When Givenchy asked Justin Timberlake to be the face of its upcoming Play for Her women’s fragrance — just as he had for the successful, earlier Play for Him version — the star found himself doing a double take.

This story first appeared in the August 20, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I said, ‘You guys should go find a woman to help put this out,’” Timberlake recalled saying.

But the idea of the commercial — a young couple cavorting on the Eiffel Tower in Paris — and the inclusion of “New Moon” actress Noot Seear won Timberlake over. “I thought, Oh that kind of makes sense,” he said during a recent interview. Another factor was his faith in Givenchy to do the right thing: “They don’t overdo it. It’s more about quality.”

The spot, produced by Pierre Morel, was filmed in two nights, during which the crew took over the Parisian landmark. The print campaign was shot by Tom Munro. Givenchy’s Play for Her, which the company hopes will hook up with the men’s version to form its biggest-selling masterbrand, is about to be launched worldwide in October. Executives declined to discuss figures, but industry sources estimate that, for Givenchy to achieve its ambitions, the men’s and women’s scents will have to generate a combined retail volume of $200 million globally for the first year following the upcoming launch. According to sources, $15 million to $20 million has been earmarked for advertising worldwide.

Givenchy is the first beauty company Timberlake has worked with and, judging from his expressed level of satisfaction, he won’t be looking for similar work at other companies. Unless, of course, the idea concerns one of his personal projects — like perhaps creating a men’s personal care line. “We definitely thought of that at William Rast,” Timberlake acknowledged, referring to his denim fashion brand. He added he is switching gears on his public participation in promoting Rast, preferring to play a more behind-the-scenes role. “I am looking forward to creating new campaigns to see where we can take it,” he said, likening his preferred role to driving a car by remote control, rather than being a passenger. “I love being creative, I just don’t necessarily think it always takes your mug to sell it, if it is good product.”

Timberlake admitted to having his hands full of projects — music, fashion and movies. He finished two films in the spring — one called “Bad Teacher,” with Cameron Diaz — and worked on another in the summer, “Friends With Benefits,” with Mila Kunis. “If I was to branch out into anything else, it would be an extension of things I already have. If there were a men’s care [line], for instance, I would push that through William Rast. With Rast, we want to make everything — we want to make furniture. I’m into everything. If it makes sense for the brands, then I will do it.”

Timberlake has help with many of these projects, while remaining in control — but when making music, he’s the only cook in the kitchen. “If you can really delve into the experience of creating something,” he said, “that’s where the success comes from.”

One of his most visible projects of the moment is the Givenchy advertising. Three weeks before the official launch, Macy’s will sell 25 bottles of the new women’s scent signed by Timberlake as a customer draw on Fashion’s Night Out Sept. 10.

Thierry Mamam, managing director of Parfums Givenchy who previously was managing director of Le Bon Marché, became animated in discussing the positioning of the scent. “The inspiration is about playfulness and modernity,” he said, noting that when the target customer “wears [the fragrance] in the morning, she turns herself into a woman who is in our world, the modern world with these sleek objects [like iPods], which are everywhere. She plunges into modernity, into a world where you have to be curious. She is more aware, ready to play games with her boyfriend. She is ready to be dazzled.”

He added, “The name is very universal. Only the dead don’t play.”

The packaging, created by Serge Mansau, was designed to look sleek and modern with a touch of bling. Jean-Christophe Gandon, general manager, added it is meant to be viewed as an accessory that can be thrown into a bag.

In terms of formula, Play for Her, shares a common note — amyris wood — with the men’s version, which was launched in August 2009. The new women’s scent comes in two versions: a “sparkling” eau de parfum in a pink bottle and a warmer Intense rendition packaged in purple. The edp has top notes of pink peppercorns, white peach and bergamot sweet pea. Intense opens with pink peppercorns and orange blossom. Pricing on the edp ranges from $47.50 for a 30-ml. bottle to $68 for 50 ml. to $79.50 for a 75-ml. size. The Intense version is $73 for a 50-ml. bottle and $85 for a 75-ml. size.


CLARIFICATION: Parfums Givenchy plans to broadcast its new Justin Timberlake TV commercial promoting the Play for Her fragrance launch in Europe and the Middle East this fall. This was unclear in the original version of this article.

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