Recently, Colombina has devoted some posts to the topic of perfume advertisements … odd ones, hot men in the ads etc. I’ve been invited to give my opinion on perfume ads.
OK … firstly, ads in general are just getting weirder for weird’s sake. Watch any Levis commercial these days, and it’s clear that the ad agencies are more concerned with winning (inside-the-industry) awards for “creative” ads, than they are with actually selling jeans.
Just when you’ve stocked your wardrobe with a few pairs of the latest jeans, they go and change the style on you. You’ve just spent a week’s pay to get the latest (over-priced) flared, straight leg, stone-washed, bell bottom, hip huggers when they pull the plug on that line and start peddling super relaxed fit, boot cut, low rise, tapered, slouch, tab twills cargo crop, drainpipe 501s.
But they manage to do this by changing the ads with the changes in jean styles. Only the ads tell us nothing about the jeans themselves. Not long ago, they showed us really bendy people twist their arms and legs in a bone-breaking contortionist style … whilst others were running through walls … and now Wrangler shows us a young girl walking in a straight line through crowds of people, ala Richard Ashcroft – the lead singer (and main wanker) of The Verve in the “Bittersweet Symphony” video. Meanwhile a female sings the Johnny Cash classic, “I walk the line.”
It makes me want to get up, get dressed, grab my visa card and head straight for the mall to get some jeans every time I see it. (not)
I think it was worse in Britain. In the five plus years we lived in England, Colombina could recall the countless befuddled looks and cries of “BOLLOCKS!” from me, sitting in my TV chair.
But really the perfume industry takes the cake when it comes to ridiculous (artsy-fartsy) ads. I like ads that are straight forward and actually tell me a reason or two to buy the product being advertised. Is that too much to ask?
Instead you usually get images of women walking across a table like a cat with lots of clouds. The music is a cross between new age Yanni and elevator muzak. The images flash with quick cuts and trendy camera angles and make as much sense to me as calculus. Then it generally ends with a ballsy male voice reciting the perfumes slogan ... something meaningless like ... "La Joie for women .... Live the nuance."
Or ... "Incontinence for Men ... Indulge in the Dementia"
Think of cosmetics and beauty ads for a moment. It sounds like they are telling you something about their product. But they do so in such a vague and assumptive way … as if you the viewer should KNOW what exactly it means when they tell you their product now contains … “Swiss Botanicals” or “Norwegian Formula.”
They'll tell you their product has been "clinically tested" to do this, that or the other. I bloody well hope their tests are being done in a clinic! I'd hate to think they were testing their products on the street or pehaps on Taliban detainees at Gitmo! Maybe the reason they use all this scientific-sounding double speak is because their products don't actually do anything! You're getting older ... you spent your youth baking yourself on a beach every chance you got ... a little European cream is not going to keep you from looking like a saddle.
But … yeah, at least they are telling us something about the product. But just what the hell are Swiss botanicals anyway? That could mean any weed growing on the side of the Alps. Does it mean their product will enhance your beauty so that you look like Heidi?
Is it just me? Or did all young boys often fantasize about what Heidi grew up to look like, long after "the grandfather" had passed on?
Some thoughts on the matter ... (and perhaps a little pay back for the men who had to look at Colombina's naked men in her "Ads that make you go. "How you doin?" post.)
What are the Swiss known for anyway? (No offense Andy) They are known for chocolate, neutrality, cuckoo clocks, cheese and semi-legal international banking. But man do their botanicals make an effective skin cream or what?
The Swiss have no language of their own. Half the country speaks French and half the country speaks German. They are famous for an army knife. The fact that they haven't been in a war since the recording of time, might explain why their army needs spoons and screwdrivers and a compass a lot more than an actual blade.
The Swiss Guards are the ones who are actually charged with guarding the Pope. Perhaps that is why a 'crazed fanatic' was able to slip past, and shoot the Pope (while the guards were inevitably trying to ward him off by spooning and screw driving the attacker.
I did spend a week in Switzerland once... in Montreaux ... which is a beautiful place, filled with Prada, Gucci and Rolex shops. It sits on Lake Geneva which I suspect is the source of the botanicals.
I guess that I have heard that the Swiss do apparently have some kinds of labs and clinics for such direly needed research into an “anti-aging” process and other important scientific experimentation. I know this to be true because I remember that anti-allergy research facility that Kojak ran in the James Bond non-classic, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Sometimes they aren’t as specific in telling you a product actually contains (non-specific) Swiss botanicals. Sometimes they just tell you it contains “Swiss Formula” – which I don’t think is Swiss baby milk. Sure, it sounds good on the commercial. They say it in such a way that if YOU don’t know what ‘Swiss formula’ is then you’re some kind of dunderhead who’s been living in a cave and only buys beauty products from Amway.
Of course rivaling the Swiss formula, are the products containing “Norwegian Formula.” Yes from the land of smelly vikings and frozen fjords, there comes a formula of some sort. My guess is that is contains salmon and heavy water.
