The Art of Perfume Ads: Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue

In my looks at fragrance and advertising, I’d also like to mention a few perfume ads that take their inspiration from film as well as the more traditional visual arts.

Elizabeth Arden’s campaign for Fifth Avenue is contemporary as well as film-influenced. Fifth Avenue was released in 1996 and it’s still in production; the Arden website describes it as “a sparkling, sheer floral with subtle warmth and richness.”…

The website goes on to say: “Inspired by the classic architecture and distinctive Manhattan skyline, Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue captures the alluring style of the most famous street in the world. The fragrance exudes the energy and excitement of New York while maintaining classic femininity and luxury.”

And, of course, it’s fairly obvious which icon of classic feminine style is the archetype for model Amber Valletta’s appearance in these ads…

That would be Audrey Hepburn in her slim black Givenchy dresses and oversized hats, wending her way through “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Holly Golightly.

Valletta is costumed in similar outfit, complete with dark sunglasses and boxy black handbag. In the ad pictured at top, she’s posed at Grand Army Plaza, with Bergdorf Goodman visible in the background. (Tiffany is actually one block  further down Fifth Avenue.)

We also see Valletta riding down another block of Fifth Avenue that’s difficult to make out. She’s wearing an even more Audrey-like hat this time.

Is she viewing the city from the sun-roof of a limousine? I hope not. It’s not really a New York thing to do, nor a very creative one. I’d like to think that Holly Golightly’s alter ego could come up with something a little less predictable.

I love “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (and the original novella by Truman Capote) as much as anyone, but I can’t help feeling that Elizabeth Arden was limiting itself to the sunny side of the street (or Avenue) with these ads. The film includes many scenes of Holly laughing and flirting and charming everyone around her, but there are also a few crucial moments in which she’s alone and melancholy and having the “mean reds,” even on Fifth Avenue.

I suppose that’s what makes “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” such an enduring New York story as well as a perfect romantic comedy.

(And, one more thing: Holly is essentially a “party girl,” in the older usage of the term, correct? I’m guessing that the Arden team chose to overlook that element of the story.)

To get back to Elizabeth Arden, I do like Fifth Avenue’s architectural, rectilinear bottle and the ad image that shows it grouped in a various sizes like a city skyline.

I would have liked to see an ad that played the perfume bottles against photographs of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, but even I—as a non-expert in marketing—can guess that a smiling super-model and a “Tiffany’s” allusion would generate much better sales.

This shot captures the more pensive, ambivalent mood of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (and New York) for me. It shows Park Avenue, not Fifth, and it gives Holly a more mod outfit, so it’s not the moment we remember from the movie…but it would make an interesting perfume.

Images: Elizabeth Arden Fifth Avenue advertisements via Images de Parfums; stills from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, directed by Blake Edwards (1961).

To see more posts in this series, see here.

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