Topic: Theoretical Analysis Paper
Date: March 18, 2019
Theoretical Analysis of Chanel No. 5 AD Campaigns using Semiotics
The Chanel brand is one of those that have stood the test of time in industries that have
undergone a lot of change in the last century. The brand had managed to retain its superior
position in the highly competitive fashion industry using a marketing mix that allowed it to not
only appeal to the customers but also pull new customers and remain sustainable even at times
when the economies of the western world where the brand was dominant were shaking. The
Chanel brand has managed to retain its huge following by changing with time and proper
targeting. The brand has used several ad campaigns to popularize its number one selling
perfume, Chanel No. 5. Since the inception of Chanel No. 5 in 1921, the brand has grown
significantly to control a huge percentage of the luxury perfume sales in the world. Some of the
ad campaigns that the company has used in the recent times include the 2005 Nicole Kidman ad
campaign that lasted four years and the subsequent Brad Pit campaign that was initiated in 2012
with the film actor being the first male ad campaigner for the brand. In the assignment, the aim
will be to use semiotics theory to understand the advertisement strategies of Chanel with a
specific target to the two ad campaigns.
It is important to understand the theory of semiotics to understand the basis of the
analysis of the ad campaigns. Semiotics is based on the association that exists between objects,
signs, and meanings. According to the theory, signs are representatives of objects in the
interpreter’s mind. The term “interpretant” means signs that represent objects. The signs may be
verbal or other forms. Susanne Langer said that symbols develop meaning in discourse. Symbols
may be discursive or non-discursive. Discursive symbolism is involved when they are based on
language and meaning. Non-discursive symbolism is based on non-verbal communication and
evokes meaning and emotion via songs, dance and other forms of art. Both discursive symbolism
and non-discursive symbolism allow for meaning to be conveyed. Meanings of signs may be
multiple (Zakia & Nadin, 1987). The meanings of signs are also based on the various cultures
that interpret them. Semiotics can be applied in advertising to ensure that the ad campaigns reach
the intended market with the intended meaning. Therefore, the method may be used in the
analysis of ad campaigns to establish their efficiency and their target.
Nicole Kidman Chanel No. 5 ad Campaign
The Nicole Kidman Chanel No. 5 campaign is among the most expensive ad campaigns
in history. The campaigns involved a series of photos as well as a short feature mini-film that
was 2 minutes long featuring the then Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman. The Pictures of the
ads are included in the paper and numbered 1 to 3 alongside a link for the mini-film. Ms. Kidman
became the face of Chanel No. 5 in 2003 and remained the ambassador for the brand until when
another person took over from her in 2006.
Image 1 (Globalmediaculturesblog, 2016)
Image 2 (Globalmediaculturesblog, 2016)
Image 3 (Globalmediaculturesblog, 2016)
In the early 21st century, Chanel No. 5, the Chanel brands biggest selling product was
beginning to lose grip. Therefore, it was apparent that there was a need for a boost in marketing
to enable people to buy the product more. Therefore, the company decided to invest in a very
expensive marketing strategy using celebrity endorsement by the then very successful Nicole
Kidman. Therefore, over the years that the ad campaign ran, several ads commercials were made,
all of which featured the actor as the main character (Forbes.com, 2010). The most memorable
ad was the 2 minutes film that was shot featuring the Hollywood actor and the spray. In the film,
Nicole Kidman plays the role of a woman who falls in love for a while with a man, but in the
end, she has to fall out of the emotions and get back to the real world where she is a superstar.
In the plot as seen in the video advert titled “Le Film - CHANEL N°5” and image 1, the
famous Hollywood actor, playing herself in the film runs in a boldly colored and ornamented
pink dress across the famous Times Square in the city of New York. She enters a taxi and finds a
man who does not have her in the cab. She accompanies the man to his apartment in the Lower
East side, and after four days, the secretary of Ms. Kidman asks her to return to her sense and
resume her celebrity life. She returns to her celebrity status where she meets journalists who take
photos of her (CHANEL, 2012). She turns back in her black dress and looks up to the top of a
building where there is a sign written Coco Chanel with her love standing next to the sign. In the
other ads that feature Ms. Kidman, the star is pictured with a bottle of Chanel No. 5 in the same
picture wearing either black or pink (Analyzing Advertising: No 5, The Film, 2017).
The film that headlines the ad campaigns depicts Kidman, a rich and successful woman
using the product. The ads as seen in image 1, image 2 and image 3 show Ms. Kidman dressed
elegantly in the pink dress and the black dress with a medallion bearing the label No. 5. The ads
show the celebrity as both successful and vulnerable. The part of the plot involving her escaping
with the lover depicts the alluring smell of the perfume that the man likes and the escape from
boring reality of the star. Therefore, the film communicates the message that if Kidman, a
beautiful and successful woman uses the perfume, women could acquire such status by using the
product (Forbes.com, 2010). Showing the vulnerability of the actor to romance depicts the
alluring sense that accompanies the perfume.
The ad campaign continues with the advertisement strategy of the brand by using a
celebrity to endorse the product. As seen in images 1, 2, 3, and the video advert, Nicole Kidman
is shown as the face of the perfume. The Chanel brand was already known for associating itself
with celebrities like Candice Bergen who was the face of the product as early as 1966. Carole
Bouquet is another actor that had been used to advertise the brand in the 80s and 90s
(Forbes.com, 2010). It was the culture of the brand to use women who met socially accepted
standards of beauty for ads from the beginning. The campaign did not create the association
between romance and the fragrance. The film depicted the perfume as a romantic allure.