I've also spent some time in Norway (Oslo). Again, a beautiful place and with lots of beautiful Scandinavian people. But until they tell me just what the heck Norwegian Forumula is, I have my doubts. Still, I suppose it sounds better than, "Urals Formula" or "New Jersey Formula."
It’s too obvious to say that perfumes just use sex to sell in their ads. It’s sex alright, but filtered into some sort of Fabio-esque, Eurotrash, Swedish-film-maker, pretentious, drug-induced neofeminist, post modernist Harlequin book cover. It ends up (to me) being about as surreal as cyber sex between Lewis Carroll and Timothy Leary.
Here are the paradoxes before me. Firstly, women say they resent being used as sex objects and that women are exploited. Yet these products are marketed predominantly to women. They may occasionally throw in some bare-chested Brokeback cowboy, but generally, they are marketing to women, using naked or semi-naked women. If women were truly appalled by this, they wouldn’t buy the product. And as pretentious and superficial as the trendy metrosexuals on Madison Avenue might be, I sense they would refrain from their soft-core porn approach if women boycotted the products.
To me it’s the same logic as when I hear staunch feminists deliver diatribes about the gross exploitation and unreal role models (and future eating disorders) that waif-like supermodels impose on young impressionable girls. Yet if women truly wanted to stop this, they’d stop buying up copies of Glamour, Vogue and Cosmopolitan by the truck loads. Any way, I digress.
Before I go any further, let me say that I have no problem what-so-ever with seeing nude women. In fact, I like it. But that’s what porn is for! If I want to watch basketball, I watch an NBA game, not the Ecuador division II league.
Let us take a look for a moment, just at some of the ambiguous slogans used by some perfumes over the years.
"Between love and madness lies Obsession." — Calvin Klein
"Do You Dare?" — Britney Spears - Curious, 2004
"Promise her anything, but give her Arpege" — Lanvin
"Very you." - Givenchy
"Fragrance of excess." - Miss Sixty
"Unlock the secret code of seduction." - Armani Black Code
"J’adore." - Dior
"Her kiss. Her body. Her perfume." - Chanel N°5
Yeah OK …sure ….
Firstly, “between love and madness” lies a stalker or some John Hinckley type.
And ‘do I dare’ do what exactly Britney? To let my infants drive the car? To get fat? To be married for longer than a weekend?
“Promise her anything, but give her Arpege”? Yeah that’ll work.
“Very You” just scares me! How do they know who I am? Are they working with the cinematic distributors who always seem to know where I am? (“At theatres near you”)
“Fragrance of Excess”? I always thought excess was a bad thing? Oh that’s right, perfumers want to appeal to the decadence of women. “Yes I always return my library books on time and brush between meals but I buy Miss Sixty, so you know I’m a real Hellenistic wildcat!”
“Unlock the Secret of Seduction”? Sounds more like a slogan for Spanish fly or gamma hydroxybutyric acid and other date rape drugs. I suppose it’s a good slogan to market to Americans. We prefer the easier, answer in a bottle than to actually work at something. Why bother joining a gym, getting in shape and maybe showering when I can seduce someone using this stuff?
“J’adore” is French. OK. I get that. Perfumes are mainly French and supposedly the sound of the French language is romantic. That being the case, one could use the slogan, “l'odeur de vieilles chaussettes” … which translates to “the smell of old socks.” But speaking of translations … unless I am mistaken … “J’adore” translates to “I love” (whilst Je t’adore would be “I love YOU”). So I love … I love what exactly?
“Her kiss, her body, her perfume.” Well if it’s HER perfume she doesn’t need to buy it then does she? She already has it!
What is wrong with a straight forward slogan? …. Something like … “Chanel …it smells GOOD!”
Maybe the best slogan ever (as far as I am concerned) for a beauty product belonged to Suave shampoo … “Does what theirs does, for less than half the price!” Could it be any more straight forward? It tells me the product works as well as the competitors but costs less. Consider me sold!
Some ads, I suspect, are supposed to be sexy ... but come on ... Celine Dion on a swing? That skinny Canuck with the horse face made for radio? I'd get more excited watching geriatric aerobics while bobbing in the icy North Atlantic ... fighting off Kathy Bates to cling to the last piece of Titanic flotsom
By the way, I think they should also put disclaimers on perfumes … like: "You might smell like the man in this ad, but you'll never get a woman who looks like the woman in this ad."
Or ...Opium – “does not contain opium!”
Or “tested on some of the best smelling, now blinded rabbits in the world.”
Some ads, again are trying to be sexy but look more like exhibit A in a sexual harrassment case.
Jovan doesn't even call theirs a perfume. They call it 'musk oil.' And of course we all know (thanks to The Captain & Tennille) the magical, mystical, erotic world of musk ... Thanks to the classic: "Muskrat Love."
If you REALLY want men to take an interest in perfume ladies … may I suggest hitting him where he lives!
How about a "Chanel No. 5 Car" on the Nascar circuit?
Why not try selling perfume by the six pack?