When Chanel hired Brad Pitt as its first spokesman for its signature fragrance, Chanel No. 5, the choice seemed in keeping with the glamorous brand, which had used Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tautou as spokeswomen in the past. But where those ladies starred in ads that were gorgeous mini-films, Mr. Pitt's commercial has turned out to confuse many viewers.
All the same Chanel No. 5 landed near the top of the Viral Video Chart this week, as its official spot and many spoofs combined to give videos involving the brand 7.4 million views -- proving that sometimes even something deemed by most as pretty bad can easily drive awareness, as long as it stars a man twice named "Sexiest Man Alive."
The copy-driven spot has Mr. Pitt talking about ... well, that 's still not clear. To be fair, the language isn't so far off from rambling fragrance commercials that have come before. But as Mr. Pitt goes on about journeys and fate, the audience sees him look this way from an oddly lit corner, instead of (like most fragrance commercials) other imagery that tells a bit more of a story. As a result, the whole thing is awkward, confusing and ripe for parody.
A third of the views for Chanel No. 5 this week actually come from derivatives of the original ad, which include parody videos of the commercial. According to Visible Measures, there are more than 20 spoofs on social-video sites such as YouTube from the likes of Conan O'Brien, 1970s teen idol Leif Garrett and others. A version starring a dog in a white button-down shirt (à la Mr. Pitt) is named "Kennel No.5." And a Halloween version dubs Mr. Pitt's opening monologue from "Interview with the Vampire" over the commercial.
Perhaps the most-watched parody of the ad, however, comes from YouTube's Community Channel, run by Natalie Tran, one of the most popular YouTubers in Australia. Ms. Tran plays Mr. Pitt in the parody, complete with mustache.
Of course, "Saturday Night Live" couldn't leave a commercial like this untouched. Cast member Taran Killam played the long-haired Mr. Pitt in four different commercial parodies that aired during last Saturday 's show. The first parody stayed true to the original, until Mr. Killam went off script with "I'm sorry, is there really no script? I've been talking to myself for like two hours straight and I'm starting to sound insane."
Plays of these "SNL" parodies on NBC's site and Hulu are not counted as part of the 7.4 million views, so the views related to the Chanel No. 5 campaign are actually higher than is measured here.