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Charlize Theron: Dior’s Newest Darling

The battle of the Oscar winners in the beauty world pits Charlize Theron as the face of J’adore against Nicole Kidman for Chanel No.5.

NEW YORK — It’s the battle of the Oscar winners in the beauty world come fall.

Parfums Christian Dior has confirmed that it has signed Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron as the face of J’adore, one of its most successful women’s fragrances. The Theron deal marks the first time Dior has used an A-list celebrity in its fragrance advertising.

The news confirms a report that first ran in WWD on April 9.

Dior’s signing of Theron sets up an image battle with Chanel, which will launch its campaign for Chanel No. 5 using Nicole Kidman early this fall.

“Working with both John and Nick was by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” said Theron on Thursday, speaking of Dior designer John Galliano, who chose Theron for the role and who served as the artistic director of the TV and print campaigns, and Nick Knight, who shot the print ads. “Everything was so effortless because of the collaboration between the two. I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of something created by a genius like John Galliano and someone as truly talented as Nick Knight.”

Pamela Baxter, president and chief executive officer of the Perfumes and Cosmetics Group of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in the U.S., and other Dior executives declined to discuss the length of Theron’s contract or what she is being paid, although industry sources believe the actress signed a three-year contract worth between $3 million and $5 million. Theron, who this year won an Oscar for her role in “Monster,” will star in both print and TV advertising globally touting the scent, which was introduced in 1999.

TV ads will break in December, said Baxter. Print, which is still being finalized, will break in either November or December fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. Kidman’s print ads for Chanel No. 5 are expected to break, at least in the U.S., slightly before Theron’s for Dior. Chanel is said to be running its first ads in October fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. It is likely that both the Dior and the Chanel TV commercials will go head-to-head during the holiday selling season.

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While some industry observers are quick to call the Theron signing a response by Dior to Chanel’s deal with Kidman, Baxter strongly refutes the claim.

“Dior had planned all along to sign a celebrity, and executives here were already talking to candidates before the Kidman announcement was made,” she said. “However, you have to make sure that you have a good fit for your brand when you’re choosing a face, because if you don’t get the perfect match it can do your brand more damage than good. We found the perfect match in Charlize.

“J’adore’s positioning has always been that of [the woman as] a golden goddess,” continued Baxter. “And there’s no one who represents those qualities more than Charlize does — she is the epitome of that positioning. And in order to keep a classic brand fresh, you need to continually examine the inherent core values of that brand, and you have to keep reinventing them, which we are doing.”

Theron and Kidman are far from the only A-listers touting a scent. Indeed, partnering with stars has proven to be beauty’s most popular marketing strategy these days — particularly in the prestige fragrance segment.

Call it the In Style-ization of consumer goods, if you will: Baxter said she believes the public’s fascination with all things celebrity-related has not only made companies eager to sign stars, it has made the once-wary celebrities themselves more open than ever to being wooed for these types of deals. “Celebrities, to younger consumers, are role models — and if you find one that fits your brand, it’s an automatic communicator of the lifestyle, of the fantasy,” said Baxter. “But you have to be very careful when you make that match, because today’s consumer is very marketing and media savvy.”

As far as the rest of Theron’s year goes, her Dior campaign is just one of a number of projects on tap for the fall. Her next film is “Head in the Clouds,” set for a fall release. She is also in preproduction for a new film tentatively titled “Aeon Flux,” which is said to be an action/adventure film based on an Eighties MTV character.