Happy hump day! Laugh along with these vintage fragrance ads

January may feel like a month of Mondays, especially with this awful weather, but we’ve made it to another hump day, fragrant friends! We’re celebrating with a look back at some of the most hilarious scent ads of yore.

Now that we’re in the 20s, we are feeling distinctly nostalgic for all things vintage – but it’s easy to forget how drastically advertising styles change over the years. What once was ultra cool can turn to cringe in the blink of an eye. YouTube is the gift that keeps on giving, as far as viewing vintage adverts is concerned, and there’s a whole host of fragrance ads that range from the unintentionally hilarious to the downright dodgy. We’ve rounded up some more of our favourites to keep you smiling for the rest of the week…

There’s a distinctly Monty Python-esque feeling to this advert from 1969. At any moment, one expects a character to ask, ‘Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?’ To which, according to this advert, we can now add: Bacchus Cologne. He’s not the messiah, he’s a very smelly boy!

Lasers, leotards, smoke machines… could this be the dawn of the 1980s by any chance? This couldn’t be more thrillingly of its it time (1981 to be precise)  if it tried, and we even have SCIENCE (along with some nifty robotic dance moves, which I’m pretty sure we’ll all be breaking out down the club this weekend) to back up their claims of ‘pheremones’ in every bottle of Jovan Andron, that are ‘guaranteed to attract.’ Attract what, we’re not quite sure. Stifled laughter?

We can imagine the storyboard the advertising team created before filming this advert for Hawk Cologne in 1981, showing a ‘man who reaches higher’ – embodying all the freedom and graceful power of a bird of prey as he effortlessly conquers the rock he’s climbing. Unfortunately, the images somehow don’t match the voiceover, because what we see is a rather gormless chap with a bowl haircut looking for all the world like he’d need nanny’s instructions to climb the stairs to bed. Ah well, it probably looked good on paper.

This woman is not on the verge of a complete breakdown, she’s just ‘a little bit Kiku.’ That’s all. It’s 1969 and she’s fine, okay? She’s just changing her mood every two seconds and wearing a salad bowl on her head. She’s NEVER BEEN BETTER, thank you. In fact, aren’t all women, ‘a little bit Kiku?’ Well perhaps, but in public we try to hide it. Now take that off your head, Sandra, and come with us. We’ve all been rather concerned about you…

It’s not merely the yellowish hue that makes this 1976 advert look like a cheese dream: we think the people behind this campaign had been at the last of the Camenbert. In an unfathomably long sequence, we see Charles Bronson gawping weirdly at a piano player, then burst through the doors of his own appartment and begin stripping as though he’s joined the Chippendales, all while smoking a pipe. The name of the fragrance? Mandom. Of course it is. Pass the Brie.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Cinematic scents

Many famous faces have graced the mini-films of fragrance adverts over the years – for some, their first acting role, for others a moment of evoking the ethos of the house at the very peak of their fame. But did you know several fragrance adverts over the years have also been directed by famous names?

Settle back in your velveteen seats, grab some popcorn and let’s go to the scented cinema…

Sofia Coppola (nominated for Best Director for Lost in Translation in 2003) directed this advert for Miss Dior Cherie, featuring Natalie Portman. Super-stylish, it confirms Coppola’s lifelong appreciation of haute couture, and perhaps evokes her visually stunning film Marie Antoinette in its old-world baroque splendour.

Wes Anderson and son of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola, had previously worked together on films like The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. Here, they made three short adverts (comprising one longer film) for Prada Candy L’Eau fragrance. An homage to the French New Wave, the visual aesthetic is pure Wes Anderson, and were fully gripped by the classic ‘two men in love with one woman’ storyline
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This Chanel short film for Coco Mademoiselle saw Keira Knightly and director Joe Wright teaming up for the fourth time – they’ve also worked together in Atonement, (for which, Wright was nominated in 2008 for Best Director), Pride & Prejudice, and Anna Karenina. Just so beautifully lit, the colours and cleverly composed shots look like poetry on the screen.

