History of advertising: No 132: The world's most expensive TV commercial

Having concluded back in the 70s that its flagship No5 brand had lost its air of exclusivity, Chanel resolved that bold action was required - and that was to throw money at the problem.

Certainly, No5 was in serious need of a repositioning, having become what one observer remarked was "the scent you buy your mistress in the airport or your grandma for her birthday".

Chanel’s response was to make No5 less widely available and to embark on huge ad campaigns using big-name directors and stars.

The strategy reached its spectacular climax in 2004 when the fragrance house paired the director Baz Luhrmann (of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! fame) with the Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman to create the most expensive TV commercial ever made.

It was less of an ad and more of a mini-feature film – with a budget to match. The production cost a total of £18 million and Kidman was paid £2 million – a fee equal to the entire cost of the 1995 Oscar-nominated movie Trainspotting.

The four-minute spot, which received its world premiere on Channel 4, was the subject of much advanced hype with teaser ads. The commercial even got included in TV listings.

The high-gloss production featured costumes designed by Karl Lagerfeld and music by Debussy.

Luhrmann later compared the plot to that of Roman Holiday, with Kidman playing an actress who has a fling with a man she meets in a taxi before being forced to return to her glamorous world.

How successful has the big-budget approach been? Chanel, a private company, does not release sales figures, but perfume and cosmetics account for 55 per cent of its revenue – and a bottle of No5 is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.


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