Belle d’Opium Ad Forbidden in Britain
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently banned Yves Saint Laurent’s television advert for their fragrance Belle D’Opium. They were concerned that a scene in which the actress playing “Belle” runs her finger down her inner elbow could be interpreted as simulating drug use, whilst her expressive dance movements could be seen as illustrations of the effects of drugs.
Although ASA clearly expressed their disapproval of the TV commercial, they also stated that they had no objection against the fragrance name itself, since it is a well known brand in the UK.
Behind the News:
YSL stated that they never intended to use drug imagery in their advert.
Asked about the scenes in question award-winning choreographer Akram Khan explained that: “The veins represent the road that leads to desire […] to passion […] all the ingredients we use in life […] come from the Earth. So the movement represents the sense of giving life out of earth.”
Although YSL disclaim that they are not using drug imagery to promote their fragrances, they are frequently using terminology related to this context by, for example, describing their fragrances as “narcotic” and the scent as “overdose”.
Historically, in contrast to France, Britain experienced, especially during the Victorian Empire, a dark period of increased opium abuse. The lack of sharing the same historical background might be one of the reasons why YSL was not fully aware of the implications this particular campaign would have. When adapting international advertising, a message that is acceptable in one market might not be in another.
However, taking into account that the market for perfume is booming and extremely competitive in which brands are facing the challenge to distinguish their product from others, even controversial headlines, such as an advert ban, might help to increase brand awareness – especially, when the story makes headline news on the eve of Valentine’s Day!