Saturday, November 11, 2006

Perfume advertising 4: discrepancies? (multimedia clips)

Exploring the avenues of perfume advertising, especially in commercials to be viewed on TV, one shapes a particular assumption of how something would smell, coaxed by the imagery and setting of the commercial. Often there is some discrepancy witnessed between what is expected and the actual olfactory experience. Especially so when there are famous faces or egeries involved fronting the perfume.

On a nostalgic trip down memory line, Soir de Paris in a very old commercial, from 1958 to be exact, shows us the rapport between jus and image that existed initially. Soir de Paris by Bourjois is known as Evening in Paris in Anglophone cultures and the olfactory profile is a very refined aldehydic floral that has a touch of the Parisian melancholy and sense of glamour. In its vintage form it stood as a very elegant and lovely representation of everything that joyful Paris evoked in the imagination of countless American women, especially after having seen the classic film "An American in Paris".
Today, the Vermont Country Store is touting its stock of original Soir de Paris and everyone may have a slice of that glorious imagery of French women preparing for a Parisian outing in their strapless gowns and dainty high-heels. Watch the clip clicking here

Those days are over however. Very soon the visual aspect of a commercial went on to a completely different independent track, often creating images that do not correspond to the olfactory response of uncorking a perfume. Case in point is the following commercial for Poison from the mid 80s , when this perfume grenade initially launched to be the object of derision, huge sales and eventually legend. In the commercial a lady dressed in tailored clothes in the purple hues of the perfume’s bottle is sitting head tilted romantically, drapes being drawn as if to signify a new start, a revelation or a concealmentWatch the clip clicking here
Suffice to say that the bombastic juice that lurks inside that insidious purple bottle is radically different to what one might think watching those visuals. A potent, venomous elixir of sexual emancipation and witch-like power, it manages to make lovers and haters and nothing in between. Sadly this is hard to find today in a world in which the visual has become significantly more aggressive, while the olfactory has become astoundingly tamer. Contrast the above with the recent black panther commercial for Christian Dior Pure Poison and smell the respective jus and you will know what I mean.

Romantic images however do have a power on their own, corresponding or not to the perfume’s aroma. Such a romantic commercial is one of my personal favourites from the early 90s (around 1990-1992) for LouLou by Cacharel. I have already elaborated on what makes LouLou the perfume so evocative for me, but the advertising has played a major part in this as well, being inspired by Louise Brooks and her Lulu role in Pabst's film. The bluish tones of the film, paired with the insouciance of the young girl who talks to the camera is endearing and makes us view the perfume under the lens of an insouciant, unaffected girlish seduction. Which is not far off the mark of the perfume’s intent.
Watch the clip clicking here

The following commercial for Champs Elysees by Guerlain however is again in contrast to the jus inside. Shot in black and white on the eponymous Parisian street with gorgeous Sophie Marceau as the protagonist who exits a car stopping abruptly taking with her a bouquet of roses and a sac voyage to march off angrily and then self-awardingly on the famous street, it is too cinephile and hinting at a background story.
The effect is greatly augmented because it features one of the songs that would best illustrate an insinuating and dark perfume: Glory B0x by Portishead. The music is so suggestive that it would be great underscoring trully dark, biting frags such as Poivre by Caron or Ambre Sultan by Lutens. The tagline of “life is best when you write the script by yourself” is meant to evoke exactly a cinematic reference and independence. However the jus of Champs Elysees is oblivious to such scheming and trails off in candied blackcurrant buds and mimosas tumbling out of its sunny coloured bottle. Too tame by half...Watch the clip clicking here

To finish this exploration of the correspondence between visual image and perfume composition, two last examples. One is of a commercial capturing the essence of the perfume, that of Sicily by Giuseppe Tornatore featuring the beautiful, expressive as a weeping widow Monica Belluci, an uber-woman if there ever was one. A perfume that is indeed quiet, but not undistinctive; cosy, old fashioned in its way, soapy like the white linen of a neorealistic film’s heroine. It did not manage to be a best-seller, but the connection between what seems to be a very Mediterranean concept and its scent is masterfully accomplishedWatch the clip clicking here

And then there is the aggressive luxe of a baroque mansion in which strides stripping all the while the statuesque Charlize Theron for Dior’s J’adore. Although the presentation and imagery is one of opulence, J’adore is no more than a nicely put floral with violet, orchid and rose and scattered fruity touches on top. Certainly not the super exclusive thing alluded to. But a brand of a reputation for luxury and with a couture show to support had to go to extravagant lengths to cement the opulent touch in our minds. And Charlize’s commercial was indeed very successful in that regard. Because who wouldn’t want to emulate her? Watch the clip clicking here

Next post will be really funny, guaranteed!

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