Monday, March 21, 2011

Why the new Chanel Coco Mademoiselle commercial with Keira Knightley in Beige is Ultimately Undewhelming

Chanel has just released their new 2011 commercial for Coco Mademoiselle starring Keira Knightley in what has to be the most bootylicious outfit out there for the brand (evah!) and I'm grumbling with a sense of disappointment. Before you start calling me a picky bitch, hear me out and see if you agree.

The commercial is gloriously saturated in rich, peachy-golden neutrals, echoed through settings, clothes and protagonists' colouring. The Ducati is eye candy. Keira, on whom I never was particularly big, looks gorgeous in sprayed-on beige & black as well, don't get me wrong! Whereas gowns with decolletage and bare arms let her skeletal glory show to much discomfort and to thinspiration for teens (apparently!), a fitted catsuit which hides her ribcage and, on the contrary, puts accent on her meatier parts (those thighs, that butt) suits her just fine. I was about to give a wolf's whistle upon seeing her riding, ass pert on that Ducati motorcycle, director Joe Wright hedonistically shooting it from the back for a brief while~wait, was it three whole seconds?~ but then remembered my XX chromosomes and restrained myself. Lots of guys won't, though, obviously because they don't have a matching set (of either chromosomes or butt cheeks), and that's the whole point: The message is Keira in Chanel has something going on for her, something wild, something sexy! So will -hopefully- every girl she's gifted with it. Perfume after all is largely the fantasy of hanging a Ferrari porte-clefs on your humble Fiat, isn't it?

But haven't we seen that before? Or is that too much teasing makes the heart go butter instead of aflutter? I'm surprised they chose It is a Man's World (interpreted by Joss Stone, yet again!) instead of Wild Thing by The Troggs as the soundtrack: Keira's certainly a wild thing if the full 3:20 minutes are to be taken into account: she makes pretty eyes at the photographer, with whom she has some sort of relationship. She shoots her as herself, the face of Chanel (a bit a la David Bailey) and then she leaves him all...frustrated, shall we say, leaving out the window. Sneaky minx...

But then the song choice does make sense after all, going straight for bull's eye actually: This is Chanel's positioning of Coco Mademoiselle as for the "powerful" young woman, the seductress, the one who yields the power of her appeal over those she meets; to the point that she doesn't actually need them anyway. She onanistically can leave them behind; her power lies within herself. The full commercial, the teasers and interviews which preceeded it said clearly this is Chanel emasculated, a Chanel superwoman, an androgynous figure ~certainly true for Keira's boyish figure, true for Gabrielle Chanel as a young lass too. But we're not dealing with an Amazon; far from it!
To my mind the era of the Glamazon has died alongside Helmut Newton and his photographs of women as mistresses of all they survey. Keira and Coco Mademoiselle are ~let's be honest~ too cute to even entertain the thought that they yield so much power. This is why it was necessary to have Keira pronounce it "not too sweet, not too overpowering, not flowery" in interviews, lying -yes, lying- that she used to wear men's scents blah blah blah....And therein lies the trap: Coco Mademoiselle does exhibit a fragrance structure of pretty & quite sweet flowers atop a rather masculine loud patchouli and vetiver base: a five o'clock shadow shows underneath a checkbone meticulously dusted with Nars Orgasm. Nevertheless, that five o'clock shadow doesn't come home bringing the bacon, doing a real job, taking it like a man. She still relies on tried & true feminine wiles sprinkled with promise and only has the motorcycle and boots to show for toughness. And what's more she proclaims to the whole wide world she's open for business, Coco Mademoiselle having aquired ~through use and abuse~ the inferred message of "come on big guy, I'm here waiting for you to hit on me, all smoky eyed, and martini at hand". Now that Coco Mademoiselle is everywhere, some of the mystique has gone and this new commercial doesn't help much. And nothing of it is Keira's fault. But they had been going for it since a while, so why am I complaining?

The first Keira-Chanel commercial, showing the stylish thief, who burgles through an open window to put on those gorgeous jewels and who then appears in a long red dress at a gala from which she leaves alone, much amused with herself, in my opinion exhibited real style, a sense of feminine independence and a playful desire for adventure. What does this newer one communicate? How to be a cock teaser? Chanel, you've come a long way; hopefully the Ducati doesn't stop here...

