From sailors to athletes to princesses, Puig fragrance ads feature an impressive lineup of characters. For years, the firm has poured its creative energy into carefully constructed, fantasy-filled commercials that each tell the story of a specific brand.
Charles DeCaro, co-owner and creative director of the Laspata DeCaro creative marketing agency in New York, said Puig excels at creating unified narratives, which in turn give their products greater credibility with consumers. Prada’s Luna Rossa fragrance campaign, for instance, explicitly refers to the fashion house’s Luna Rossa Challenge sailing team, connecting the perfume to real athletes.
“It gives more validity to what the visual narrative is. That’s what resonates with consumers, when they can connect on multiple levels — when they feel that there’s a genuine connection and [the company is] not just selling a fragrance in and of itself,” DeCaro said.
He also pointed to Puig’s blockbuster Paco Rabanne 1 Million scent, launched in 2008, featuring a bottle designed to resemble a solid gold ingot, as a convincing representation of the fashion brand.
“You think of the Sixties, these exquisite metal dresses — 1 Million is the extension told in the modern vernacular. When I think of Paco Rabanne, the first thing I think of is gold. The packaging hits all the touch-points of the brand — the bottle is sexy, solid, shiny,” he said.
Puig’s talent for storytelling has allowed it to go beyond relying on big-name celebrities to carry campaigns forward, DeCaro added. “If you hire a model du jour, sometimes that works and sometimes it falls flat — eventually it wears thin, because it’s so ubiquitous,” he said.
Lele Del Fabbro, founder and creative director of LDF, a Milan-based luxury branding and advertising agency, said Puig’s strong music selection and respect for the core identities of each brand in its portfolio set it apart from the competition.
“That’s not a given in fragrance advertising: often, the focus is just on creating a mood, without a real meaning,” he said. “[Puig] fragrance ads are all mini-tales, a bit surreal, but that give you the chance to think.”
Del Fabbro also said the commercials had a “classy” vibe, and singled out Valentino’s Valentina fragrance campaign, shot in Rome, as an example: in the film by Johan Renck, model Freja Beha Erichsen plays Valentina, a rebellious young beauty who sneaks out of a party at her family’s ornate palazzo and enjoys a night on the town with friends.
“It’s much easier to get people’s attention instantly if you feature a nearly naked woman. But if instead you say, ‘Let’s dress her — Who is she? What is she all about? Who is Valentina?’ it’s more interesting,” Del Fabbro said.
The original Prada Candy ad was also a standout, he added, noting the campaign’s attention to detail extended to a visual similarity between actress Léa Seydoux’s blonde fringe and the shape of the perfume bottle’s cap.
“Puig is able to put the whole package together at 360 degrees,” agreed Leïla Rochet-Podvin, an industry veteran and the founder and chief executive officer of Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation, a Paris-based marketing agency. “Each brand has its story, its heritage, and with Puig there is always a signature and very strong coherence that extends to the fragrance bottles. Today, consumers need to be drawn into a [brand’s] universe and it has to trigger their desire.…All the pieces have to fit together.”
Rochet-Podvin said the Nina by Nina Ricci campaign, with its “La tentation de Nina” film, was particularly powerful: feminine and romantic, it made evident fairy-tale references with its bright, apple-shaped bottle, but also offered “a modern experience of the brand.” In a recent study of 100 French women aged 18 to 25, Rochet-Podvin and her colleagues found that many of them were fans of Nina Ricci, which she attributed partly to the fashion label’s on-target fragrance campaigns.
Rochet-Podvin also praised the men’s Paco Rabanne Invictus campaign, shot by director Alexandre Courtès in 2013, as a clever combination of “mythology and modernity” that encouraged viewers to connect athletes with ancient conquerors. “You may like it or not, but it doesn’t leave you indifferent,” she said.
Vincent Bastien, a professor of marketing in the luxury sector at Paris’ HEC School of Management and a former ceo of Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent Parfum and Lancel, said large-scale distribution had fundamentally changed the perfumery sector over the past few decades, making it less selective. While he agreed storytelling was important — “advertising is not just about selling, it’s about making people dream” — he stressed the importance of having a quality scent to begin with.
“You don’t buy a perfume for the story. The product is paramount,” Bastien said, adding that he perceived a certain “Catalan playfulness” and whimsy in Puig’s campaigns.
“[Puig is] fun, and very creative,” he said, but the firm’s ultimate strength lies in convincingly “tying the scents to the stories.”