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This month, Chanel released its new TV spot for its iconic 1921 fragrance, Chanel N.5. It is a surprising film as the French brand took us from the magic of modern fairy tales to reality show. Welcome to the real woman?

Chanel N.5, an unique story of über-femininity

When Chanel launched the N.5 in 1921, it was the symbol of the strong personality of Ms Chanel. It was bold, facetted and with a strong signature. It was also the first time a fragrance would use a perceptible dose of Aldehyde C12, a very powerful ingredient. It procures a clean, high-pitched floral-citrus note. For the first time in history a floral fragrance went from a “nature morte” to an “impressionism” approach. Until the launch of the Chanel fragrance, all floral fragrances were floral bouquets with a natural representation. So women would smell flowers, which was pretty convenient by that time. With Chanel N.5, women would scent… Women! At the beginning, Chanel N.5 was not for sale. It was offered to the best customers of the brand. This means that if you were wearing that fragrance, you belonged to the strict circle of Ms Chanel best clients. It as a strong sign of distinction.
Ms Chanel was a strong symbol of women liberation and she fought her entire life against institutions and established concepts around femininity. She had short hair, smoked, adopted the Garçonne look by wearing trousers and was a business leader. She wanted to liberate women by offering a sort of freedom in her fashion and in her fragrance. All wrapped up in a determined elegance of course. And since then, Chanel N.5 became the ultimate feminine fragrance, a true iconic symbol of elegant audacity. That is why over the years, all advertising of Chanel N.5 described this type of woman: daring, mind-free, know what she does, decides what tomorrow is going to be and never hesitate to follow her own destiny, no matter her qualities and defects.

From Catherine Deneuve, to Carol Bouquet, the Little Red Riding-hood, Nicole Kidman or Audrey Tautou, they were all women that represented this description. This year Chanel revealed the new face of N.5 and it is worldwide renowned Brazilian top model Gisele Bundchen. Good choice? She definitely represents a strong symbol of successful woman, top model, mother and lover. From work to family, from Yoga lessons to catwalks. She has a natural class and a lot of allure, which fits perfectly Chanel. She has a self-conduct orientation that earned the public respect. Final but not least she has the perfect body as well. So what now?

From a modern dream to reality show

Every representation of the Chanel N.5 woman, brought us to a world parallel to reality. The goal was always to make you dream. Carole Bouquet’s dreamed discussion with her lover, the modern Besson’s Little Red Riding hood, Nicole Kidman’s modern Marilyn, Audrey Tautou’s Orient Express trip and the biggest legend from the past, Marilyn Monroe herself, Chanel N.5 has always unveiled the dreamed life hidden in every woman’s heart.

Catherine Deneuve, the beginning of the modern myth

Carole Bouquet, French woman with power

The Little Red Riding hood by Besson,  adventure and dream

Nicole Kidman, The star, the show, the man and the perfume

Audrey Tautou, modern adventure for a free woman

Brad Pitt, oops!

Marilyn Monroe, and the ultimate icon of femininity was born

Now with the new film, there is a game changer. We are not any more in a dreamed life, we are in a reality show. Nothing is fantasy, only reality counts. She is rich, has a dreamed house by the beach, sexy body and sexy husband. You see there is tension between the husband and her, he leaves on his Luxury Range Rover SUV with private driver, and the woman is worried. Fortunately the family nanny was there to take care of the child. Then she spends some time with her daughter before getting ready for a photo shoot, as she is a celebrity. And then she will drive her sportscar to the place where her husband is. Chanel wished to show how hard is today to find a right balance between personal and professional life. Gisele Bundchen is probably a good example of a modern woman, successful in her career and trying to keep a balance in her life. Not always easy. So in this film we are not anymore in a escapism mode, we are completely in a reality show.
The danger for me here is that Chanel paints such a realistic picture of this fictional woman that the aspirational aspect would be more around her lifestyle rather than the destiny she chooses for herself. Basically, young generation of women would dream more about the fact she is rich rather than what adventure her destiny brings her into. Unfortunately this is exactly the message that all TV channels around the world serve to young generations right now. It is great to be a celebrity because you are rich rather than because you are talented. Think about all examples like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian or Nicole Ritchie… All celebrities and nobody knows what they really do for a living or what kind of talent they have. They are basically wealthy enough to be on the headlines of all tabloids. Of course I would not compare these women to Gisele Bundchen in real life. But I am comparing these women to a certain interpretation that can be read in what Chanel proposed in this new commercial. And that’s the danger. Let’s not forget this is supposed to be a Tv commercial for a fragrance, should make you dream and transport you to wonderland. You might not wish to face your own struggling to achieve your life, no matter how successful you are. So a certain careful needs to be taken with the limits of the exercise.

All the ingredients were gathered for a great advertising

We often say in gastronomy that you need to be a very bad chef to make a bad meal when you have wonderful ingredients. And here we have amazing ingredients. there are several details that would make you believe in this project. Chanel as always places her investment as high as their ambitions, so no limitations in terms of set, production or even scenario. Let’s review the different elements.

The most iconic fragrance for woman in the world

What could possible go wrong with Chanel N.5 that sells more than one million flacons every year around the world for generations of women? It is a best-seller worldwide even in Japan which is a tuff market for fragrances. Despite of all great creations launched in the market since then, there is something absolutely unique in this fragrance that goes beyond the product itself. It is almost part of what defines femininity.