What do YOU think?


  1. Hey E - I really like KK - and I thought that this commercial was cute...but that was it. So I agree w/you on many points - not empowering but umm cute.

    Although I always wonder why people think that the 'taking off the boot/shoe' is glamourous or sexy..I mean in RL, isn't it a bit odorous?!


  2. Anonymous22:57

    the message i got was: it's okay to be a prick tease.

    love the way she whips the foot away as soon as the boot comes off - i'd whip it away, too because by that time i'll bet it would be probably pretty ripe! especially sockless. ha.

    she's got a pretty face, and great eyes and nice hair, so the part where she's mugging the camera works. her body isn't what i would consider sexy, but sexy is so individual, i'm sure some men would find her sexy. she'd be too scrawny for me if she were a guy (and very long waisted, which i don't like on men). i was, however, quite attracted to the photographer - and maybe that's why i didn't like the prick tease routine. i mean, there just aren't that many hot guys around (where i live, especially!). so, why would you waste one???!!!

    anyway, pretty little bit of fluff, but is it something that will sell perfume? we'll see.


  3. haha yes I see what you mean! I was confused until I actually watched it. Indeed it is all disappointingly hollow isn't it! All style and not much to back it up. Sad. Great casting though! Sack whoever wrote the "script".

  4. Asali06:54

    I'm with you a 100% on this! What IS the message here? Perhaps that KK might be the only person in the universe to look good in a tight, nude jumpsuit?
    But then again, it just reminds me that I'm not the target audience for this advert as little as I am their market segment for this perfume, and I suppose that explains a great deal.
    The ones for whom this advert is meant, might find it cool, and not read too much into it- maybe that's frightening- but that's another discussion.

  5. OK - so we see a tapeworm on a bike. What impressed me was the stench that scent must have to clear ALL the streets of busy old Paris !!
    It went for 3 mins Helg - god I thought it was NEVER going to end! More like 3 boring hours.
    Not sexy, not smart - just beige and dull.
    LOL - they wasted their money!

  6. HA HA HA HA! That was REALLY funny. At one cut-away I thought she fell off the bike and into a flower stand! Another shot shows her taking a twirl in front of the bed--and I swear she looked very unsteady and then there is that hysterical show of her as the elevator door opens and her hair looks like she stuck her finger in a electrical socket. Honestly, when I think of Keira, I think of Bend it Like Beckham, where she's all "come 'ere bloke". She's cute, but she misses a sensual quality and this commnercial highlights that really well. It's way too long for her to be able to pull off. And any way aren't we tired of seeing the lovely lady who is getting it on with the photographer (who by the way looks like a goofball too!).

  7. C,

    well, in this case, Keira comes up on top (ahem), she's great in it, so I can't bring myself to say anything against her. The fault lies elsewhere.

    I suppose there's a powerful and rather fetichistic connotation with boots, shoes and feet. I distintcly recall reading in a philosophy manual about how feminine heeled shoes connote so many things because:
    1.they're so very different than men's
    2.they constrict movement
    3.they elevate the wearer into a higher plane
    4.they make hips sway and steps become smaller (ie. walking becomes rather slower)
    All these bear their own little web of interpretation and aftermath... :-)

    Of course, like you, when I see boots worn in the summer especially, or with bare feet, can't help wondering just how ripe those feet must be inside, even in the best of conditions...not my idea of sexy personally, but...

  8. J,

    yeah, prick tease she is there. Maybe Chanel markets a scent for prick teasers after all. Funny that once upon a time the prick teaser used to be No.5 (remember those glorious commercials?)

    I don't find Keira sexy (then again so very few women are sexy anyway; so many rely on stereotypes, effectively losing all their natural sexiness in the process). But she's very pretty and as you say she has beautiful eyes and hair and her face is interesting (all right, the pout gets to me, but she's not pouting in this one and that's a plus!).
    The point is: Chanel could have done so much more with her. Here's a young, stylish, interesting face that could recount a million stories and they go for the cliche. Why??

