Million Dollar Baby

My eyes floated dreamily towards the blue-hued perfume bottle featured in the new Chanel ad (on a ‘routine’ visit to my mother-ship GQ.com). A familiar Rolling Stones number pumps through the rather noir advert. Rolling Stones’, “She said Yeah” from December’s Children (and Everybody’s) to be precise. And I really want to know whether this ad is even remotely related to the long-awaited Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series Scorsese is directing.

And lo and behold this one was directed none other than Martin Scorsese (pictured here with French actor Gaspard Ulliel, courtesy Grazia France), the man who gave us Goodfellas and Taxi Driver and more recently Shutter Island. This latest Chanel-Scorsese project led me to do a teeny-weeny flashback to the ‘Oscar nominee/winner with ‘huge’ luxury brand’ associations in the past.

One of my favorite films is the epic raunchfest cum Bollywood tribute cum musical-par-excellence Moulin Rouge. It’s director, Baz Luhrmann  also made one of the most expensive movies in the world( in terms of cost vs. running time) in the form of the Chanel No 5 ad starring Rodrigo Santoro and Nicole Kidman. This was heavily influenced by the afore-mentioned Hollywood musical released in 2001 which also had been a Luhrmann-Kidman collaboration. A high point of this mini film, at least for me, was the use of the sweeping Claire de Lune track.

So what is with luxury brands paying award-winning and Oscar-nominated actors to be part of their ads? In spite of market gurus predicting the death of advertising, is spending several multiples of millions on glamorous ads still worthwhile? Chanel logos now prominently flash on GQ.com, a trend I hadn’t noticed before, and the new Scorsese film is promoted as a ‘feature’ as well as on the website. This is with the huge in-magazine advertising notwithstanding. And also magazine product placement is an open secret and keeps any luxury magazine afloat, so let’s not go there now.

Another brand which brought about this director-brand combo is Dior. In the Cherie ad Dior also took the opportunity to showcase Paris as a character with stunning shots of the city. Dior Homme’s Jude Law ad with the Killers playing in the background, paid tribute to London in many ways, but then again for the sake of ‘justice’ let’s stick to directors. A Guy Ritchie ad-film with Jude is in the works for Dior Homme , set in Paris and Muse providing the background score.

Why have these old fashion houses woken up from a lull to this advertising-product placement blitzkrieg?

I can pinpoint no particular reason as to why these brands have kick started advertising so aggressively. Competition is healthy, the recession is receding, and people have money and an affection for these brands like there is no tomorrow…what is to miss? And have all kinds of walls between movie-making and fashion fallen with fashion-god Tom Ford making the award winning, über-stylish feature length movie A Single Man? Some questions will probably remain unanswered…always.

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