Poetic Ads for the Fragrance Industry Try to Articulate the Power of Scent

Putting words and images to another sense entirely

We sometimes forget the impact aroma can have on us. Maybe we're thinking about it more these days, when touch and proximity still feel dicey, even as spring opens throughout the Northern Hemisphere, creating a longing to be closer. 

Inevitably, we have to rely on other senses … like smell. Smell sharpens taste. It can also bring us back to places we knew, stirring emotions that have no relationship to the moment at hand.

The Fragrance Foundation U.K. worked with M&C Saatchi to leverage our current preoccupation with scent, reinforcing perceptions that fragrance isn't just your cheapest way into a luxury brand; it is a high-value purchase in and of itself.

"Fragrance Lasts" is the result of the collab, with its poetic echoes of "A diamond is forever." And in fact, poetry is what defines the campaign.

"Having learned we can discern more smells than we can see colors, a campaign driven by copy felt like the best way to capture the complexity of scent," explains M&C Saatchi chief creative officer Ben Golik. "This brings poetry to a campaign that captures the romance of scent, but doesn't shy away from the full gamut of emotions that fragrance can evoke."

Between March 23 and May 30, M&C Saatchi used Brandwatch Consumer Insights to study fragrance and scent-related keyword searches, to better understand sentiment, volume and affinities across local tweets, blogs and forums. 

One discovery? Social media conversations about fragrance have risen 11 percent during lockdown, with people using it to improve mood and feel more normal. (Case in point.) The U.K. has been sheltering in place since March 23, with rules relaxing into June for the rest of the population that isn't Dominic Cummings. (Sorry. Couldn't help ourselves.)

The Fragrance Foundation was founded in 1949—in New York, actually—by Chanel, Coty, Elizabeth Arden, Gerlain and Helena Rubinstein, with affiliates in Austria, France and the U.K. Since people are looking at a lot of boards lately, check theirs out (you will find no surprises). It wouldn't be farfetched to call the self-professed "global authority for the fragrance industry" a kind of federation or lobby for aromatic interests.

This marks the nonprofit's first consumer-facing push. 

"We're thrilled to be launching our first campaign created with a consumer audience in mind," says Linda Key Jackson, CEO of the Fragrance Foundation U.K. "Partnering with M&C Saatchi, we've developed a series of ads which tells the human stories of fragrance. It really reinforces the complex craft and alchemy that go into every bottle of fragrance, as well as the powerful memories that a scent can evoke."

This matter of craft and alchemy in perfume is worth studying on its own; the sophistication of odor is an underused creative asset. Here's a nice 30-minute podcast primer.

"Fragrance Lasts" continues a post-lockdown trend of quieter, less imposing advertising that invites more lingering reflection than twitchy, knee-jerk behavior. Even the great pauses that stretch between phrases and words, sometimes even letters, evoke a meditative rhythm. It creates a visual language for the wide berths of physical space that have defined existence in confinement … even as it invites intimacy into the gaps.

In fact, here is a poem about lockdown specifically!

Readers are invited to visit ScentMemories.org to share their own olfactory recollections, along with the hashtag #scentmemories. (It's hard not to cringe at that deviation from the campaign name, but clearly they're hoping "Fragrance Lasts" is a banner that, well, lasts, with many small activations that live inside it over perhaps several years.) 

The site also includes resources for learning the history of fragrance ("The first known alcohol based perfume was created for Queen Elisabeth of Hungary and based on rosemary"), as well as "Fragrant Facts," like widely used categories for women's and men's fragrances. 

The ads will live their days out in magazines, likely alongside the ads (and sample packets) of The Fragrance Foundation's parent companies. Press includes Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times Style, and the Evening Standard.

More creative appears below.


Creative agency: M&C Saatchi
Camilla Kemp - CEO
Ben Golik - Chief Creative Officer 
Matthew Brazel - Strategist
Lydia Smith - New Business Director
Perfumer: Roja Dove
Artwork and retouching: Neil Sharp

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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