The ad for Kenzo’s new fragrance, Kenzo World, caused quite the stir when it dropped earlier this week. Directed by Spike Jonze, the mind behind ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Her’, and choreographed by Ryan Heffington (Chandelier), the short film accompanies ‘The Leftovers’ star Margaret Qualley as she ditches a gala to energetically dance all over the posh venue.
The video, a female-led reinterpretation of Jonze’s iconic ‘Weapon of Choice’ video which starred Christopher Walken, has been praised for its energy and creativity. But it is also a more overt departure from what we’ve come to expect from gendered marketing.
While other perfume and beauty brands continue to conjure romance and passion, with Parisian backdrops and a dashing male co-star, this spot for Kenzo World is a more lighthearted (but no less compelling) ode to a woman cutting loose and having fun all by herself, whether that be licking a statue, doing backflips across a courtyard, or shooting lasers from her fingertips.
“Let’s face it, perfume ads are most of the time pretty darn dull/pretentious/ridiculous or all of the above,” says Creative Review’s Eliza Williams. “Which is what makes this new spot for Kenzo from Spike Jonze such a joy.”
Bringing in big Hollywood directors is becoming an increasingly common practice for fashion and beauty brands; everyone remembers Baz Luhrmann’s collaborations with Chanel, while Sofia Coppola has directed spots for Dior, Marc Jacobs, H&M and Gap.
But while these partnerships can be a coup for the brand (and offer directors with a fun short-term project), long-term ad-maker Jen McGowan tells No Film School that commercial directing is an industry separate from feature filmmaking. “Don’t direct commercials because you want to be directing features,” she says. “If you want to direct features, direct features.”
It’s undeniable that creating a feature film is an entirely different discipline to crafting an ad, which has to tell a story, invoke emotion and convey a brand’s values, all in the space of a minute or two. But credit must be given to Jonze, Heffington, Qualley, and Kenzo, for injecting new life into the somewhat tired genre of fragrance advertising.