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Monday, July 31, 2006

From the Mouths of Husbands - Mr Colombina Reviews Perfume and Other Ads

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?


Blogger tmp00 said...

well, when it comes down to it, most advertising is idiotic. "Promise her anything, but give her Arpege" pales against Chrysler's new "Dr. Z" ads, for instance. I think that Lancome's latest gooke-de-femme noting that they have clinical trials that prove that there's a 30% reduction of visible whatever is more compelling than VW telling me that side curtain air-bags on my Jetta will save me when some driver t-bones me to stop my inane conversation about crying at the movies

1:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Ah, now I know the reason you like Suave products so much. See, good advertising really works :-)

8:56 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Swiss army knives - of course! Now all those little gadgets make perfect sense! :-) And I so agree w/ you about the Obsession ad. Always found that to be borderline creepy.
Thanks for another very amusing post from the male perspective! Oh, and I must ask my husband and other male friends about that Heidi thing. Hmmm. Heidi? Really?

10:18 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Lovely man-

{Hypocrite Lecteur! Mon semblable! Mon frere!]

Ain't you just my kind of guy,Cletis?!

No offense intended, dear Mr. C.-

I take full responsibility for my feminine hypocrisy, and loudly applaud your observations...You have the moral upper hand there, no denying it...

My Formula One spouse appreciates the Chanel touch; I , myself,heartily endorse the Guerlain sixpack idea.

I laughed ruefully regarding your Swiss observations...I remember having to delineate, for my [then] young sons , the difference between neutrality and isolationism. [citing Norway and Die Schweiz].

Thank you, once again, for your astute and howlingly funny post.

Do you do stand-up?

10:51 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Well, there is a Hummer perfume, um, cologne, that looks like the car and is marketed to guys. Actually, this strikes me as at least as funny as any of the feminine foibles.

But not as funny as you, Mr. C. You rock!

11:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

Veddy funny. I think, though, that you might mean "Hedonistic Hellcat"? Or is there something about Miss Sixty that makes you: a)Greek or b) a lover of light, culture and secular thought in the Matthew Arnold sense?

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Hellenistic wildcat for Tigs:

(put the two lines together for address; otherwise the blog erases part)

I think it's kinda cool actually:)

1:34 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your posts man. Rock on!

3:09 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again....another witty and insightful piece. Thanks!

You are so right about women purchasing items IN SPITE OF the ad campaign. Men wouldn't purchase a product that promises only to "diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and crows' feet." Let's face it...that's not exactly in the same league as a popular men's product which states "regrows hair in normal men."

Women want to buy the dream, men shop for results.

5:43 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh Mr.C - you forgot to mention those infamous Victoria's Secret ads featuring Bob Dylan, music icon and panty-stalker! Nothing makes a gal or guy want to buy fancy underpants more than an old guy creepily lurking in the shadows and following around supermodels...

More idiotic than ANY of the mentioned perfume commericals are those blasted beer commercials with the "man law" crap. Good lord, why would any man want to be sold items from companies who think they are all caveman idiots??

9:26 PM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


I agree that Dr. Z is pretty lame and slmost caricature-like.

He fails to mention that when Daimler and Chrysler merged ... Chryslers got a little better while Mercedes went into the toilet.

Thanks for Reading!
Mr C

11:50 PM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


Yes that is why I always buy Suave. I can't recall if it was available in the UK. But long before we met (BC), I began using Suave.

Six years and you're still learning things about me ... like ... I'm CHEAP! (Or did you already suspect that?)

Your Adoring DH
Mr C

11:53 PM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


Thanks for the French usage clarification.

I took four years of high school French but that was way way back ... during the reign of the Sun King I think!

Mr. C

11:55 PM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Elle,

The name "obsession" alone is a little creepy. Isn't the word usually used in a negative context?

They say that humans are the only animal capable of rational thought and also (ironically) the only animal capable of love (as defined by humans).

Some animals might mate for life but there's never been clear evidence of another animal capable of unconditioned (if not unconditional) love.

And of course love is an emotion. Emotions are the opposite of reason. There are no known (rational) reasons as to why we love who we choose to.

In that sense ... and I know I'm on a ramble now .. in that sense, love (and all emotions) are irrational.

Think about the phrases we use ...

"MADLY in love"
"CRAZY about you"
"INSABELY" jealous etc.

But though that may border on 'obsession' ... and we (at some level) in fact crave this infatuationous (is that a word?) attention ... it is the irrational acts that follow on the heels of these feelings that are usually downright illegal, if not extremely scary.

As for Heidi .... well I was young when I first saw it ... at the age where the Sears catalogue bra section was my first experimentation with prepubescent thoughts.

Heidi was foreign (though Shirley Temple was a Yank) ... exotic and lived in the land where women grow up to wear lederhosen and 'St Pauli Girl' type wench blouses!

Mr. C

12:08 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


No offense taken ... as I didn't understand what you were saying anyway.

Your loquatious wit was waisted on my limited intellect I'm afraid.

I write what I do ... almost completely tongue-in-cheek.

I realize that in the written medium, that irony and sarcasm can be oft times miscontrued and misinterpreted, as they have not the benefit of facial expression and vocal intonation, to further express and define my intentions, unlike with the spoken word for example.

I'm not really a Nascar fan myself. Having lived in Europe for a fair amount of time, I can say Formula One is far more popular there. Though I am not really a fan of that either to be honest.

I don't know the difference between neutrality and isolationism but I DO know the difference between a Democrat and a Republican.

A Democrat looks at half a glass of water and says it is half full. While a Republican looks at half a glass of water and says, HEY! Who the hell has been drinking MY water?"