The spirit of Ms. Chanel

The Chanel new ad resonates with the spirit of the house back in the 20’s. Chanel became very popular by proposing active and practical elegant clothe for women. Coco Chanel used jersey cloth because of its physical properties as a garment, such as its drape — how it falls upon and falls from the body of the woman — and how well it adapted to a simple garment-design. Sartorially, some of Chanel’s designs derived from the military uniforms made prevalent by the War; and, by 1915, the designs and the clothes produced by the House of Chanel were known throughout France. By 1920, Chanel had designed and presented a woman’s suit of clothes — composed either of two garments or of three garments — which allowed a woman to have a modern, feminine appearance, whilst being comfortable and practical to maintain; advocated as the “new uniform for afternoon and evening”, it became known as the Chanel Suit (wikipedia). For this film, the Production Designer collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld and his team in order to translate the life of this woman as much as possible. They have chosen outfits from the Dubai collection, which would allow elegant, active and comfortable silhouettes. Ms Chanel always wished that a woman’s clothes fit her lifestyle as much as possible. This is completely the case here.

Chanel-fashion-1920s Coco-Chanel-fashion

So the Swimsuit echoes this approach. Inside the fictional home of Gisele we can see several details related to Chanel, from furniture to even pillows. Also in the city, Chanel brand is present in many places from the Skyline to Gisele’s earrings and of course the dresses.


Gisele Bundchen, the last real Top Model

Gisele is Gisele. Gisele Bundchen is truly the last Top Model and worldwide super star. Everybody knows her and her face has been associated to all beautiful brands. We know she is also the most well-paid top model in the world but this is not what makes her special. She earned our respect thanks to her integrity as a Mother, a Yoga follower and a discreet person when it comes her personal relationships. We will see very few about her personal life as she is not really interested to expose her privacy to the public. This gave her an authentic attitude and a great reputation. She has also a natural sexiness so she is a perfect choice as brand ambassador. It was amazing to see how Gisele was able to convey emotions without even talking. Her body is her instrument and there is something strongly authentic about her personality that fit perfectly in the role. It is almost a bio-pic about her!


Michiel Huisman, the perfect husband? Make them dream

The Dutch actor has revealed himself to the world thanks to his role in the worldwide success TV serie Game of Thrones in which he plays the role of Daario Naharis at the service of the Dragon Queen. Michiel Huisman has a masculine charisma and a look in his eyes that anyone would die for. He plays the fictional husband of Gisele in the film. The challenge for this young actor was to convey emotions with his face and gestures, without talking or experiencing a very dramatic scenery. It was a very fine-tuning approach, each detail of the face, the hands, the body and the movements would contribute to the expressed emotions.

A great Film Director, Baz Luhrmann.

There is a trend to ask Movie directors to develop the TV spots for Fragrances, rather than asking a communication agency or other film creative people. This is probably due to the fact Fragrance brands are amazing story-tellers and they need to work with people who knows how to tell a good story. Chanel worked already with Martin Scorsese on Bleu and this time it is Baz Luhrmann. The choice of this Director is clever and you can understand it just by looking to his Filmography. He likes to take references from the past and re-write the classics. On his scoreboard: Moulin Rouge! , Romeo+Juliet or The Great Gatsby. So by challenging him to review the Chanel N.5 myth, probably Baz Luhrmann would have the right “eye” to find a modern translation of the legend of Chanel 5 woman.

The Sound Track is just amazingly original and beautiful

Everybody was mind-blowed by the cover of Lo-Fang from the Grease soundtrack song “You’re the one that I want” originally performed by Olivia Newton John. It was a daring move and Lo-Fang song is warm, sensual, intense and deep, it would make tears running from your eyes. Well done Chanel for such a risk. The song is so well incorporated in the film that we almost forget that there are no dialogs.

As a conclusion, I must say this Tv commercial will not let you without an opinion. I personally went from: hate it, to love it, to don’t know, and now what? By analyzing the work made by Chanel, we understand the brand wished to be aspirational for today’s women who probably manage several aspects of their lives and that sometimes it is not easy. The question I ask myself is to how old is the woman that this film will reach in fact? If she is over 40’s, not sure that she will identify herself with this proposed picture, or even if she will recognize Chanel N.5 story neither. If she is between 30 and 40, I am not sure that facing her current issues on a Tv commercial would please her as probably she is today seeking some “fresh air” from her busy and often complex life. And what about women under 30s? Yes this film can work for them. Why? Because their future life is still a “concept” as they are not “yet” facing all these tensions in their lives. So they will probably like the ad as finally it is Gisele, she is rich, successful and has a great life despite of the tensions. I think the choice of Gisele Bundchen was crucial. Try placing Kim Kardashian in the main role, the message would have been much different. And this shows the fact the exercise is on a certain line that you do not wish Chanel to cross.
At the end, is it a good ad for Chanel N.5? I am still not sure. Time will say. Chanel N.5 will probably still be the most purchased fragrance next Christmas, so there is nothing for Chanel to be worried about. In any case, we can say Chanel has taken several risks, which is we wish them to be good.


Gisele Bundchen Chanel N.5

Info sourced at Chanel website and Youtube channel, Forbes magazine and wikipedia. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available.