My first memory of watching a deodorant ad was when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Unsurprisingly it was an ad by AXE. It was an Ad that featured their chocolate-flavoured deo. The premise was something about a man spraying himself with AXE deo and going out into the streets only to be transformed into a "Chocolate Man" who gives pieces of his chocolate parts to every girl who can’t get enough of his scent. Hmm..
This abhorrent fetishisation of chocolate almost traumatised me as a 10-year-old. Since then the picture of scent or perfume, for me, has always been associated with sensuality and a weird impression of people who like to lick chocolate off each other’s faces.
Ads like these actually convey the meaning- at the end of the day, we all are apes ruled by our emotions and animalistic intuitions and gives us a sense impression that anything that smells good, must be amazing in general and anything that is pretty much amazing in general we need to have it. You see, smelling good is not really a need, it is a want, a desire. We are in no way encouraging smelling bad is great, well, it’s not. But smelling okay is something most people try to achieve on an everyday basis. So now that we have established this fact, deo and perfumes are not a need, they are plainly some products made to satisfy our innate ultra-hygienic desires.
But Before being categorized as a beauty product perfumes were used as a medicinal remedy for various ailments. Perfumes have been used as medicines in ancient times and purification objects in Egyptian burial rites. The medieval times had much to gain from using scents because they possessed therapeutic properties. The sense of smell, a strong one, can invoke memories buried within us. It is indeed a powerful sense of the body. We normally associate memories with smell, especially nostalgia, or you know, good ol’ times we have had before.
But smell rather than scent, in this case, is also a good indicator of sex. In recent times, it is solely considered as an attractive aphrodisiac from which the perfume ads capitalise heavily. Deodorants and perfumes are portrayed as important components in getting laid. “Spray this aerosol can on and just walk around until you tempt everyone from the opposite sex to have a good time with you”- this is the long indirect tagline of any perfume brand.
This sexualisation is not entirely out of context in the advertisement itself, however, one could appreciate the ad even more when this subject is portrayed as a contributing factor rather than an all-encompassing one.
When you are targeting people’s emotions with a product that’s not really a necessity you need to come up with something uniquely generic that caters to everybody (almost). And to make these ads more impactful and engaging, most of the deo and perfume brands hire A-list celebrities and models with large fan bases.
This sets a defining standard. Any ad where a brand ambassador indirectly endorses a product plays with the aspirations of the watchers. To be like that amazing athlete or that one good-looking bankable actress we all admire and follow. Virat and Anushka, Ranveer and Deepika fans, anyone?
So Perfume and Deo ads make money by coying with our emotions and understanding our innate desires. Obviously over-sexualizing anything is not good, it gives a distorted and objectified image, of a man or woman. But in most cases, it is women..who are excessively objectified. Here are some of the instances that comply with the statement I just presented: