“What do I wear in bed? Chanel N°5, of course. ”Marilyn Monroe mentioned in her interview in 19521. When referring to fragrance, it is hard not to mention Chanel N°5, due to its uniqueness, longevity and popularity, it is associated by others with women, famous and not famous, who have worn it in different eras over its decades. Chanel N°5 is the first perfume launched by CoCo Chanel in 19202, it is not only one of the world’s top selling perfumes3 but also represent a world of fantasy and reflection of the desire and pleasure of the time period.
?Prior to the introduction of magazine, newspaper is the main communication source of information and advertising in the society4. At that time period, it is one of the most effective method for advertisings to enter the house of consumer since the limitation of technological development of radio and television have not yet been discovered. Different from newspaper, magazine does not aim to target everyone, it often has very specific group of target group, presenting information and areas of interest that its target group would enjoy.
In the early age of magazine, there was a great emphasize in targeting elite class of the society, which be seen from extremely informative full page of texts. After a realization of increasing number of middle class and immigrants, magazine shifted its target from the elite to middle class5, which lead to the necessity of the use of imagery to communicate. Editors of magazine has shift from elite man with a background of mostly literature to middle class man with a background relating to merchandise.
Magazine realized that the profits are not made through subscriptions, but through companies market their products by buying spaces in the issue6. Advertisement in magazines has become one of the most prominent method of marketing or in another word, methods of creating desire. Chanel has always been featured their advertisement in leading female fashion related magazine such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
This essay will explore the comparison of Chanel N°5 fragrance magazine advertisement from a different time period of 49 years in relationship to the cultural shift and the impact of advertisement from self satisfaction to sexual attraction which represents through values hold in gender, stereotypes, lifestyle, desire and fantasy. The two advertisements that will be used to analyze are the magazine ads of the famous Chanel N°5 perfume. ‘Chanel becomes the woman you are’ print ad in 1959 (Fig1) starring Suzy Parker, one of the most recognizable faces of the 1950s as a supermodel and actress.
Suzy Parker was the signature face for Coco Chanel as she has always been associated with elegance and glamour7. The dominant part of the advertisement presents a black and white dreamy photograph of Suzy Parker in a beautiful evening gown with the perfect hair and make up, glancing slightly away from the viewers. The ads also features the well known bottle/ product, Chanel N°5 as a secondary focus with a tag line ‘Chanel becomes the woman you are’ with a paragraph expanding on it: ‘A perfume is different on different women because every woman has a skin chemistry all her own.
Chanel N°5 is subtly created to blend with your own delicate essence- to be like Chanel N°5, yet deliciously like you alone. Chanel becomes you because it becomes you. ’. Similarly in one of the contemporary most famous campaign for Chanel N°5 in 2004 (Fig2), Nicole Kidman, a talented and beautiful Australian actress who enters the hollywood famously known for her elegant beauty8 was enlisted to represent the fragrance. The technological development of film, television and recent main information communication and sharing method, the internet, allow advertising to go beyond just a printed page enter to the phrase of story telling.
The 2004 Nicole Kidman advertisement has a direct connection to the campaign of a mini-movie/ film which everyone has access through various sources. Due to the popularity of internet and information sharing, it is not a difficult for viewers who see the ads in the magazine to recall and connect the story in the film to print ads, allowing Chanel to create a full advertising campaign which successfully tell a story of the world famous star, Nicole Kidman, who escape from the publicity and fall in love with a stranger.
The last scene of the film is used in the print ad, displaying Nicole Kidman when she returns back to her world, with a dialogue: ‘And then she was gone, as she forgotten, i know i will not… her kiss, her smile and her perfume’9. The film does not mentioned any word about or show viewers what the perfume it was, the only clue was the necklace ‘N°5’ The print features in magazine depicts a beautiful photograph of Nicole Kidman in a dark background contrasting with her body- the closing eyes and ambiguous posture: turning away from or about to face
the viewers in a beautiful modern black evening gown with her simply perfect up-do hair and her N°5 necklace which is wear to her back. The ads does not contain any words or explanation, only present N°5 with the signature bottle which is constantly shown throughout since the first ads. “Perfume is intended to contribute to our understanding of gender as performance rather than expression, and of identity as practice rather than essence”10 stated by Angela Partington.
Fragrance has always been known as the connotation of identity, as the word ‘wear’ is used to describe the action of using. As can be seen in the 1959 Suzy Parker Chanel N°5 Ads, the tagline ‘Chanel becomes the woman you are’ aimed to create a personal, even intimate connection with the object. It does not promotes how special the product itself is, instead, it makes the individual consumer as an important ingredient. The ads makes consumers feel that it is specific individual ‘you’ who makes it extra unique and special.
