Last year, our Ashley Davies unstoppered the bottled bollocks in perfume ads. And by Jove, she’s done it again. It’s sexy sexy sex madness.
The Minister, flanked by a couple of exhausted-looking civil servants, addresses the assembled perfume marketers in a shiny, flatteringly lit room decorated with long strips of billowing silk.
“I’ll keep this brief. We’ve drawn up some fresh guidelines for 2016’s women’s fragrance commercials. All very straightforward. You will all be given the comprehensive document after this meeting, but the top line is as follows: all ads must contain sex and/or madness. Sexy, sexy sex and sexy, sexy madness. On no account should your films allude to what the perfume actually smells like. Sex and madness. Madness and sex. Got it?”
The marketers – visibly relieved because rolling sex and madness in glitter and filming it beside a fan is what they’ve been doing for years – nod solemnly and shuffle out.
As 2016 draws to a close, I’ve analysed some of the year’s biggest fragrance commercials to see how closely they stuck to the brief.
Dior J’Adore – The Absolute Femininity
Charlize Theron is back. Still physically strong, still stunning, still as gold as a Crunchie wrapper with the words licked off. Unfortunately, she’s having some personal problems. In scenes reminiscent of Alan Partridge driving to Dundee in his bare feet, Charlize is striding about in water, talking nonsense. “I touch the rain,” she says. “I look at the sun, and it says ‘run’.”
So she runs, then she kneels. “I watch it all turn,” she murmurs. “The water, the earth, the sun and me.” Come here, Charlize. Ssssh, ssssh, love, let’s hug it out. Also, don’t look at the sun. It’s really bad for you. We’ve talked about this.
Sexy rating: 8/10
Madness rating: 9/10
A hungry looking girl wearing an itchy Barbara Cartland nightie and a worryingly blank expression approaches a bird cage holding a bottle of perfume. Maybe her sister shaved off her eyebrows while she was pished and now she’s going to kill her pets in revenge. Oh God, maybe she’s going to spray perfume into their little eyes and attach their tiny feathers to her nylon nightwear.
Phew, she doesn’t do that – but she does set them free. Let’s just hope they don’t get chopped up by the ceiling fan.
Sexy rating: 1/10
Madness rating: 10/10
Angel Muse Hate to Love
Georgia May Jagger keeps saying “hate to love”, and we see lots of close-ups of wildly unsubtle metaphors for sex: a tongue licking all manner of things, zips being pulled down, pupils dilating, strawberries being squeezed, a woman eating flowers and putting her finger in the fire. I so wish they’d included a shot of someone doing a comedy tongue-in-cheek blowjob mime.
A voiceover says: “Angel Muse – the new fragrance you will hate to love.” WHY? What are you fucking talking about? This is pure bottled bollocks.
Sexy rating: 7/10
Madness rating: 10/10
We can’t ignore Spike Jonze’s headline-grabbing 2016 commercial for Kenzo World. Pretty Margaret Qualley (Andie MacDowell’s daughter, dontcha know?) is literally bored to tears at a fancy ceremonial dinner. RUDE!
So she excuses herself and dances furiously round the building like Kevin Bacon in Footloose if he’d just found out his car had been clamped. Except she looks like she’s got those joke buzzers in her shoes and bra. The guys monitoring the building’s CCTV are going to have a right laugh at the end of their shift.
Sexy rating: 3/10
Madness rating: 9/10
Calvin Klein – Deep Euphoria
The exquisite Margot Robbie wakes up on the sofa in her party dress (overdid it on the Malibu, no doubt. Margot, what are you LIKE!) and starts having flashbacks about what happened the night before.
Daytime Margot’s walking down a corridor catching glimpses of herself from the night before in various rooms. One minute she’s dancing in the dark with the sexy people, the next she looks like she’s been helping someone with DIY, and then she’s eyeballing a fella manspreading in shiny gold trews (Charlize’s offcuts, no doubt).
For some reason, we don’t get to see what most of us try to forget about nights before: her bellowing: “THIS SONG IS ABOUT ME” to party hosts who fucking wish she’d go home already. Or throwing up outside the station because she didn’t line her stomach properly before the party. Three words, Margot: morning after pill.
Sexy rating: 4/10
Madness rating: 4/10
Dior Poison Girl
Hang on a second: isn’t ‘Poison Girl’ a Game of Thrones job title? Anyway, a hot girl is having quite a night – dancing at a sexy, dark, neon club, getting stared at by an unsmiling bloke (don’t leave your drink unattended, pal), flashing her gusset at the city from a penthouse at dawn and gearing up to kick a fella down some neon stairs.
And what’s this? She’s sent him some naughty photos of himself and he’s watching them on a massive screen. Ooft. Then she says: “I’m not a girl…” We all lean forward to find out what she means (it’s cool – we’re very relaxed about gender fluidity, pet), but all she says is: “I am poison. Poison Girl.”
Sexy rating: 8/10
Madness rating: 7/10
Lancôme – La Vie Est Belle
Julia Roberts is at a dinner party and she’s got trapped wind. She leaves the table to release some gas but everyone’s staring at her because she’s famous. Awkward. She manages to let a big one go (silently, thank gawd) and it blows her dress up and makes a wall collapse.
She smiles cheekily at the camera and keeps heading towards the fart patio. Everyone’s following her because they ALL want to fart too. They all laugh and dance as they quietly release the painful gas and the Eiffel Tower twinkles in the distance. Julia is so relieved. Phew! That’s better.
Sexy rating: 2/10
Madness rating: 2/10
Stash – Sarah Jessica Parker
SJP’s dying for a shag. DYING. You know when you hear a cat on heat wandering around at night meowing: “Please, for fuck’s sake, I need a shag. I don’t even care who does it.” Well, that. At one point she actually has her back to the camera. She’s presenting. A sultry female voice sings: “She moves and you touch with a finger tease.” Meanwhile, SJP’s kids watch the film through their fingers. “Jesus, MUM. You’re so EMBARRASSING.”
Sexy rating: 10/10
Madness rating: 1/10
Check out last year’s scent nonsense here.
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Ashley Davies is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor and the human behind animal satire website thelabreport.co.uk.