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Ad of the Day: Guerlain Goes to the Ends of the Earth in the Year's Most Lavish Spot


This new ad for French perfume house Guerlain's Shalimar fragrance is perhaps the single most elaborate spot this side of the same director's famous Cartier commercial from last year. Say what you will about Bruno Aveillan's baroque aesthetic. No one will ever claim the guy did anything halfway.

Speaking of aesthetic choices, the spot definitely has a Russian vibe—our hero is kind of making a tundra-to-Moscow trek here, and perhaps that's appropriate given the nationality of the object of his desire, Natalia Vodianova. But in fact it's based on a Persian legend about the love between the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal in the 17th century—a story that inspired Jacques Guerlain to create Shalimar (a reference to the gardens around Mumtaz's remote home) back in 1925.

The landscape is undeniably beautiful, as is Vodianova, but can someone please tell me when YouTube relaxed its prohibitions on nudity? This seems to me like a fairly recent occurrence. That racy Robin Thicke video is basically naked girls all the time (no, we're not going to link to it—you're at work, you pervert), as is the Justin Timberlake "Tunnel Vision" video.

YouTube addressed this in July, saying its guidelines "generally prohibit nudity, [but] we make exceptions when it is presented in an educational, documentary or artistic context." You could actually argue this spot is artistic and you wouldn't get laughed out of the room. It's certainly cool, what with the slow motion and the pretty girls and the dehydrated city springing forth from the lake that the harem overlooks. It's sort of Lawrence of Arabia, without any texture or characters.

Anyway, kudos to Guerlain for, well, spending what is obviously a superhuman amount of cash on this ridiculous confection, and to Avellian for making it. It looks like the trailer for a movie that got every Oscar nomination in every category and made the cover of Time magazine.

I will also say that the lovely violin score is just good—not ironically good or lots-of-money-and-no-taste good. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, even when everything around it looks like the Bellagio Las Vegas in music-video form.

UPDATE: As our eagle-eared readers have observed below, the reason the score sounds so good is that it was composed by Hans Zimmer ... for The Da Vinci Code. Take a listen.

Client: Guerlain
Director: Bruno Aveillan

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