Brad Pitt Helps Chanel Shake Up Iconic Perfume

Chanel No. 5 is an iconic perfume, it's been around for 92 years. Marylin Monroe, Catherine Deneuve and Nicole Kidman have all endorsed the fragrance. Starting on Sunday, Brad Pitt is joining their ranks. He's the first man to endorse the perfume in its history.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

And if you're just tuning in, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I am made of blue sky...

HEADLEE: When you think of women's perfume, what comes to mind?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Share the fantasy, Chanel No. 5.

HEADLEE: Chanel No. 5 has been around for 92 years. And the recipe for its iconic commercials has been the same for more than three decades. Take a famous actress, add an accomplished director and mix until you have a mini film. Take, for example, this 2004 ad featuring Nicole Kidman. It was directed by Baz Luhrmann, whose films include "Moulin Rouge."

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

NICOLE KIDMAN: I'm a dancer. I love to dance.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It didn't matter. I knew who she was.

HEADLEE: Today, Chanel is releasing a new commercial created with that same formula: big-time director and big-time star. But there's a twist. That star...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

BRAD PITT: What's the mystery?

HEADLEE: ...is a man.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

PITT: Do you feel lucky? Why?

HEADLEE: Samples from an inquisitive Brad Pitt promoting the perfume. Rupal Parekh is an editor at Ad Age. She says since the recession hit, the fragrance market has gotten even more competitive. So Chanel is smart to shake things up.

RUPAL PAREKH: It is a perfume that our grandmothers wore, our mothers wore. There's, you know, there's no doubt that people know what it is. However, today, a lot of the perfumes that have performed really well, they're actually celebrity perfumes. So for Chanel to advertise and to make sure that it is top of mind today, you know, a reminder can't hurt.

HEADLEE: The perfume has been endorsed by famous actresses since the 1950s: Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Tautou, they've all promoted Chanel No 5. So why change what doesn't seem to be broken? Parekh says choosing a male face reminds women why they wear the perfume in the first place.

PAREKH: In addition to wearing it for yourself, well, who do you wear it for? You often do wear it for a man. And so the notion of having Brad Pitt endorsing Chanel No. 5, he's basically saying that he thinks it smells good. So if the idea is that men think Chanel No. 5 smells good, well, hey, wouldn't a woman want to wear it?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANEL NO. 5 COMMERCIAL)

PITT: Are you going somewhere? Where?

HEADLEE: Chanel will release the commercial at midnight Paris time. It'll be featured on their website and on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVER MAN (OH, WHERE CAN YOU BE?)")

BILLIE HOLLIDAY: (Singing) Lover man, oh, where can you be? The night is cold and I'm so all alone. I'd give my soul just to call you my own. Got a moon above me but no one...

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