    As to leaving (hot) men hanging there (good point!)'s probably all part of The Rules, and have I ever gone on a tirade on how I'm tired by any rules?

  9. Gail,

    "hollow" is a very apt word, semantically-speaking; thanks for wording my thought thus. The cast is good but the story is old. Get something new people!

  10. Asali,

    I wouldn't even dare dream about such a catsuit: imagine the woobly bulges on less than perfect thighs! KK carries it superbly and it was tailor-made by Karl, so they did that part great, no complains.
    Personally and self-depreciatingly enough, I'm not jealous in the least, I'm not starring in commercials, so the message of "no one is able to carry this catsuit but me" doesn't bother me. It might though to aspiring Keiras the world over, which is of course one part of the fantasy (a little envy is part & parcel with that)

    The very young, who are targeted, would programmatically like all the cool factors in it: the Coco Mlle brand, the hip actress, the sexy stance without too much sentiment or dependance, the cute factor, the "exotic" locale even. I believe all these things were deemed sufficient and no more was required from the short film (or the undoubtedly shorter commercial that will screen on TVs and cinemas). So the thought process behind any of it is probably left conveniently out of the equation.
    It remains to be seen if audiences of very young women will identify themselves with those images or not. Or if they consider that the empowering message is in reality one of hollow emptiness and loneliness. They well might, you know.

  11. M,

    I was yawning myself, but then it's 100% certain the short film won't screen whole, successful commercials usually are no longer than a minute. Too much attention required and the average mushed-up mind of the TV-viewer forgets what they're seeing. (it's only an ad, they're supposed to be sandwhiched between other things)

    CM has plenty of street-clearing potential, being so loud as it is, though I doubt it managed such a feat all by itself!

  12. TFC,

    thank you. Glad you enjoyed my commentary -the clip not so much, from what I read between the lines. :-D
    With the machette I yield, it's a good thing there's some support before Chanel PR comes on board and complains.

    I agree completely about KK with you: cute, very pretty, but not really sensuous and the commercial highlights that indeed.
    The hair I think is supremely intentional and art-directed to be so. I recall all the bouffing that went on in the making-of of the first commercial. As in volume synonymous of sexual proweress or something along those lines (It gave that feeling to me watching them tease her hair all the time).

    I always thought that Keira Knightley would suit the sensibility of a different Chanel fragrance: something along the lines of Cristalle. Maybe Cristalle Eau Vert, if that one were better-made perfume-wise. Even Chance, which is more of a tomboyish but playful teen.
    She's rather horsey in that sort of guffawing way, very energetic, and would seem like a spontaneous, combustible creature to me, which wouldn't translate so well for a "calculating" scent like Coco Mlle. CM is a scent on a mission! Or so it has become, after seeing and smelling how it's used by ladies. (In a way, I realise they want to break with that by introducing a day-time commercial, alluding to day-time use of it like a more casual choice rather than solely bar-hopping-circuit-material).
    Would you agree?

    But I realise the decisions are made with specific parameters at hand: best-seller getting the best and more lauded campaign, best-known celebrity fronting said campaign regardless of whether she fits it, etc.

  13. But more importantly: is that Chanel Paradoxale vernis on her fingernails? Who knows?

  14. Lol, I noticed the nail lacquer too. As to the video; Yawn....

    It was so self conscious and staged. How is that even sexy? I don't find KK sexy in the least and this thing really dragged on. The comment "tapeworm on a bike" cracked me up! I found the whole thing somewhat silly to be honest. And as another poster said also, I am not the target buyer so it's just as well.

  15. Asali17:40

    Some great thoughts on this theme...
    And I don't think you HAVE ever been on a tirade about rules, it might make for a post some time;-)
    To your comment on how the very young female target audience might actually realise the hollowness of the advert, I think you might be right. Also I thought, that the advert might be a trick from the old book of how; you can't have anything in Kiera's world, EXCEPT her perfume, and thus not really making her a point of identification?
    Which again made me wonder if half of the market targeted is in fact male(surely the shots of KK from behind are meant for eyecandy for men)? Personally, I wouldn't buy a scent associated with a celebrity for myself, I want to feel that it's MY perfume which suits my personality. But maybe a boyfriend, out to buy presents, will only be seing KK, and think that she's hot, the brand classy, and the scent nice. And indeed wouldn't we feel different if a nice scent had a really hot male as posterboy, and perhaps think a lot less about the message or content of an advert. And if the scent was nice enough, would it bother us?

