By  on May 23, 2008

Calvin Klein's got a new preoccupation: Secret Obsession, its latest women's fragrance. Due out in mid-September, the floral oriental has a provocative new ad campaign featuring Eva Mendes. Industry sources estimated that Secret Obsession could do upward of $120 million at retail globally in its first year on counter.

Eva Mendes' secret? Well, it may be revealed this fall — that is, if Coty cleans up a steamy ad for its newest Calvin Klein fragrance, Secret Obsession, which has the network censors abuzz.

"The Obsession brand resonates in a very provocative place," said Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of American fragrances for Coty Prestige, which holds the Calvin Klein Fragrances license. "And we wanted to do a provocative ad. But we're not trying to be raunchy. There's a lot of skin, but it's done tastefully."

Evidently not tastefully enough for the network censors, who have banned the ad. "Every time we do TV [with the Calvin brand] it comes back with some sort of push-back from the networks — but nothing like this. This time," she vowed, "we're going to fight."

What's got the censors upset? Well, evidently a combination of what Mendes says — and doesn't say — layered with provocative music and lots of skin. It was shot by Steven Meisel, who also shot the print campaign. Coty executives declined to reveal the spot before its official unveiling in early June.

"It really taps into the secrecy of a private moment — where it's clear that Eva is having illicit thoughts," said Lori Singer, vice president of global marketing for the brand at Coty Prestige, "It's somewhat up to interpretation — because of how it's shot, and what you see and hear, and what you can't see and hear. You hear her voice, talking about having a sexy secret." Mendes appears alone in the ads, but Walsh and Singer are quick to point out that she isn't, well, doing any acting out of what she's vocalizing.

Whether or not the TV ads air in the U.S., nothing is coming between Mendes and her Calvins this year: Not only is she the face of Secret Obsession, due in mid-September, Mendes will also star in Calvin Klein's new women's underwear campaign this fall. "To me, Calvin Klein has always represented sexiness and a freedom to express yourself," said Mendes. "That was especially important for me, because I felt very awkward during my teen years. When I was approached by Calvin Klein, I thought that it would be so satisfying for me to be part of a campaign where I could show women and girls that it's okay to be different. I remember when the Obsession ads with Kate Moss came out — I thought she was so gorgeous. Kate wasn't a conventional beauty, her teeth weren't perfect and she wasn't blonde; my friends and I could relate to that. If I could provide that encouragement for someone with the Secret Obsession campaign, that would be amazing.""Eva embodies the essence of the Calvin Klein brand," said Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Inc. "This provocative new campaign conveys her universal appeal in a sensual way, capturing the essence of the Obsession fragrance."

But make no mistake, said Walsh: The only two things the original Obsession and Secret Obsession share are one word and a sexy positioning.

"This is no flanker," said Walsh, pointing out that the bottles of the two scents and their juices are completely different. "Olfactively, Obsession carved a different road, and we want to do it again in a new way. But our strategy on Calvin Klein Fragrances — which is our largest and most profitable fragrance brand and on the way to being a $1 billion brand — is to also embrace the brand's history. It would be a shame if we only looked to the future and didn't support the classic brands on which this fragrance brand was built."

"Obsession put Calvin Klein on the map in 1985 and continues to be an integral piece of the brand portfolio," added Michele Scannavini, president of Coty Prestige. "Over two decades later, we see it come full circle with Secret Obsession. While Obsession epitomized the overt glamour and sexuality of the Eighties, Secret Obsession will become the meaning of what is sexy today — more personal, sophisticated and intoxicating. Eva Mendes is a reflection of how things have changed over the past 20 years."

While Walsh declined to discuss sales projections or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that the scent would do at least $120 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, with as much as 30 percent of that figure expected in North America. Coty is expected to spend $50 million globally on advertising and promotion, with as much as $25 million to be spent in the U.S. Sources estimated that Mendes could be earning $3 million to $5 million over the life of a three-year contract for representing the fragrance.

Secret Obsession, by Givaudan and Ann Gottlieb, has top notes of exotic plum, mace and rose de damas; a heart of Egyptian jasmine, French orange flower and tuberose, and base notes of cashmere woods, burnt amber, Madagascan vanilla and Australian sandalwood."When I first smelled Secret Obsession I was completely taken in," said Mendes. "It's like when you taste certain foods for the first time and you immediately have to have a second bite, that's how I felt about Secret Obsession."

Eaux de parfum in three sizes will be sold: 1 oz. for $40, 1.7 oz. for $55 and 3.4 oz. for $72. The 1-oz. size will be exclusive to Sephora. Two ancillaries will also be sold: a 6.7-oz. body lotion for $38 and a 6.7- oz. shower gel for $30. The scent will be available in about 2,200 department and specialty stores in the U.S. Globally, it will be available in all markets in which the Calvin Klein brand is sold.

The print campaign — in black and white — features a sultry Mendes evidently caught in a moment of passion. "The TV [ad] really tells the story; the print is a snapshot of that," said Walsh. It will begin running in September fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. Fabien Baron served as creative director for the ad campaign along with CRK, CKI's in-house ad agency. Paul Hanlon and Gucci Westman did hair and makeup, respectively, for the TV campaign, while Guido Palau and Pat McGrath did the honors for the print campaign. An intensive sampling campaign is also planned, with upward of 85 million scented impressions in the forecast.

PHOTOS BY THOMAS IANNACCONE; STYLED BY DANILO MATZ

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