Sexy sells — especially to Millennials — and so Gucci is refreshing its fragrance master brand Gucci Guilty with steamy new advertising.
Starring Jared Leto along with models Julia Hafstrom and Vera Van Erp, the film campaign was shot by Glen Luchford in a baroque Venetian palazzo. It unfurls as a series of dreamy flashbacks as the trio explores each other and their environs in a highly sensual — and sexual — fashion over the span of one night.
"The creative thinking and the campaign are very much in the territory of Alessandro," said Gucci president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri, referring to the fashion label's creative director Alessandro Michele, who started in the post in January 2015.
The executive said he spies "a huge potential that is still untapped" for the Italian brand's fragrance business. "We have to develop properly and coherently the product category."
Introduced in 2010, Gucci Guilty targets a young, social-networking consumer. Its original provocative ad starring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans helped catapult the women's and men's scents into the top-five rankings in most markets where they were launched.
"It was very impactful advertising," asserted Luis Miguel Gonzalez Sebastiani, global director of Gucci Beauty at Procter & Gamble, Gucci's fragrance licensee. "We were bringing a concept which was extremely relevant for the audience at the time — for the younger audience — which was a bit of sex on display, trying to break some of the taboos of society at the time."
Today, Gucci Guilty remains for Gucci its biggest fragrance seller with the widest geographic reach. Its key markets are the U.S., Asia, the U.K., global travel retail and the Middle East, where it ranks in the top 10 to 15.
Most recently Gucci Bamboo was introduced, which brought new users to the portfolio, according to Gonzalez Sebastiani. Since its launch, Gucci Guilty has not had new advertising, just refreshers using edits of the materials with the same actors.
A decision was taken to parlay the changes Michele and Bizzarri were making to Gucci on the fashion side to the fragrance realm. In tandem, consumers had evolved.
"If you walk along the street, in any city or metropolis of the world, you realize there's a kind of marvelous anarchy that characterizes youth, but also people of all ages," stated Michele, who orchestrated the campaign, opting to set it in Venice, home to the oldest carnival and scene of pleasure-seeking in Europe during the 18th century.
Gonzalez Sebastiani characterized Millennials, people aged 18 to 34, as nonconformists.
"They are ready to break conventions. They want to express their individuality, and when they indulge in any type of pleasure, they don't do it with guilt," he said. "The campaign focuses on emancipated sexuality."
Executives at P&G, including Chris Simmons, its art director, worked with Michele and his creative team on the spot, which industry sources estimate cost $6 million to conceive.
Given its Millennial target, digital is the main vector for the Gucci Guilty campaign. The Instagram hashtag #GuiltyNotGuilty was created for it. And during the spot's shooting in December, Leto commandeered Gucci's Snapchat, posting videos and photos of what was happening behind the scenes.
"That got spread around the world, instantly," Gonzalez Sebastiani said. "We had more than 400 million impressions."
The campaign will break worldwide in September, with the first teasing slated on social networks for the end of August. The film ad, coming in various lengths, will appear online as well as on TV and in movie theaters.
"This is not just an advertising campaign, it's a movement. And in order for us to create this movement and maintain an ongoing conversation, we have a lot of material that we're planning to continue revealing as the campaign develops in the next years," Gonzalez Sebastiani said.
It is estimated that the new Gucci Guilty ad could directly touch more than 30 percent of fragrance consumers and spur high-double-digit sales growth for the Gucci Guilty franchise in its core markets.
The campaign will also have a sizable in-store presence.
"Now it's time to reignite the pillar," Gonzalez Sebastiani said.
For Leto, working on Gucci Guilty's movie was an exceptional experience.
"I am friends with Alessandro," he said, following the Gucci men's ready-to-wear show in Milan in June. "This was like shooting a little film with friends."
Leto called Venice "a magical place" that's transporting. "It's a city that really shouldn't exist, a city on water. So the place in and of itself is a bit of a dream. [The filming] felt like it belonged in Venice. It stoked our imagination, and it was a really fun and creative project."
Leto described Snapchat as "a unique way to share your work and parts of your life with other people. There is something about the ephemerality of the application that allows you to be a little less precious, a little more spontaneous about what you choose to share and how you share it. So I really like that."
He was about to head to Japan to shoot a film called "The Outsider," and was working on finishing his fifth album.