Brad Pitt vs Catherine Deneuve : Chanel No 5 Commercial

Last night I finally caught the new Brad Pitt Chanel No 5 commercial, and I don’t even know what to say.  The monologue is so awful, so cringe inducing that it made me feel embarrassed for Pitt. “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.” Now that I see it written down, it makes even less sense.

I then spent an hour browsing through the Chanel No 5 archives until I found a similar style of No 5 commercial with Catherine Deneuve: subdued tones, simple photography, natural styling.  But you only have to listen to Deneuve to see why her commercial makes you want to run out to smell No 5 and why Pitt’s is inspiring parodies. “I know that he loves me for what I am deeply. I know because he cares about the little things, he brings my coffee always in a small cup, because it is precious to me. He gives me Chanel No. 5 because I love to put it in a special place, behind my knee.”

My other favorite No 5 commercial features Estella Warren as Little Red Riding Hood, directed by Luc Besson in 1998. It made me, a penniless student at the time, save enough money until I could buy a bottle of Chanel No 5. I still have it.

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64 Comments

  • Nikki: Thank you! I was wondering about that awful Brad Pitt commercial myself. Just terrible. Thank you for the other two comparisons, I really loved the last one, Le Loup! October 20, 2012 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I can watch that one over and over again. Everything about it is magical. I also attribute my love of full skirt dresses like that to that commercial. 🙂 October 20, 2012 at 2:55pm Reply

  • rosarita: Yes, cringe inducing indeed. I spent some time this morning looking at parodies on YouTube. Some are pretty funny. As for being embarrassed for Brad, it’s circulated that he was paid 7million to read those ridiculous lines. I’m sure the elegant Ms Deneuve was not. October 20, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

    • Barbara: 7 million! He must be laughing all the way to the bank. October 20, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

      • Yulya: I do not think he has any brains to see how ridiculous this text is. 🙂 October 20, 2012 at 11:07am Reply

        • solanace: Or how ridiculous he looked reading it. Those eybrows! October 20, 2012 at 2:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ok, I don’t really feel that bad for him. 🙂 October 20, 2012 at 2:55pm Reply

  • india: Dear Bois de Jasmin:

    I read your blog everyday without fail, but have never commented.

    I wish to thank you for introducing me to the emotive world of perfume. Were it not for you, I never would have experienced Shalimar, Paris, Joy, Coco and Chanel no 5.

    The Chanel #5 commercial featuring Mr. Pitt and directed by Joe Wright is a masterpiece.

    I understood the meaning behind this commercial with one viewing.

    The director has unerringly placed his finger on the pulse of the global economic crises.

    Mr. Wright is attempting to convey through a few seconds…the hopelessness and the despair which millions are experiencing at the moment.

    Totally alone and afraid, these individuals live in a world of darkness. They have absolutely nothing and nowhere to turn…but that no matter what happens…Chanel #5 will always exist, until the end of the world…and that Chanel #5 is where one can turn to find comfort… October 20, 2012 at 10:51am Reply

    • Hana: This is an interesting point. If it was the intention, I don’t think Brad Pitt was the right choice to carry the message. They should have chosen someone who is not such a symbol of wealth and fame. Also I’m wondering who wrote the lines for him. October 20, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s interesting, India. I agree with Hana though that someone else might have been a better choice. I personally associate him with wealth and the world of privilege, a perfect lifestyle if you will. October 20, 2012 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Ksenija: It may be a master piece of marketing, but certainly not a film direction masterpiece. October 21, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

    • Lynn Morgan: Say what????? The only thing more incomprehensible than the commercial was your response to it! Global economic crisis? Perfume??? What possible connection did you make between these things and and that rather badly lit scrap of amateur audition tape? October 22, 2012 at 5:53pm Reply