  16. Stelma,

    I knew I could count on dicerning readers noticing polish and all :-)
    Lady Jicky has great comedic talent, so I'm sure she'll be pleased she provoked a laugh; she has a low BS threshold and I like that.
    Now, are we the target audience. Well, would it matter more if we were? I don't know. I don't know if we would have gone beyond Keira and the fact that we would be already loving the scent; sometimes, it's that simple.

  17. Asali,

    duly noted! Sounds like a good idea :-)

    You know, the more I think of what you said just now, the more I think you hit the nail on the head without knowing it: young girls can't identify with that fairy tale life EXCEPT for the perfume so of course this is what they'll go for. Grabbing anything they can etc.
    Guys are having a lot of eye candy in that spot and honestly, I do believe they think like that when buying a gift. Hey, even women think like that when buying a gift for someone else that is not a lover/close relative (I mean: nice ad, popular perfume, classy brand).

    However not buying something fronted by a celebrity, wanting a product to be unique to you: Hmmm, I think this applies to a customer of niche, like you and most of us, most probably. Not a mainstream brand. Major brands with mainstream products produced in the millions cannot afford to have only a handful of people wearing their priducts. They wouldn't be major to begin with otherwise.

  18. Yes, Cristalle would suit her much better. Then the commercial could be KK kicking around a soccer ball, all sweaty and hot with her shirt clinging and her hair all musted-up after a very competitive game. Then she could plop herself down on the grass, legs splayed, holding her leg up for her ruggedly handsome coach to take her cleats off--nice and slow...;~)

  19. oh sorry, that's already been done in Bend it Like Beckham!

  20. Asali19:22

    You caught me: Niche-girls we are!
    Looking forward to tirade-post:-)

  21. TFC,

    I'd buy THAT!! Oh wait, I already did in Bend it like Beckham (probably her best role ever; she was great).

  22. I wasn't overly impressed with the commercial. It just semmed so bland.

  23. Yeah,

    I would have expected so much more from Chanel. :-( *sigh*

    Helleu had set such a high standard as artistic director: the commercials of his golden era have been unsurpassed even to this day.

  24. Anonymous22:08

    I must be the only person to like this commercial.
    I suppose i've started with the wrong words, but i find that this commercial easily completes its purpose of finding its target audience instantly.
    As a student currently, i am young, so forgive me if my opinion seems wrong to you.
    Chanel is a timeless brand, if you look at their designs from the 80's and their current, they are both timeless, its hard to recognise the difference, it is a elegant timeless brand and i find that the commercial fits the image of the brand perfectly. I am no fan of KK, but i also see her as a perfect face for the brand, and struggle to find why anyone else cannot. Again, no fan of her acting or looks, i don't find her attractive at all, but i don't believe someone needs to be attractive to sell a product, a lot of models are odd looking and some beautiful in their own way. Also it may be the maybeline or rimmel commercials that use a young model with a large gap in her teeth which i find extremely off putting, and despite the negative feedback the commercials recieved, the brand and now other brands continue to use that model as her style suits that particular brand.
    Just to sum up, not dissapointed at all, a very classic chanel commercial with an ongoing theme of elegance and movie star glamour, and not to mention tells a short story appealing to young women. Timeless and simple. Not something you may remember in a few years, but something that i believe does its purpose for now.

  25. Anon,

    well, personally I do find KK sort of attractive (she has very fetching eyes, for instance, even if her pout irritates the hell out of me), it's not that.
    I guess you have a valid point and managed to voice my disappointment best than I did in the very end of your comment: " not something you may remember in a few years, but it does its purpose for now". Maybe I expected much more from Chanel (as I have come to), a sort of timeless advertising that will go down in ad history like the Egoiste ads or the No.5.
    I realize my expectations are not in any way binding to the company, of course, and honestly, it's of course much better than other commercials for other perfumes.

    Thanks for offering your viewpoint, it's very much appreciated!


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