Audrey Hepburn has come back to life to flog chocolate. She’s not the first posthumous saleswoman, reports Simon Usborne.
Simon Usborne of The Independent writes “A fictional, yellow celebrity perhaps best summed up the weird lot of the famous dead person. “You celebrities need to realise that the public owns you for life,” Homer Simpson said. “And after you’re dead, you’ll all be in commercials dancing with vacuum cleaners.”
Simpson was referring to Fred Astaire (d.1987) whose controversial, computer-assisted number with a Dirt Devil in 1997 was authorised by his widow but led his daughter to say she was “saddened that after his wonderful career he was sold to the devil”.
Now Audrey Hepburn has become the latest face to be disinterred for promotional purposes, returning to the screen 20 years after her death to advertise a chocolate bar.
A minute-long spot for Galaxy entitled “Choose Silk Chauffeur”, revealed during ITV1’s Mr Selfridge, places a young Hepburn on a bus in traffic on the Amalfi Coast in the 1950s. A Galaxy bar tempts her from her handbag. She makes eyes with a hot man in an open-top, swiftly swapping vehicles before tucking in as they speed away.
This time, Hepburn’s sons, who control her estate, authorised the use of her image, for which they will have received a fee. Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti say their mother would be “proud” of her new role, adding in a press release that she “often spoke about her love of chocolate and how it lifted her spirit”.
Galaxy Chocolate, a Mars Chocolate brand, teamed up with ad agency AMV BBDO and production company Framestore, to recreate Hepburn in their newest and impressive commercial. Set on Italy’s Amalfi Coast; circa 1950’s, we find the beauty stuck in a bus and desirous of her chocolate. According to Framestore, the production process was arduous and included discovering a Hepburn double, and utilising VFX techniques to form a Computer-Generated Audrey.
Commented Flavia Barbat, Branding Magazine: “The icon’s eyes and smile are said to have been most difficult and, although the Framestore team hoped to utilize real eyes (for which the actress’s similarities were cast), they ended up rebuilding all of Hepburn’s face.”
As for the smile, CG VFX Supervisor, Simon French, states:
“It is amazing how unique and recognizable a person’s smile is. When you see it in this detail, it really needs to look perfect.”
Remarkable execution aside, I am wondering if the visual effects of the commercial will overshadow Galaxy’s branding purposes. Although the aesthetic success of the commercial will bring it all of the publicity it requires, I hope that viewers are capable of comprehending the interaction between the chocolate brand and Hepburn’s legacy. Hepburn is of a Golden Age, a time period that oozes sensuality and luxury, while chocolate consumption is trademarked with parallel descriptors. Beneath the fantastic spectacle of the commercial lies a powerful and well-developed partnership between the one-of-a-kind beauty and Galaxy’s promoted rich, rare taste. After all, the video concludes with the question: Why have cotton when you can have silk?”
For today’s Millenial generation, too young to know her work, seeing a posthumous gamine Hepburn might indeed renew a love of a screen icon of the past. But what’s next after chocolates? Washing detergents… vacuum cleaners?
A more morbid question is raised when Usborne asks, “As the words of the younger Astaire show, the image rights and posthumous fortunes of the departed can lay legal and ethical minefields for brands, and raise the morbid question: who owns dead people?”
When there’s money to be made, may the dead never rest in peace.