I actually DID do stand up for four years back when I was in college. I wasn't sincerely pursuing it as a career. It was just a way for a broke smart-ass college student to hang out where they serve booze ... maybe make a buck or two ...and meet girls.

I didn't meet a lot of girls actually but the open bar tab was far more lucrative than actually money I actually got paid.

Mr. C

12:17 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Lily,

Thanks, yes I do rock. :-)

Colombina actually bought gave me 'Hummer' as a present.

I think she signed the card something like (to paraphrase) ... "I'm going to give you a Hummer. I hope you're not disappointed its not a car"

I've actually worn the stuff. But IF I had to say I wear one cologne more often than others and I don;t wear cologne often ... it would in fact be "Quorum" by Antonio Puig

Mr. C

PS: I bet Colombina didn't think I knew who made Quorum

Mr. C

12:27 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


You're PROBABLY right. I probably DID mean Hedonistic. It was late and I was under strict Colombina deadline pressure to finish.

Colombina is extremely up on Greek mythology and so I suspect she would have caught my faux pas, had she been inclined to proof read it.

Of course, had I known she was NOT going to proof it first and just let me hit the PUBLISH button, I may have said other outrageous things ...but probably not.

Matthew Arnold? Is he the guy who played Chandler Bing?

Mr. C

12:32 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Lisa S

Point taken. Apologies to the Italian speaking Swiss.

As for Romansh ... I always thought 'Romansh' ... was what Sean Connery was seeking when he felt amoroush. Yesh indeed.

Mr. C

12:37 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


Cool link! It'll come in handy when/if I ever get around to writing a novel idea I have about art theft.

Mr C

12:40 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Anonymous,

Love your comments!

Rock On Right Back Atcha!

Mr C.

12:41 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


Good point!

Interestingly enough ... well not very interesting at all to some I suppose but ... interestingly (to me) enough ...

In Britain ...the product that men in the USA buy called Rogaine called "Regain" ... but its restoration and reversal of hair loss is still about as effective of Bush's foreign policy (or domestic policy for that matter).

I'm not usually that political ... especially on Mrs C's blog ...but what the heck's always fun to throw in some KEY words ona pefume blog and see if my next guest post gets monitored ... and I get labeled as a potentially (good-smelling) subversive threat.

Mr. C

12:47 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Evarou,

Thanks! I try to show support for my wife's passions but rather than feign interest, I figured it better to make a sincere contribution, if only to add some comic relief.

We are a cute couple actually but Colombina can take the credit there.

She is not only beautiful and sexy but I want readers to know she is also extremely intelligent, though I am sure you've gathered that by now.

Mr. C

12:51 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Katie,

I must plead ignorance to the VS ads. I only know of Victoria's Secret through the catalogues Colombina gets. I find them short on character development and plot ...yet strangely and mesmerizingly intiguing.

I am also in the dark to the "man law" campaigns but it sounds as daft as the "I am Man" Burger King commercials.

I can plead some ignorance to recent US campaigns as being down to having been out of the country so long. In the year or so that we've been back ... work and a three-year-old have reduced my television viewing to an occasional glimpse to the History Channel and only the "must see" sporting events.

Mr. C

1:13 AM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

M - maybe it's alright that you only got him Hummer the fragrance. Criminy, look what might have happened if you'd gotten him Hummer the oversized car!

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Mr. C,
I am not surprised that you know who produces Quorum (since it usually says who it is right there on the bottle)...but I'd be surprised if you knew hwo to pronounce Puig. Ha!

9:14 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Oh, Mr. C.-

I AM sorry!
What a braying jackass I am!

The first diatribe was a "Fleur du Mal" jibe at my own weaknesses, as translated: "Hypocrite reader! My twin! My brother!- referring to how I want to have my cake and eat it ,too, with regards to feminism and such.

The Norsk/Schweiz thing came up years ago, when my very young boys wanted to know how the two countries dealt with WWII and the Holocaust...

I explained to them that Norway primarily wanted peace, and that Switzerland generally seemed to prefer its own company- hence, neutrality vs. isolationism.

You are spot- on regarding how the written word can fall flat on its face, or be misconstrued [I tend to be a bit naive ].

Anyhoo, my intent is only to tickle and provoke thought, not to insult or harm in any way-

I tend to be a loving and gentle soul...

Please forgive any pretentiousness on my part- I think you and Mrs. C. are a refreshing part of my day.

10:54 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


SURE I can ... It is pronounced, "PUIG"

Mr C

11:19 AM EDT  
Blogger NewKidOnTheBlog said...


PLEASE apologies ok? I loved your response.

Just as I am always concerned that people take my braying too seriously, I read your comments knowing you were also having fun and I thought your comments were funny.

I was only playing stupid.

Keep up the good work.

Oh and don't forget about the Dutch in WWII as well. They expected the Germans - who had honored their neutrality in the first world war, would do so again ... In fact the Kaiser had sought refuge in The Netherlands after the first war.

But oh how wrong they were.

The Swiss on the other hand, had something the Germans needed to be operating in tact to fund the (second world) war ... IE the banks.

Neutrality is great if you can afford it.

As for the Norwegians who wanted only peace ... it reminds me of one of my best friends in the world ... a Norwegian fella named Trond.

Trond told me of his time in the Norwegian army. He said they often conducted exercises where they 'war gamed' the possibility of Norway being invaded.

The exercise consisted of dropping their arms ...abandoning the people and the cities ...and hiding in the mountains to await the arrival of NATO.

So much for the warrior viking heritage.

Mr. C

11:31 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...


3:21 PM EDT  

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