Belfast Telegraph

The ads scent just to get right up our noses

By Gail Walker

It's Christmas time and there's no need to be afraid ... Perhaps not afraid as such, just a little, well, driven crazy. Christmas means only one thing: glamorous fragrance advertisements.

Now that Nicole Kidman and her epic 'Moulin Rouge' tribute has been put out to grass, the undisputed queen of tat is the J'Adore ad with Charlize Theron (below).

You know the one where our Char is walking down the hallway of some huge apartment ripping off her jewellery and dress because she's in a hissy fit about something and wants to 'get real'.

Maybe it's the Scrooge in me but every time I see it, I can't help, metaphorically speaking, scrabbling about on my hands and knees for the expensive baubles Theron shows such contempt for. I mean, if she doesn't want them ...

"Gold is cold," she fumes. Quickly running out of rhymes, she settles for alliteration for her next delve into the obvious, "Diamonds are dead". Mmm, could do better, Charlize. But unable to maintain her blistering oratorical tricks she quickly degenerates into random observation: "A limousine's a car". So is a Mazda - what's your point, love?

As Charlize steps out of her dress, Marvin (that's Gaye, not Hank obviously) warbles away, the camera pulls back and we find ourselves - where else - in Paris, complete with the Eiffel Tower, signifying away in the background for all its worth.

Paris the home of romance! L'Amour! It's sooo chiiiiiiic and sexxxy, no?

Well, no actually. These days, "Paris" no longer conjures up images of lovely little rues and a top floor apartment where lovers exchange rambling semi-philosophical monologues between bowls of black caff-ee. True, the love capital stuff still hangs round its edges but "Paris" now conjures up equally powerful images of soulless housing estates, strikes, dubious politicians, racial tensions, appalling pop music and sulky old Nicolas Anelka.

But still they keep banging on about it. Take Gautier's Le Male. After a good old "carouse", evidenced by crumpled bed sheets in a Paris apartment, the lady sniffs her lover's pillow, recalling the night of ecstasy.

Meanwhile, out in the hall he puts on a tiny sailor's hat and gazes in the mirror, looking like a rampantly narcissistic bottle of Matey.

In the real world, she wouldn't be sniffing his pillow. One glance at his ludicrous little sailor's hat and she'd be flinging it at him, snarling: "Tu est un prat."

And on it goes - Liv Tyler in a speedboat on the Seine for Givenchy's Very Irresistible, Jude Law pulling up in a car in front of the Eiffel Tower for Dior Homme. It's a parade of appalling and/or silly people and worn-out cliches - even when they escape the trappings of gay Paree.

Snotty-nosed New York diva (Vera Wang, Princess). Long married celeb couples making love in - guess? - a lift. (David and Victoria Beckham, Intimately Yours.) (I like David and Posh but do they not have enough mansions to do the deed in without invading our public spaces?.)

Beyonce all sweaty and dressed in something the size of a headscarf in the ad for Heat.

Sassy women laughing uproariously for no discernable reason at all while tickertapes of pink ribbon cascade upon them and their open top car - and all to dance music (Lacoste's Joy of Pink).



James Dean "rebel without a clue" stereotypes in Only the Brave. That's the one where the bloke is cornered by three cars with a decidedly 1950s feel. As the viewer stifles the thought this guy's in a feud with a vintage car association, our cut-price Jim Stark runs at the cars and - get this - they scuttle away like the well-known coward cars they are. Maybe they were worried he was going to punch their lamps out.

But that is the world of fragrance ads. Outdated, ludicrous, almost gratuitously insulting to our intelligence. There's more wit in the Iceland commercial, more honesty in a Dale Winton Cash My Gold effort ("Gold maybe cold, Charlize, but that little lot will net you £600!")

Yes, I know, not world shattering stuff, but I just thought I'd get a wee festive grumble out of the way before the big day itself ...

A Happy Christmas - and a bottle of fragrance - to you all.

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