  • Yulya: Victoria, thank you for the comparison. I think that two earlier commercials are great!
    India, I beg to differ. I do not see any such depth behind thus one. Moreover, if we think about it, having us, disadvantaged consumers pay for Pitt moving his lips… Isn’t it a controversy? October 20, 2012 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I also love ads with Carole Bouquet. Robin (NST) mentioned that Chanel has been uploading their old Chanel No 5 ads on youtube, so there is more available for our viewing pleasure. October 20, 2012 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: I actually like the Chanel advert with brad! It is so different from any perfume commercial at the moment. It is not shiny, nor sparkly, or glittery, it is not made of any fantasy land, or over photoshopped actors. It is dark, mysterious, monotone, nothing flashy, just grey, but still I find it captivatingly elegant and edgy. So for me it works. October 20, 2012 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t mind the styling or Pitt’s simple look, but I guess, I didn’t care for the text. On the other hand, a monotone is some change from the flashy ads (One Million!) October 20, 2012 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi V,

    I’m not even going to attempt to dignify by any comments regarding Chanel’s new spokesperson, Mr. Jolie-Pitt. Fortunately, the audio was defective. Deneuve and Estella personify the French mystique and feminity and charm of these women and classicism that is No 5. Love the price point noted in Deneuve’s commercial. October 20, 2012 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I clicked on the link to test the audio (it works ok on my computer), and my husband walks by saying, “why are you watching it again!” We’ve been bombarded with this ad on the Belgian and French TV channels. 🙂 October 20, 2012 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Reese: Chanel should have gone with George Clooney. Brad Pitt looks awful; he is downgrading a timeless, classic product, and that commercial is disastrous.

    I love all of the old Chanel ads, especially the ones with Catherine Deneuve and Carole Bouquet. Hard to believe Chanel was ever priced as it was in the Deneuve ads! October 20, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

    • solanace: He loos like the ultimate ‘six- pack-joe’, with all that hair and the scruffy shirt. I agree Clooney would be a better choice. He has that old school class, and I bet he would never deliver such a ridiculous interpretation. October 20, 2012 at 2:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: My husband suggested Mr James Bond, Daniel Graig! October 20, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

      • Austenfan: He is more of a gentleman than Pitt, but his accent is perhaps not quite posh enough.

        I have been trying to think of a French actor who might fit the bill, unfortunately I can’t think of anyone. October 21, 2012 at 4:39am Reply

  • Lynne Marie: Surprisingly, I found myself liking the Brad Pitt commercial and I’m not at all into the whole Brangelina mania. I found the text extremely romantic – no matter what happens, no matter if the journey is ending or beginning, whether things are good or bad, he turns and SHE is there – his luck, his fate, his fortune. Fate is a deeply romantic word as in: lovers fated to be together. etc.. If my husband described me in those terms I’d positively swoon. To me the implication of the commercial is that wearing No. 5 makes you the kind of woman who will have that effect on a man. sign me up! October 20, 2012 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Lynne Marie. It’s really good to hear another perspective! I didn’t interpret his text as referring to a woman, so I probably missed that angle. October 20, 2012 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I have never really understood Pitt’s popularity. I can’t even see why people find him good looking. The ad however is another matter. It’s hilarious. As I suggested somewhere else: If Chanel had wanted to do a satirical ad they should have hired David Walliams who would be wearing No.5 because ” he is a lady”.

    It has inspired a number of parodies including this one made by a local Dutch TV channel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdYBHYmGsWU October 20, 2012 at 1:41pm Reply

    • solanace: I agree this must be some sort of joke. Do you think it was Chanel’s decision to go satyrical? I thought he was doing the Diego Rivera thing. (lol) But seriously, I can’t believe he is that bad an actor. October 20, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: This parody is hysterical. I can make out only 10% of what he’s saying, but maybe it’s even funnier, because I don’t understand completely. October 20, 2012 at 3:13pm Reply

      • Austenfan: The man, as far as I understand, is the weatherman on a local channel. He basically repeats Brad’s words but referring to the weather.
        Both the original ad + plus this parody made it to national Dutch tv. The parody was hugely liked, the original panned. October 20, 2012 at 3:45pm Reply

    • Leonie: You know he was good in Thelma and Louise – pretty much being himself, young and very sexy… October 20, 2012 at 4:22pm Reply

      • Austenfan: That is where our opinions diverge. It was the first time I ever saw him in anything, and I caught Thelma and Louise way after it first came out and did not like him one bit. He has never been my cup of tea, until this ad, where I find him hilarious. October 21, 2012 at 4:34am Reply

