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Perfume commercials have a tough task to complete; they're advertising through a medium that cannot possibly convey their product's sole feature: the smell. The solution, such as it is, is to create an association with 'raw' human desire, elegance, beauty, and wealth via incomprehensible art. When executed well, it looks like a glamorous clothing commercial, when done poorly may fall prey to not having anything to do with the product.
Car adverts can be prone to this too, if they're selling the experience and lifestyle implied by driving the car instead of the engineering. Perhaps because of this, a good many TV shows take a liking to parodying these commercials.
Tropes commonly used:
- Appeal to Vanity
- Beauty Equals Goodness
- Bottled Cool
- Dada Ad
- Design Student's Orgasm
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- Get the Sensation
- Made of Shiny
- Sex for Product
- True Art Is Incomprehensible
- Up Marketing
- The Ur Example may be this pretty ad for Chanel No. 5, directed by Ridley Scott back in 1979.
- The Trope Codifier is likely a string of ads in the late Eighties and early Nineties for the Calvin Klein fragrance "Obsession." Equal parts Mind Screw and Soap Opera level melodrama, they are probably the reason why so many of the parodies are one-word emotion-based titles, like Depression and Compulsion mentioned below.
- Saturday Night Live did a Parody Commercial for Calvin Kleen's Compulsion (a household cleaner) that heavily mocked the True Art Is Incomprehensible aspect.
- Was it also SNL that did the spoof ad for "Pretentious" ("It pretends to be all the things that I pretend to be")?
- One of the fake commercials in the video for Neil Young's "This Note's For You". ("Forgive me, but I'm prettier than all of you." "Liar! Give me back my shoes!")
- Mocked in The Simpsons with an ad exec's "retooled" version of The Mr. Plow commercial. It's a black and white, impressionistic mess reminiscent of many of the Perfume Commercial tropes.
- The Daily Show did one in mocking the Obamas' date to New York City with a perfume ad for "POTUS: For Men".
- One of The Colbert Report's early "products" was "Stephen Colbert's Scorn." His Formula 401 ("premium man-seed") is also advertised in the pretentious-beauty-product style.
- Grumpy Old Men suggested that perfume ads 'don't describe the perfume, but do adequately describe the state of your mind if you drink some'.
- During the 4th season of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, the opening credits parodied this.
- Subverted by Korean Air's "Color of Perfection" spot. Coded as a perfume ad verging on Design Student's Orgasm -- they even show people spraying perfume -- it uses Tiffany's trademarked blue color (for which it must have paid a small fortune) and music by Robert Matt. Many viewers probably still don't realize it's about an airline.
- Parodied in a Australian commercial for mutton (of all things), done as a stereotypical perfume commercial for the new scent: Lâmb.
- In the 8th episode of Sheep in The Big City, Sheep becomes famous for being on a commercial for Spotless dish soap that's an obvious perfume commercial parody
- Celebrity fragrance ads were dissected and parodied on an Infomania episode. C-List: The new fragrance from Conor Knighton. "I'll get there someday."
- Tangled's Smolder by Flynn.
- The 2009 Star Trek film caused three novelty perfumes/colognes to be created: Tiberius, Pon Farr, and Red Shirt. Even the bottles are amusing.
- A commercial for the Georgia Lottery does this. It seems to be a perfume commercial, complete with being Deliberately Monochrome and with emotional dialogue, only to cut to the to main people fighting over the lottery ticket.
- Rugrats had a scene where Angelica is playing make believe that she is in a perfume ad, wearing a long flowing dress while walking down a fancy hallway.
- Weekenders showed Tish contemplating what a commercial product named after her would be like. Cue her standing in a dress for a perfume called "Tish" "Ah, the scent of me."
- Roger Zelazny's novel Isle of the Dead has a man from the 20th century living in the 25th. He's meeting a woman for dinner; she enters the room and falls into "a perfume-ad pose". You know immediately what he's talking about.
- Hannah Montana featured an episode where she does a perfume commercial, telling viewers that the fragrance "completes the circle", and involving her standing in front of a picture frame with a pair of gymnasts rolling behind her.
Lilly: Who are those two?
Miley: I think they're the circle.
- Housepets featured a commercial for dog food in this style.
- Tiny Toon Adventures had a perfume commercial parody starring Fifi La Fume for "Calvin Acme's Depression".
- The commercial for Cacharel's Eden is about what you'd expect - androgynous creatures flitting around a leafy CGI paradise, and about three metric tons of Female Gaze. But in Luca Turin's words: "Perfume journalists are still talking about the 1994 launch, which took place in some sort of aircraft hangar near Paris and involved a large artificial island surrounded by water, covered in real jungle, and populated by naked adolescents of both sexes. I'd tell you more, but I wasn't there." WTH?
- Made fun of by Alan Cumming for Cumming the Fragrance, called by one blogger "the only celebrity fragrance that has a sense of humor." He even cracks up laughing at the end. It's adorable.