For the 1,600 perfume industry executives who attended last June’s Fragrance Foundation awards banquet in the Grand Ballroom of New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the sweet smell of success was embodied by Elizabeth Taylor, the enduring violet-eyed, 56-year-old movie star. Wearing a tight white dress with tiny purple bows, Taylor accepted an industry award for her Passion line of perfumes, marketed by Parfums International Ltd. of New York and judged to be the “best fragrance introduction” of the preceding year. For some members of the $350-a-plate audience, the star epitomized the increasingly potent role that Hollywood stars are playing in the highly competitive business of selling perfume. Said Annette Green, executive director of the industry-funded foundation: “It had always been very difficult to explain fragrances to the public. Personalities like Liz Taylor, who is considered very brave and very beautiful, can personify a perfume quite well.”
Glamor: In the past decade, the $5-billion-ayear North American perfume industry has discovered just how well celebrities can sell their product. As a result, a growing list of stars—including Cher, Joan Collins, Catherine Deneuve and Linda Evans—are all promoting their own perfumes, and helping to add glamor to the perfume industry in the process. At the same time, the growing linkage between stars and scents is only one part of an increasing involvement by Hollywood in brand-name advertising, as stars promote products—and manufacturers pay movie producers to display their products on the screen. Although there have been few signs of public unhappiness over the trend, it clearly worries some film industry observers. Mark Litwak, a Los Angeles lawyer who specializes in movie-related cases, for one, says that North Americans “are drowning in advertising and they’ve gotten numb.”
Stars have been lining up to promote their own perfumes since Coty Inc. introduced its Sophia line of fragrances—named for actress Sophia Loren—in 1980. Six years later, Deneuve signed with Parfums Stern Inc. of New York (the firm was bought by New York-based Avon Products in 1987) to promote the perfume named Deneuve, and Evans, star of ABC’s Dynasty, launched her Forever Krystal line, now owned by Revlon Inc. Taylor’s Passion,
introduced in 1987, has scored one of the biggest sales successes to date, with $72 million in retail sales for 1988.
Currently, there are about 10 celebrity fragrances on the market. This year, Cher and a clutch of other stars—including actresses Col-
lins and Priscilla Presley, singer Julio Iglesias and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov—are all introducing their own lines of women’s perfumes and colognes. “Perfumes have become the fashion edge of department-store business,” said Parfums Stem general manager Robert Brady, adding that $17,000 worth of Cher Uninhibited sold in Macy’s New York department store on the day Cher made a promotional appearance there last November.
Popcorn: Along with perfume counters, supermarket shelves have become a showcase for the stars. In 1982, actor Paul Newman introduced his Newman’s Own food line, beginning with salad dressing and ^ diversifying later into popcorn and P spaghetti sauce. All the profits are ï donated to charities, including a o camp for children with cancer and 5 other potentially fatal diseases. For her part, actress-comedian Phyllis
Diller introduced her own brands of
chili and barbecued baked beans in 1987, while actor Dick Van Patten is now on the shelves with his own dog food.
While stars promote products in real life, other products are insinuating their way onto movie screens. In last year’s hit movie Bull Durham, the Miller and Budweiser beer brands were prominently depicted 28 times and Jim Beam bourbon three times. More than a dozen other brand-name products were clearly visible in the movie. Altogether, brand names appeared on the screen at the rate of one every two minutes. Movie industry experts estimate that three-quarters of all Hollywood movies now promote five or more products, with corporations paying up to $250,000 for each brief appearance by their product.
Magic: Just as corporate advertisers carefully weigh which movies they want their products to appear in, the packaging and marketing of a star’s perfume must reflect its namesake’s personality. Parfums Stern’s Brady said that extensive market research was done before his company launched the Cher Uninhibited brand of perfume. “Cher embodies what a lot of women would like to be or look like,” said z Brady. With Cher’s scent already ranking 8 among the top-three best-selling perfumes in % the stores where it is sold, it is clear that a lot of 1 women also wish to dab a bit of the Cher magic behind their ears.
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