Renowned surrealist director David Lynch surprised the fragrance and film worlds alike by directing this advert for Yves Saint Laurent Opium in the early 90s. Spanish model Nastassia Urbano stars, with a striking resemblance to Ingrid Bergman (and her daughter, Isabella Rossellini, who was to star in his 1986 hot movie, Blue Velvet). All the hallmarks of sensuality are there, along with a visual deconstruction/seduction of a body on film.

Comic book writer turned film maker, Frank Miller, uses his iconic deliberately over-stylised look (very reminiscent of Sin City) to great effect in his advert for Gucci Guilty. Starring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans, inky blackness and searing white light are juxtaposed to create a highly sophisticated homage to film noir.

Fragrance and film feature strongly in The Scented Letter‘s recent Perfume & Culture edition, too, in Lights, Camera, Aldehydes!, award-winning blogger and author Persolaise was inspired by his twin passions for film and fragrance – matching some of his favourite fragrances to the films he chose to watch. And in Perfuming a Part, I lift the velvet curtain on the actors and film directors who use fragrance as a tool to create a mood or get into a role…

The Scented Letter Perfume & Culture edition £15 / £12.50 for VIP Club members.

By Suzy Nightingale

Retro men’s fragrance ads to make you smile

In our semi-regular series looking back fondly to fragrance ads of yore, we’re concentrating today on a batch that are even more (mostly unintentially) hilarious than previous selections. With a fascinating look at what men should smell like, and how they should behave, we feel these serve as public information films, and should possibly be studied in history lessons while a teacher writes ‘What WERE they Thinking?!’ on a white board…

 

There’s something rather ironic about the voiceover saying ‘…for men who aren’t kids anymore’ just as a woman is shown spoon-feeding her man-child partner in a restaurant, don’t you think? Immediately after asserting how grown up and un-kid-like the man who wears this fragrance definitely is, they ask ‘Would Canoe suit you? Ask a woman…’ while she’s now shown cutting his hair. We don’t get to see her rock him to sleep or read him a bedtime story or even talc his bottom with matching powder, but the inference is surely there. The people who made this Dana Canoe advert in the 60s HAD to be trolling the chaps, right? We’re down for it.

 

‘He believes in the same things his father believes in’ – wearing all white outfits while gazing wistfully from windows in all white rooms, apparently. Then, because he’s ‘strong and dependable’ he pops down to the beach to help two fishermen haul a boat out to sea (NB: they were doing perfectly well before he stepped in, but we’re sure they praised his name to the sky). Actually, we’re big fans of the Old Spice fragrance, here at The Perfume Society. It’s a proper masculine classic, and if you haven’t smelled it for a while, quit your sniggering and have a sniff. But do feel free to snigger at the old adverts, all the same.

 

#moustachegoals for miles as our hero is seen splashing on Blue Statos Cologne one minute, and hurling himself into a hang-glider the next. We hope he waxed that ‘tache or he could give himself whiplash. And who’d have thought it? It turns out hang-gliding is the perfect sport to take up if you want to make eye-contact with female drivers – not something we’d have thought Health & Safety regs would approve of, but still. She can get a whiff of his Cologne even as he whisks through the air above her car (like a fragrant falcon), and they immediately decide to live together in a glorified wooden shack. We love happy endings.

 

The Hai Karate adverts were always firmly tongue-in-cheek – ready to take the proverbial out of themselves, and presented in the manner of camp Carry On style films of the era. There’s something a bit weird about watching them now, though – a genuine sense of unsettling danger of women uleashed from their senses by getting a mere sniff of the Cologne. Here, a female nurse adds injury to injury by ruthlessly persuing a patient across a hospital ward. Apparently the brand put ‘instruction for self defence with every bottle’ because it smelled so good, men who wore it were in constant danger. Or something.

 

Shopping for men while picking up their vegetables for the week, two women perform an improptu musical outside a greengrocer’s, discussing what, exactly, constitutes ‘something about an Aqua Velva man.’ I’m not sure we ever quite get to the bottom of it, only that they must be ‘manly’ and ‘last all day’. With packaging that at first glance might be mistaken for men’s hair dye – or a devastatingly attractive fake Moustache In a Box – we can only guess how ‘fresh’ and/or ‘provocative’ the duo of fragrances actually smelled. Or perhaps it’s of secondary importance to the freshness of the veg?

