Perfume ads, we can agree, are obnoxious and absurd. But when done well, all that self-consciously abstruse storytelling actually adds up to something irresistible.
The best example lately is Kenzo’s advertising, from the brilliantly odd Spike Jonze piece to this month’s baffling yet entertaining Natasha Lyonne follow-up. Our favorite example ever, though, is probably the 2011 Dolce & Gabbana spot with Scarlett Johansson offering a very entertaining celebrity interview, which can be read either as painfully (yet stylishly) earnest or else wonderfully self-parodic.
The theme of the Johansson spot, and so many other perfume ads, is that love is the only theme of life—and that finding it, and keeping it, is worth literally any amount of drama. (“Oh, I’m not looking for a million things, just that one perfect thing: Love,” Scarlett purrs in the D&G spot.) And that’s exactly the message of another high-profile perfume campaign—Natalie Portman’s long-running work for Miss Dior, including the recently released latest installment.
As perfume-ad narratives go, the Miss Dior stuff has relative clarity. In the famous 2015 film, Portman played a runaway bride, nabbing a helicopter after ditching her groom at the altar—an avowedly feminist tale set to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”
The new spot is shorter, but also a love story, full of ups and downs, and kissing and shoving. And it also has a woman on the soundtrack—it’s set to Sia’s “Chandelier.”
According to Portman, the piece also has just as strong of a feminist narrative as before—particularly now that Christian Dior is under the guidance of its first female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Portman tells Vogue:
Dior has always been at the forefront of showcasing the different sides of women. I think now more than ever, there is a connection between the modern women and Dior. I see it reflected in the duality of the fragrance. While the perfume has sweet, soft, and loving notes, it also has deep, earthy undertones that represent the different facets of the modern woman. We can be both elegant and strong.
I think this fragrance really presents a more rebellious side of love. It shows all the different aspects of love—the passion and the tenderness and the joy and the ferocity … Miss Dior has always symbolized a strong and confident woman and I think this campaign in particular illustrates that side of her.
I remember as a teenager thinking everything about Dior was so chic. I was given a bottle of perfume when I worked on The Professional by Jean Reno and I thought it was so incredibly special. I never wanted it to run out.
The new spot has 30 million YouTube views already, and the comments below couldn’t be more obsessively positive—the stylish but cryptic storytelling clearly striking a chord. Hear more from Portman below about how, in her view, Miss Dior is truly the “modern princess.”