Perfume Adverts – A Lifetime of Hatred
I’m not unreasonable – I understand the difficulty in using advertisements to sell a smell as it’s a difficult medium to convey over the television. But the kind of ostentatious, overtly sexually-charged, pseudo-profound onslaught of images in perfume adverts now causes such a rage in me that I am forced to leave the room when one comes on (God bless Netflix – no adverts)
Take, for example, this advert for Miss Dior with Natalie Portman; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=470ggUYmvBE. What do you notice most in this advert? Fun fact; nobody notices the perfume till the last five seconds. Actually, most people love the rest of the material instead; the clothes, the accessories, the setting. As a consumer, your interest is naturally piqued…
…until you realise the advert is just for perfume.
My point is, perhaps association is being used to sell Dior’s more luxurious items by including what is seen as an affordable product in comparison.
Or is it? Though Dior Parfums can be rather overpriced (£52 from Selfridges for just 30g) is it really there to boost its own sales or the sales of the Dior clothing retailer?
Consider the theory of association – “the linking of an issue, idea, or cause to another positive or negative concept in order to transfer the meaning from the second to the first” (Pratkanis, 2007). Are Dior really spending millions of dollars on each perfume advert to promote their Parfum, or the clothes Natalie Portman wears? This would explain the extravagance of adverts that involve clothes that cost thousand of dollars only to sell £50 worth of perfume. The perfume is just a front-man for the more luxurious items, which would explain their extravagance.
Moving on, another tactic perfume adverts seem to rely on is celebrity endorsement to make people favour their product (Amos, Holmes & Strutton, 2008). It has been shown to generate better advertisement ratings (Dean and Biswas, 2001). One example of man would be Brad Pitt’s appearance in this Chanel No.5 advert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGs4CjeJiJQ. Here, the iconic actor from Fight Club who taught people about the soulless, meaningless nature of consumerism got paid $7million dollars for 30 second of stand-still nonsensical ‘profoundness’ in an inconsistently lit room…about a perfume. That’s around $233,000 per second. It’s true that he makes the perfume seem more attractive – he’s a good-looking guy – but just by using my own system 2 thinking here I’ve realised that £77 won’t buy me Brad Pitt, just the feeling of having something in common with him. In actual fact, all I’ll have is a 50 ml bottle of perfume.
And let’s not forget the penchant for perfume adverts to always use model-level attractive people in their adverts such as my personal favourite Being Sniffed by a Strange Man on a Train advert for Chanel No.5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVmuOhoFn3U. Here, a woman is followed by a man who continuously sniffs her and even stands outside her room at night…
…but for some reason, this time it’s ok? Apparently because she just smells so darn good. And the rules of consent and stalking don’t apply to beautiful people.
Here, the advert has shown a situation which would normally be a reason to call police as desirable by using a physically attractive-admirer altercast (the models) which Gueguen, Legoherel and Jacob (2003) found is more effective for selling because of a consumer attempt to ‘identify more with the beautiful’. This is supported by a study by Chaiken (1979) who suggested that physical attractiveness may actually increase sales of products.
It’s exactly this kind of warped, ridiculous world that perfume adverts seem to be based in that is so enraging. Here are the three sad truths;
1) I can’t buy Natalie Portman’s dress
2) Tyler Durden is a sell-out
3) Someday, a man might try to sniff me on a train (but only if he’s attractive enough)
- - Gueguen, N., Legoherel, P., & Jacob, C. (2003). Solicitation of participation in an investigation by e-mail: Effects of the social presence of the physical attraction of the petitioner on the response rate. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 35, 84-96.
- - Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), Frontiers of social psychology. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress (pp. 17-82). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.