By Suzy Nightingale

Feeling scentimental? Remembering retro fragrance ads

The importance of nostalgia in fragrance shouldn’t be ignored – so often our memories are linked with the scents we wore way-back-when, and we’ve surely all been stopped in our tracks by catching a whiff of something a loved one was loyal to.

Here at The Perfume Society, we also like to wallow in the warmth of perfume adverts past – they can be, by turns, charmingly evocative or utterly hilarious. We’ve gathered a selection for you to watch to cheer up your day, and we’ll let you decide best which category they fall under. How many of these do you recognise or remember wearing…?

There’s a rather wild claim within this 1981 ad, that ‘drop for drop, Jōvan Musk has brought more men and women together than any other fragrance in history…’ which, um, we’re absolutely sure they could have backed up with stats… Anyway, there’s no messing about, here, and we’re left with no doubts about the power of scent to drive women to rub their hair over men’s faces.

We associate fragrance advertising with impossible glamour and aspirational lifestyles, but sometimes the men’s fragrances used to downplay this in favour of the all-too-obtainable – like this Blue Stratos TV ad from 1988. During what looks to be the crummiest date ever, a couple drive to the world’s most boring pier, get soaked in the rain and, presumably because things can’t get much worse, decide to hurl themselves into the sea, fully clothed. And who can blame them?

This woman will quite happily throw a bunch of roses over a railing and spray perfume straight in your eyes, because she’s… having a complete breakdown? No, silly. Because she’s IMPULSIVE! and UNPREDICTABLE! Well, perhaps, but we still think she comes across as one of those friends, who you can never safely invite to a wedding, because she’ll be causing A Scene – ‘it should have been meeeeeee!’ – and swigging straight from a wine bottle within minutes of arriving.

Is it just us, or do you think there’s something mildly skeevy about the way the man in this Stetson Cologne ad rubs the crown of his hat? It suggests a familiarity with headgear that had not previously occured, but perhaps he’d splashed some of his Cologne on it and was powerless to resist. A peculiar half-spoken, half-sung narration by the woman, too. Peculiar all ’round.

Spying someone gorgeous at a party, trying to subtly flirt across a crowded room, is a situation fraught with danger. But it’s all going so well for this woman – she’s chic, fun and poised with dignity – until she applies Tigress, quick-changes into a catsuit, spends several minutes fighting her way through the potted plants and breathes on her ‘prey’ in a quite unpleasant and off-putting manner. And this is why we should all have that friend who says, ‘No, Susan. You’ve had too many cocktails.’

On what looks to be the set of a 1960s Hammer Horror film, and wearing a nightdress that only adds to the impression, we are given life advice by a really quite terrifying woman who declares in a breathy, faintly sinister way, that her men must wear ‘English Leather, or nothing at all.’ We’d be straight on the phone to the police, to be honest, advising them to check under her patio for those who refused either option…

By Suzy Nightingale

7 70s-tastic scent ads you have to see

A little while ago we regaled you with our selection of reto perfume ads from the 1980s, and you loved them so much we just had to continue the theme. Here, we shift the focus to 1970s fragrances, and you’d better hold on to your bell-bottoms, because there’s much to take in…

She’s been sweet, and she’s been good, she’s had a whole full day of motherhood, and she’s going to have… a bottle of gin. In fact no, she’s going to have an Aviance night. We, the viewer, are not informed as to what ‘an Aviance night’ might comprise, but the way she so seductively peels off those cleaning garments suggests someone’s in for a great time. We can only hope it’s her, alone, with the bedroom door locked, a Demis Roussos record turned up to eleven, and that aforementioned bottle of gin.

You have to hand it to Prince Matchabelli, they sure knew how to roll out attention-grabbing advertising campaigns. Here, we are introduced to the novel idea that a woman can have two sides. Yes, TWO! She might be at work, in a suit pointing at things; she might be at a fancy restaurant behaving all ladylike… ‘but up close, she’s something else.’ Did we mention she has two sides? Explore both of yours by watching, in awe.

We desperately want Mrs Slocombe from the 70s sitcom Are You Being Served to turn up in the middle of this, saying something, crossly, about her cat. Be careful how you slap on that Hai Karate, chaps, because we can’t see many department stores putting up with this kind of tomfoolery in the fragrance section anymore.

