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, they 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.
See also Editorial Synaesthesia.
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
- Take Our Word for It
- True Art Is Incomprehensible
- Up Marketing
- The Ur-Example may be the "Share the Fantasy" 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 adorably cracks up laughing at the end.
- Played completely straight in a 2014 commercial for Dior's J'adore perfume featuring Charlize Theron — strutting through a sumptuously decorated baroque hallway in a glittering golden dress and sky-high heels, she approaches a rotunda where a length of champagne silk tumbles from an oculus several stories above. Discarding her shoes, she begins to climb the silken rope in a sensuous manner. The train of her dress inexplicably grows longer as she climbs. As she nears the top of the rope, she rips off a string of champagne pearls that clatter to the ground as she climbs through the oculus into a city of glass skyscrapers that glow with the diffuse light of sunset. Closeup on a bottle of perfume as the sun sets.
- Glaxo Smith Kline earned themselves a fair amount of notoriety in 2010 with this charming little gem. Attracted by shimmering lights appearing from nowhere, a woman looks up from her book, climbs a long staircase and enters an upstairs room where the lights swirl enchantingly around her, eventually disclosing a tiny bottle that spins in midair to reveal its name... CERVICAL CANCER. Then they apologize for having got your attention with such a cheap trick.
- 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'.
- Tangled's Smolder by Flynn.
- Star Trek (2009): It caused three novelty perfumes/colognes to be created: Tiberius, Pon Farr, and Red Shirt. Even the bottles are amusing.
- The film Perfume (duh) is about a homicidal perfumer with the smell equivalent of perfect pitch and is essentially a perfume commercial dragged out into a feature film. When Dustin Hoffman's character, a master perfumer, smells the main character's first perfume, his surrounding transforms into a rose garden and a sultry Gypsy woman walks up to kiss him.
- Looker opens with a commercial for Ravish perfume, with the woman in the commercial talking to a Magic Mirror.
- 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.
- Saturday Night Live has a history of parodying fragrance commercials:
Narrator: Every man knows her name. Every woman knows her face. When she walks into a room, all eyes are on her. She's Ivanka. And a woman like her deserves a fragrance all her own.... Because she's beautiful. Because she's powerful. Because she's — complicit...
- One was a Parody Commercial for Calvin Kleen's Compulsion (a household cleaner) that heavily mocked the True Art Is Incomprehensible aspect.
- A 2017 skit of theirs adopted a more political bent when it introduced Complicit, a new fragrance specifically for Ivanka Trump.
Complicit, the fragrance for the woman who can stop all this, but won't. Also available in cologne for Jared.
- 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.
- During the 4th season of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, the opening credits parodied this.
- Celebrity fragrance ads were dissected and parodied on an Infomania episode. C-List: The new fragrance from Conor Knighton. "I'll get there someday."
- 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: Hey, who are these guys?
Miley: I think they're the circle.
- Impractical Jokers: In one of the games, the jokers are playing as workers for perfume companies workshopping the ad campaigns.The ads are meant to be unappealing and undesirable, and the jokers have to make a hard sell for the product. The brands include... note
- Eau Ver Compensate: Tiny Package, Big Smell. The product name is pronounced in a bad French way.
- Mother's Musk: Back to the Womb The hypothetical commercial has a bottle of perfume coming out a woman's Vagina.
- Orphan: Foster your Essence.
- Cropdust: Just Did It. The ad shows an image of an actual cropdusting plane over a field.
- The Gruen Transfer once noted that if you ever find yourself watching an ad and have no idea what its premise is or what product its advertising, its almost certainly a perfume ad.
- Robin Williams' famous 2002 Live on Broadway routine contains a bit where (in the midst of a rambling discussion of Christianity's foibles) he makes fun of celebrity-backed fashion lines by saying how Mother Teresa never had a perfume:
Mother Teresa never had a line of products, she never had her own perfume, *changes voice to sound like the Calvin Klein Obsession guy* Compassion by Mother Teresa... *changes voice again to sound like a parody of Mother Teresa* I smell because I care *changes voice yet again to sound like the Calvin Klein Obsession guy again* Compassion...
- Housepets! featured a commercial for dog food in this style.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- The 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."
- Tiny Toon Adventures had a perfume commercial parody starring Fifi La Fume for "Calvin Acme's Depression".
- From Pinky and the Brain, there's Brain's commercial for "Subjugation". Pinky's shenanigans ruin the effect.
- In one Codename: Kids Next Door episode, the operatives are having a science fair and one (stereotypically French) group advertises their entry with one of these. The judge has literally no idea what it's supposed to mean.
- The Cleveland Show's episode "Wide World of Cleveland Show" featured "No" by Consuela.