Eau de bullshit

Perfume advertising, it’s a funny old game. Meaningless mood films packed with good-looking idiots spouting utter bollocks. No ideas or strategies, just beautifully executed silliness punctuated with evocative epigrams whispered in seductive French voices. I don’t know which agencies produce these ads (do they do them in-house?), but it must be a very different creative process to the one that takes place in most ad agencies around the world. While we bust our arses panning our clients’ business problems for creative gold, I imagine the uber-trendy plonkers who create these monuments to sexy stupidity simply pluck them out of the ether while taking a fag break on the set of their latest fashion shoot.

It’s almost a mandatory of the category that the ads be all style and no substance. I guess the thinking is, ‘Why bother with ideas when you have fit models?’ Which is fine. The genre’s been going for decades so it must be pretty effective. Fair enough. But what rubs me royally up the wrong way is when perfume brands try to add substance to the empty style-fest. When they try to imbue these celebrations of nonsense with layers of meaning. And a deep meaning at that. Although the regular perfumed model-fests are pretentious, they’re pretentious in an unintentionally funny, almost self-aware way – they’re not trying to be anything else other that what they are: semi-naked good-looking people spouting pseudo-philosophical gibberish. But some perfume ads aren’t satisfied with this, they want to be taken seriously; they see themselves as part advertising, part art.

The recent Baz Luhrman Chanel commercial with Gisele Bundchen and Sonny from Treme is a good example of the phenomenon of perfume brands strategically over-reaching. Although they’ve polished it up with several layers of spectacular executional sheen, all they’ve been left with is a shiny conceptual turd. The ad above is another classic of the fragrance-ads-trying-too-hard genre. Tragically, this was directed by Martin Scorcese. Yes, the genius who gave us Mean Streets, The King of Comedy, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull also gave us the execrable story of a man who clearly thinks he’s equal parts Eric Cantona, Muhammad Ali and Che Guevara but is in fact a nitwit himbo with silly hair. “I’m not going to be the person I’m expected to be anymore” he insists huffily, strutting off with a Blue Steel gaze as the walls of convention, conservatism and mediocrity tumble dramatically down. But all I wanted you to be was a good-looking model in a daft perfume ad, mate. Not a revolutionary seeker of the outer limits of human potential. And please don’t try to inspire me; I have writers, artists, musicians (like Roger Waters, see below), sportsmen and women, creators and inventors to do that. So either have a proper idea that properly makes me feel something, go brilliantly mental or stick to standing there with your top off, whispering the name of the perfume a few times and looking into the middle distance. Cheers fragrance-flogging fella.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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