This Tabu ad is actually rather subtle and well done (especially when compared to other 70s-tastic scent ads on our list), with a countdown to seduction… but are we shallow for thinking ‘those EYEBROWS!’ when she finally turns around? It’s in comparisson with today’s rather bushier brows, we know, but still. Also, she looks a little nonplussed and about to burst out laughing. Back to perfume – if you can get your mitts on a vintage bottle of Tabu, you really should grab it, because it’s sublimely filthy in the very best way.

‘When a woman puts Denim on a man…’ well, she probably shouldn’t wipe it all over his mouth, no? We’ve seen lots of men put fragrance on all by themselves, and have yet to witness one rubbing it into his lips, but perhaps this was something all 70s dudes did? We like to imagine after the director yelled ‘cut!’ on this one, the male model was immediately asking his female colleague what the hell she was playing at. Perhaps a pre-fragrance-filming tiff!

Enjoli is the ‘8-hour perfume for the 24-hour woman’, which has us wondering – why not a 24-hour perfume to match her cut and thrust lifestyle? If she’s not ‘cooking bacon in a pan’, she’s ‘blowing kisses’, and somehow managing to go to work in between. It’s non-stop (unlike the perfume, apparently). Yes, this entire advert’s take on Peggy Lee’s “I’m A Woman” might leave you wondering why, quite often…

Finally, for deliberately funny one, watch this commercial for ‘Charming’ (clearly a spoof of the Revlon Charlie ads) which was a sketch on the Donny & Marie Osmond Show. We love commedian and actress Ruth Buzzi as the second ‘Charming girl’ trying out for the part – a more realistic representation that we can definitely relate to!

Written and selected by Suzy Nightingale

Hump-day blues? Watch these 80s scent ads and smile

The 1980s were an absolute heyday for hyperbolic fragrance adverts, with many of the most memorable TV commercials having been made during the era. Featuring an array of film stars cutting their dramatic teeth while wafting the distinct aroma of ham, against a background of blaring pop tunes and symphonic orchestral mood music, they truly are a treasure trove to explore.

Here you we invite you to ignore the weather, make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and smile at these gems…

Did you know that Sharon Stone once starred in a Revlon Charlie advert? The roots of the fragrance are firmly in the first fragrant girl-power up-rising of the 1970s, but were still going strong in the 80s. Big hair? Tick. Dubious fashion? Puffed sleeves for days! When contemporary fashion designers reference the 80s for inspo, we don’t think they mean this look, but stil –  it’s a great fragrance and this makes us somewhat nostalgic.

We happen to catch British actress Jane Seymour as she nonchalantly picks flowers in her garden one afternoon, while wearing a prom gown (as one does). Sitting at her dressing table, she gives us her Ted Talk on why romance isn’t dead after all, in a breathlessly husky voice suggesting hayfever. A gloriously whimsical ad for Le Jardin de Max Factor.

In direct contrast to fluffy femininity exuding from the above, may we present an advert for Faberge Turbo Cologne so resolutely ‘Masc’ that the mere act of watching it may make you grow a moustache. Everything you could possibly want is present and correct: impossibly gravelly ‘movie trailer’ type male voiceover, futuristic graphics, a random image of a pouting woman. Simply amazing, catch us as we swoon!

We devoured the weekly dose of shoulder-pad and rhinestone-infused drama, but perhaps some of us missed out on the opportunity to spritz ourselves with the scent of Dynasty tie-in scents? No matter, let’s eavesdrop on Krystle and Carrington as they just happen to have bespokes fragrances made for each other, to keep the love alive…

There has surely never been such an array of pastel in one room as this Prince Matchabelli Cachet perfume ad, as the coiffured singer twirls amidst a whirl of ice-cream colours, leg-warmers and madly enthused dancers, declaring ‘I’m ready now!’ Not ready to light a cigarette any time soon with all that hairspray, we hope. P.S: Vintage bottles of this are apparently going for £195+ on eBay, so perhaps have a rifle around the legwarmer drawer to see if you have some?

By Suzy Nightingale