  • solanace: That Pitt commercial is so awful it is funny, in a dark way. Loved the red riding hood, thank’s for posting it! October 20, 2012 at 2:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just love the part when she’s walking through that golden passageway. So graceful and beautiful. October 20, 2012 at 3:14pm Reply

  • Leonie: George Clooney! Yes actually this would have been interesting. When I see Brad Pitt in this commercial all I can’t think is “Gee someone needs a haircut…” but then I come from an army family so maybe I am just prejudiced. October 20, 2012 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Mmm, I’m imagining George Clooney, but maybe not in this exact same ad. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 7:36am Reply

    • Lynn Morgan: You are prejudiced…. long hair is very sexy and rebellious. It’s such a drag that men go bald- who started the rumor that men age better than women?? We keep our hair and our senses of humor. I just didn’t like the scruffy goatee…. October 22, 2012 at 5:57pm Reply

      • Leonie: Mmm even if I try very hard – there is not a single man with long hair that i could call sexy 🙂 Ah well isn’t it good that we all like different things… As to the goatee oh please don’t get me started! October 24, 2012 at 9:47am Reply

  • Kerrie: Thank you Victoria for reminding us of the beautiful ads we used to see for Chanel No. 5. Watching the beautiful Catherine Deneuve and darling Estella Warren was all one could do to get over that terrible ad with Brad Pitt! I also loved the ones with Carole Bouquet, too. What is this world coming to! October 20, 2012 at 6:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Carole Bouquet ads are so beautiful! I actually like most of Chanel ads. October 22, 2012 at 7:36am Reply

  • Leah: I tried to rationalise this along the lines that Chanel has always attempted to push the envelope between the clean/sophisticated and the sexually provocative (I failed) . The selection of Deneuve, arguably the paragon of beauty, was brilliant. Her body of work prior to the Chanel ads brought with it a series of connotations that would not have been lost on viewers. This film made me sad and, like you, very nostalgic. October 20, 2012 at 8:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great point–Deneuve had a very strong connotation of glamour, beauty, elegance. The only thing I associate with Pitt these days is Angelina. But I liked him in his earlier movies. October 22, 2012 at 7:38am Reply

  • eminere: I agree the Brad Pitt commercial is thoroughly absurd. October 20, 2012 at 9:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: Saturday Night Live did a hysterical spoof in which the actor keeps saying the same phrases as Pitt and then turns to someone behind the camera saying, “Is there really no script? I’ve been talking to myself for something like two hours, I’m starting to sound insane. Oh, you want me to be even less coherent? Ok.” October 22, 2012 at 7:39am Reply

      • eminere: Haha yes I read about that! October 25, 2012 at 6:13am Reply

  • eminere: Oh, and the only thing inevitable about this commercial is, thanks to Chanel’s bottomless pit of marketing funds, we’re all doomed to endless repeats on television for the next 6 months. October 21, 2012 at 3:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I feel like every single time I turn on the TV, I hear “This is not a journey…” French channels usually dub every bit of English, but unfortunately this ad is not dubbed. It keeps running with the subtitles. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 7:41am Reply

      • eminere: It doesn’t help that Brad looks like a homeless man in the commercial. >_< October 25, 2012 at 6:14am Reply

  • K: I think Francesca Fiore said it best: “Never before, more than I had to be!” (from “Kids in the Hall” a Canadian comedy show from the 90’s)… October 21, 2012 at 1:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Kids in the Hall was a great comedy show (can’t figure out what the phrase refers to though). October 22, 2012 at 7:42am Reply

  • Rose D: If Brad’s ad did not make me stop buying Chanel N°5, I think nothing ever will! I think I am the only woman in the world who has not been crazy about him over the last 15 years, just as I am not crazy about this new monologue. Perhaps a Frenchman would have been a better choice, or even an Italian or Spaniard with a slight accent; and definitely, here is another vote for George Clooney. October 21, 2012 at 10:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know if Pitt is an issue or the monologue, or both. But as The Stir said, “Pitt isn’t pretentious enough to pull off dialogue this melodramatic.” October 22, 2012 at 7:46am Reply

