paid to wear amazing dresses and obscenely expensive jewelry.

Yes, the Oscars are actually a huge payday for celebrities and the brands that swathe them in fabric and strap 10,000-carat earrings onto their precious lobes. A recent article in the New York Post detailed the lengths designers will go to in order to dress the year’s hottest stars. Celebs rake in fees ($200,000 is apparently on the “low end”), paid trips to European fashion shows, and free clothes, while their stylists may receive vouchers for liposuction or plastic surgery to curry favor with their clients.

When the right match is made, however, it means huge exposure for the designer (especially an up-and-comer), and for the celebrity, the possibility of attaining fashion icon status.

Merle Ginsberg, senior writer at the Hollywood Reporter, notes that landing on the best-dressed list can lead to other endorsement deals, magazine covers, and even future film offers. “It can change people’s perceptions of an actress,” she says, “and it can have just as much impact as winning the trophy they’re nominated for.”

But while Hollywood glamour is as old as the movies, it turns out that the whole notion of a celebrity stylist is still relatively new—and with good reason. Before the turn of the century (a whole 12 years ago), things were a little bit simpler in La La Land. Back then, if a celebrity wore a God-awful frock to the Academy Awards, sure, it would be out there in cyberspace, mocked by what’s left of Joan Rivers, and talked about around the water cooler the next morning—but it wouldn’t be broadcast and torn to shreds on every conceivable form of media the moment she pops into view.

These days, within 0.34 microseconds of a star setting foot on the red carpet (yes, I’ve timed it), the public has already begun their brutally honest assessment of her attire via Facebook updates, short, biting tweets, and live blogs everywhere.

Of course, when a celebrity makes a splash at the Oscars, these same digital communications channels provide for millions of dollars in free advertising for both star and brand alike. Given the stakes, is anyone really surprised that Jessica Chastain didn’t just walk into Bloomingdale’s and pick out any old thing?

I have to say, after watching last night’s show, I’m actually a little disappointed that no one stood out as a clear “Was she drunk when she got dressed today?” contender. Sure, the aftermath following such an appearance might be a tad ugly for all concerned—but doesn’t that make the whole night just a little bit more interesting? Where’s Cher when you need her?

Oh, well.

To conclude my post, I will now do my own part in furthering these sky-high red carpet deals by presenting a non-fashionista’s brief appraisal of last night’s hits and misses—just because I want to:

Jessica Chastain (McQueen): One of the big hits of the night—not my style, but the black and gold is quite striking. Also, she gets points for being a redhead.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Tom Ford): I hate to admit it, but her ensemble rocks. (Although it has nothing to do with all the gluten she hasn’t been eating.)

Jennifer Lopez (Zuhair Murad): Meh. Not really into stripes so much. Also, it definitely looked like there was a nip-slip situation going on when she was presenting with Cameron Diaz.

Berenice Bejo (Elie Saab): I like the mint color and the sheer sleeves, but her hair kind of bothers me.

Milla Jovovich (Elie Saab): Classic Hollywood glamour—one of my faves. Also, she’s tall, so she, too, gets bonus points.

Shailene Woodley (Valentino): This just looks too much like something your great-grandmother would have been buried in.

Meryl Streep (Lanvin): Love.

Emma Stone (Giambattista Valli): I’m sorry, it’s Nicole Kidman all over again.

Viola Davis (Vera Wang): I want to like this more, but it reminds me of lettuce.

Sandra Bullock (Marchesa): A little too baggy on top. She’s worn better.

Melissa McCarthy (Marina Rinaldi): Girl, you’re hilarious—but I cannot get behind this dress. I’m not sure if it’s the neckline or what, but I’m just not feeling it.

Natalie Portman (Dior): Sorry, Natalie, not into polka dots, and it didn’t quite seem to fit up top. Also, your hair looked kind of greasy to me. Too much gel, methinks?

Michelle Williams (Louis Vuitton): I know this dress was another critical favorite, but I just keep thinking about those old-lady bathing suits with the big skirts at the waist.

Rooney Mara (Givenchy): I like the dress, but her bangs scare me ever so slightly.

Angelina Jolie (Versace): The whole leg thing (a meme sensation!) was a bit much. Also, my feelings on her arms mirror my feelings on Rooney Mara’s bangs.

Octavia Spencer (Tadashi Shoji): Simple, elegant, very flattering. Thumbs up.

Miss Piggy (Zac Posen): Have you ever seen a pig age so well?