This advertisement illustration the shift from the emphasize in character as moral and internal sense to ethics to identity as a self focused behavior11. In contrast, the Ads featured Nicole Kidman presents an identity of a fantasy figure of famous star, a break from reality in which all women desire to have in real life. The opposite sex attraction is used as the message of this ads. It puts the audiences in a fantasy world and convince them to believe that using the produce will create the same outcome for them.
This shows the values holds in identity of the society which self satisfied identity is not enough, it is more of the relationships to other people, the representation of ‘you’ through others’ eyes. The advertisings of Chanel N°5 in the two ads does not only symbolize the values in identity, it is also a great representation of gender and sexuality values hold in the society as well. Both of the Chanel N°5 Ad depicts women in a beautiful evening gown which certainly is going to attend an important social event.
The two ads illustrates the roles of women in the society as a powerful individuals who has social status, not the women in the past who expect to stay home. They are the representation of the equality and balance of gender roles, and what women in the time period are desire to be. As sex roles evolved, with women entering the workforce and pushing for equality, sexual appeals casting the woman as a sex object is no longer a popular and rightful subject to present12. Referring to ‘The Erotic History of Advertising’, there is a shift of the theme of turning on men to representing the power- women in control13.
It can be seen in the 1959 Chanel N°5 Ads, as the ad does not have any reference to any sexual attraction, only focusing herself in control of her own identity and representation. The different approach, however, generating the same effects, is taken in the 2004 Nicole Kidman Ads, it is the representation of the current society, how the society control her as a role of super star and how she uses perfume to make a man ‘remember’ or be under her control. It seems like there is a great manner in revisiting the theme of sexual attraction in the society.
“Fragrance is a material, symbolic and visual object, and ‘image’/ fantasy articulating not just luxury and glamour, but a range of desires for transformed bodies, auto-erotic, sensual and socio-sexual experiences. 14 The discussion of gender and sexuality cannot be complete without the discussion of skin explosion as sexuality. Chanel has always been known to represent elegance, glamour and class15 which is why advertisings by Chanel are almost always associate with women attending an event in a beautiful gown .
‘Chanel becomes the woman you are’ ads display elegance in a simply conservative way, as seen through her fashionable dress of ruffles, covering Suzy Parker’s whole body, left only with the main emphasize of her face- her identity. This demonstrate their aim to sell personal identities for self satisfaction which is well supported with the text and tagline. The ads display how the society before may seen the use of sexuality to sell as an unacceptable methods and unfashionable topic to talk about in the society.
In contrast, the 2004 Chanel N°5 Ads presents sexuality through various motifs such as the skin which shown through the very low cut back dress and the emotion on Nicole Kidman’s closing eyes. It is clear today that one of the leading marketing trend that would attract people’s enjoyment and attentions would involve more skin as the viewers are no longer limited to women but also to men. However, Chanel have use sexuality in a very elegant way through one technique described by the brand researcher William Baue, ‘focusing on fantasy allowed Chanel to harness the power of sexuality
without crossing the border into distaste’16 Fantasy has always been associated with fragrance as a method to create desire17 which is the main motive of advertisement. In both ads, Chanel has chose to represent the brand itself through an actress- an individual whom placed in between the line of reality and dream. In 1959 Ads, even though the focus of the campaign is ‘you’ as a viewer, however, Chanel chose to represent its viewer as Suzy Parker, the famous actress. The connection of reality and fantasy is quietly made in a way that viewers may not even realize the fantasy they are dreaming of.
Even through the text in the ads describe the quality and ingredients which makes the perfume becomes you as a person, it also touches on the fantasy aspect in term of the values of gender, power, identity and status described above. In obvious way, the ads featured Nicole Kidman shows and put viewers into a fantasy world in reality. Due to the technological development, the film became dominant part of the campaign allowing viewers to explore, take a break from reality and leave them with a desire- desire to become like Nicole Kidman and putting the message in their face that Chanel N°5 will allow ‘you’ to be like that.
The unchanged method of using fantasy as desirable motifs to sell fragrance18 have proved that the women from then and now have and will always been interested and attracts to the word ‘could’, what she could be, what she could do and where she could go- the stage of dreaming. The development of technology allowed the 2004 Nicole Kidman campaign to successfully tell a fantasy story which almost force viewers to create their imagery fancy lifestyle picture in her head, which then lead to the desire to own the object advertised.
In conclusion, the different time period advertisement of Chanel N°5 perfume in magazine advertisement demonstrate the shifting values from identity as self satisfaction toward the impressions of others. Advertisement of the two ads has became the reflection of the society’s value in gender, lifestyle, sexuality and desire. Moreover, fragrance will always be sold with a desirable motif through fantasy, it only varied in the term of the presentation method and techniques, mostly through the language of photography and language, that would attracts and communicate the people of the time.