  • Apollonia: Rose D., you’re not the only one who finds no charm in Mr. Pitt. I’ve seen him in two films, I think, and I could take him or leave him. A better choice for Chanel might have been Andrea Bocelli because he’s also world-famous, handsome and because of his blindness, his sense of smell is exceptionally keen. Think of the copy that could be written for him along the lines of smelling a woman’s No 5 as she enters a room and the beautiful images and colors and whatever that it evokes……. October 22, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

  • Montréalaise: When I first saw the commercial, I wondered “Why is Brad Pitt so scruffy and unkempt?”. My second thought – after he actually started talking, was “What the heck is he on?”
    From a marketing standpoint, though, it’s probably brilliant. After all, everyone is talking about this commercial – even if they are making fun of it – and that’s what Chanel wants, right, to have the trade name “Chanel No 5” on everyone’s mind. It’s no coincidence that the commercial was released just before the all-important holiday shopping season, when people often buy fragrances as gifts. October 22, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

  • K: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-CtKIo7olM

    a great spoof of the nonsensical nature of perfume/fashion commercials! October 22, 2012 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Maybe it’s time to go multi-cultural with this…. I vote for Densel Washington, speaking french, dressed in a gorgeous Hedi Slimane suit. Purrrrrr October 22, 2012 at 5:59pm Reply

    • allgirlmafia: Ya durn skippy. I vote Denzel Washington wearing anything and promoting anything as long as I get to watch his pretty self across my T.V screen. October 24, 2012 at 9:12pm Reply

  • Jackie: First of all, I think Brad Pitt is a terrific actor and I really like his film work.
    Second of all, I think this commercial is a hoot and a half. I laughed myself silly the first time I saw it. However, I serious doubt Pitt knew what the finished product would look like when he signed on. And if he did, that just means he’s not a good advertising executive. He’s an actor and if that was what he was hired to do, he did it well. Whether you like his work or not, he’s the messenger not the creator.
    With all the press and SNL parody, which was perfect, I think it will sell product, even though it’s the most pretentious and stupid ad for perfume that I’ve seen if a long while. October 23, 2012 at 1:41pm Reply

  • minette: and yet…

    and yet…

    it is brad pitt. and i remain a total sucker for the guy and his voice.

    yeah, yeah, yeah the copy is silly, but he actually does better things with it than i expected, having read people’s reviews of this commercial.

    now, if they would do one with him AND October 23, 2012 at 5:25pm Reply

    • minette: deneuve together – as lovers – THAT would make me want to buy No. 5!

      cheers,
      minette October 23, 2012 at 5:26pm Reply

  • Haefennasiel: Dear Ad Agency,

    Instead of “inevitable”, maybe you should’ve used “incomprehensible”, no?

    And why did you use Brad’s failed audition tape for “Inception”? Is this your idea of cost-cutting?

    Sincerely,
    Haefennasiel October 24, 2012 at 1:40am Reply

  • allgirlmafia: I love Brad Pitt real REAL bad. But this commercial is real REAL bad….and I don’t mean that in a good way. October 24, 2012 at 9:10pm Reply

  • Rashid: BTW, I just came across this parody of the ad:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/415488#i3,p0,d2
    http://www.hulu.com/watch/415492

    The commercial is soooooo bad that didn’t escape SNL’s attention. November 9, 2012 at 9:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hysterical! Thank you so much, Rashid. November 10, 2012 at 2:32am Reply

  • Catherine Barroll: There is an old Chanel No.5 commercial that I remember vividly that was so beautifully, maddeningly abstract, it took me a long time to figure out what it was for…it had a thirties crooner vodaphone voice singing “I don’t want to set the world on fire, I just want to start a fire in your heart.”, as a plane flew over an art deco swimming pool and a woman whispered “Charles…” and a man responded “Catherine..”. It was so wonderfully retro and dreamlike at the same time; I wonder if anyone remembers it?(Brad Pitt is pretty weak soup, compared to it.What’s happened to him?) November 29, 2012 at 1:04am Reply

  • Catherine Barroll: Found them! They don’t make them like this anymore! Sigh….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=dx3Na_7inPI

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tmhfwz8w5o November 29, 2012 at 1:24am Reply

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