The campaign was meant to covert consumers and retained the loyalty of those who used
the luxury brand. The message was communicated through symbols and images. Nicole Kidman
symbolized successful women. The image of Coco Chanel on the rooftop and the man sitting
beside it represented how the scent of the perfume attracts romantic partners. Ms. Kidman is
leaving her romantic escapade to go back to her work as a celebrity was a symbol of feminist
power that has always been associated with the brand since its inception by Coco Chanel. The
rationale for the campaign was the changes in the business environment and consumer change.
The perfume has been around for a long time, and new competitors have come up. Also, the
consumers had changed due to the easy availability of the perfume leading to it being associated
with old people. The commercial was effective because according to media reports, it made
women feel beautiful and more included to buy the product.
The ad targeted young women. The young women with the aim of feeling powerful and
secure were the main target. The campaign achieved the goal by showing the strengths and the
vulnerability of Kidman, a prominent figure at the time.
Impact/reception of the campaign
The commercial did not make people more likely to buy the perfume. Only 49% of
respondents felt more beautiful after the commercial. 35% thought they were loved23% of the
people felt not pretty after the ad. Half of the men felt like they could not afford it after the ad.
Brad Pit No. 5 Ad Campaign
Brad Pit is another famous Hollywood actor who was the face of Chanel No. 5 from
2012. He was the first male brand ambassador of Chanel as shown below in the ads in image 4,
image 5 and image 6. In the ad, the actor is shown having a monologue in a room and expressing
his feelings about the seductive scent of the perfume (Stone, 2012). Pitt was the male
ambassador at the time because he was among the most accomplished actors and handsome at
the time according to the C.E.O of Chanel at the time, Maureen Chiquet (Collins & Collins,
2015). In the other ads, the actor is shown beside the image of the perfume and not a lot of things
happen around as shown in images 4, 5 and 6. Making Pitt the focus of the campaign was meant
to attract women who found him attractive.
The ad is consistent with previous Chanel ads. Just like the others, the campaign involves
a big star that is perceived as desirable by people. However, unlike the others, the ad campaign
features a man. In the video ad titled “Chanel No 5 - Brad Pitt”, Pitt is shown having a monolog
of his attraction towards women wearing the perfume (Stone, 2012). The deviation was meant to
show the impact of the scent of perfume from the perspective of a man. Therefore, the ad showed
that Brad liked the scent of the perfume and therefore women should use it to make men fall for
them (Collins & Collins, 2015). The ad campaign introduced the association of the perfume and
the attractiveness of the women who wear it to men like Pitt.
The ad campaign was meant to convert more women to use the fragrance. The use of the
popular Hollywood star was meant to link the perfume to the allure of women to handsome men
(BBC, 2011). In the images 4, Pitt is pictured with at the door of a house holding a glass and
dressed well to portray the handsome man who loves women in the perfume. In images 5 and 6,
the star is pictured in places with minimal background with the trademark, Chanel No. 5.
Therefore it was supposed to convert women who loved Brad Pitt into users of Chanel No. 5.
The ad campaign aimed at bringing new consumers who are men and women. According to
Androich (2013), even though Chanel does not usually publicize their revenue, the stream of
men who went to buy their partners the perfume showed that the campaign was effective.
The target consumers that the ad campaign aimed to reach are both men and women. Men
buy perfume for their women and women buy the perfume for themselves.
The reception of the campaign was mixed. While some of the media outlets thought the
idea was genius, others thought it was a bad idea, and that Pit was not the best option for the ad
campaign. NBC’s Saturday Night Live for instance though that Pit spoke incoherently in the ad.
In conclusion, Chanel has survived through changing its marketing strategy with time and
the use of famous people to remain famous over time. The ad campaigns that featured Brad Pitt
and Nicole Kidman are among the most famous ones presently. In the two campaigns, romance
as a recurring theme that the advertisers link to the product. The ad that featured Kidman was
less successful because it showed the product to be out of reach of many people and made some
women feel less attractive. Nevertheless, in both campaigns, the product managed to get lots of
publicity that made its growth inevitable.
Analyzing Advertising: No 5, The Film. (2017, May 16). Retrieved from
Androich, A. (2013). Did Brad Pitt sell more Chanel? Retrieved from
BBC. (2011, May 29). Chanel No 5: The story behind the classic perfume. Retrieved from
CHANEL. (2012, September 19). Le Film - CHANEL N°5. Retrieved from
Collins, A. F., & Collins, A. F. (2015, January 30). Photo: Brad Pitt as the First Male Face of
Chanel No. 5. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2012/11/brad-pittchanel-no-5-perfum
Forbes.com (2010) #65 Alain & Gerard Wertheimer [Internet][Available at
www.forbes.com][Accessed April 13 2010]
Globalmediaculturesblog. (2016, December 14). My Example of Celebrity Endorsement: Nicole
Kidman Chanel No.5. Retrieved from
Stone, J. (2012, October 15). Chanel No 5 - Brad Pitt. Retrieved from
Zakia, R. D., & Nadin, M. (1987). Semiotics, advertising, and marketing. Journal of Consumer
Marketing, 4(2), 5-12.
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