Revlon re-animated the perfume market in 1973 with “Charlie” launching a series of adverts that had their target market – young, working women – firmly in mind.
The twin signature moves of the early Charlie advertising – the model’s stride and her style of dress (Charlie was the first perfume adverts that actually showed women in trousers) – screamed an aspirational message of a confident women in control of her surroundings (and her admirers!).
The first Charlie girl was the actress, and future Tiffany Welles in Charlie’s Angels, Shelley Hack. Beautiful, extremely thin and, at times, almost bouncing off the ceiling Shelley, especially in the television adverts, portrayed a vibrant woman used to getting her own way.
In the mid 1990s, when interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Shelley Hack said of the adverts and her role on Charlie’s Angel’s “it was a time when women were changing… I was lucky. There were two things I was in that were about making women feel a little more empowered.”
The perfume also did Revlon the world of good – by helping to shed it’s old fashioned image and increasing its turnover by $100 million by the end of the 1970s. By the mid 1970’s Charlie was the worlds number one selling fragrance and showed no signs of its popularity waning.
So successful in fact that by 1975 Revlon felt the world needed a new aftershave for men – Chaz, which must have been another play both on founder Charles Revson’s name as well as the popularity of the already androgynous Charlie.
Although Chaz, by all accounts, wasn’t a great success as an aftershave it did give us this advert which is just genius.
Although the Charlie girl was always brazen the advert that best expressed her cheeky side came in 1987 with the infamous pat on the bottom.
Causing a mini furore at the time (the New York Times refused to run the adverts on the basis that they were sexist and in poor taste) they show a more sexually aggressive side of the Charlie Girl. Interestingly Mal MacDougall, the man who wrote the ad, claimed that the gesture was asexual “the same kind of thing a quarterback does to a lineman.”
Charlie had another boost in the 1990’s with a range of spin off fragrances including Charlie Red (1993), Charlie White (1994), Charlie Gold (1995) and Charlie Silver (1998). Charlie Blue had been launched in 1973 with great success but the other’s didn’t really have the same impact as the originals.