What Christmas Means to Me

To some the holidays are about family time, while others have a more spiritual connection. Obviously that’s all nonsense; Christmas means the annual barrage of perfume & cologne commercials. Those 30 – 60-second doses of, “what just happened to me?” It’s difficult though. As an advertiser, I feel for the writers and directors of these spots. How do you sell smell?

It’s been decided by our industry that the equation is: smell good = more sex, but we can’t really go on TV and say “put this smell on your neck and get boned.” So instead most spots replace “more sex” with the “head-back-eyes-closed” shot – which I assume is how sex looks when you’re hot enough to be in a perfume commercial. Rhianna, show them what I mean:

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So Merry Christmas everyone; here are some of my favorite scent-spots from 2016

Invictus: Paco Rabanne The Film

Somewhere in this spot is a message about elite athletics, but when your pecs look that sweet you just air-pistol those pesky marble-based professional soccer players and some nude goddess will bestow the trophy upon your glistening shoulders. Wait, bro, I was promised sex! Worry not my b’sixpacked friend; there are five more toga-ladies in the locker room. Also Zeus is pissed: The Film.

Welcome To The Factory: Jean Paul Gaultier

Having also watched the Making of Welcome to the Factory, I now know that our heroine’s name is Sugar Lips. Don’t let this take away from the educational properties of this “how it’s made” spot. In an effort to be more progressive, the women (including Sugar Lips’s sidekick, Bitchina, really) are in charge. Their squad of, um, sailors… um, row the gears around? This seems like a terribly inefficient way to power a factory but I’m all for renewable energy sources. Buttpatt.

Channel Homme Sport

“Aw crap I dunno man, no one cares, just put a hot dude on a horse.”

Kenzo World

This awesome spot snuck in over the summer when someone at Kenzo thought, “man, aren’t perfume ads terrible” and hired Spike Jonze. I like to imagine the pitch meeting:

Jonze: So basically, it’s boring and then this lady totally loses it.

Client: Like, what do you mean “loses it?”

Jonze: She goes totally bananas.

Client: You mean like lasers shooting out of her fingers?

Jonze: Wow, that’s a great idea. Yes. That.

Client: Hmm… is she hot?

Jonze: Yeah, but not in a sleazy, objectified way. She’s being herself. She’s cool.

Client: Hmmmmmmmmmmmm I dunno… Can she do something symbolic & abstract?

Jonze: We can have her jump through an eyeball made of flowers or something?

Client: Book it!

Finally, we have to pay respect to a classic that has defined the genre for decades. In 1992 some brilliant, subversive music director snuck brutal honesty into the lyrics of a Stetson spot.

Stetson: Easy for You

“Easy for you. Stetson makes it easy for you” to bone. Buy our stuff. Bone.

So happy holidays everyone. I hope you enjoy the introspection and confusion that comes with perfume spots as much as I do. Tweet me your favorites.


Al McWilliams makes content, strategy, and cartoons at Q+M.