‘Slightly Aloof, Maybe Mystical’: How to Spoof a Perfume Ad

Perfume ads are infamous for their – well, ridiculousness. From outlandish narratives to nonsensical events, the fragrance world has a rich history of self-important silliness. Yet, the ads work. They identify one product from another, address the target audience and create a demand for an un-sampled product – a difficult feat considering smell is currently impossible to transmit through a television. So, perhaps the outlandishness can be forgiven – maybe even lovingly poked fun at?

Jungle Studios produced the sound design on Uncommon and Ecover’s brilliant spoof fragrance ad, L’Eau de Bébé – created to promote the launch of a scentless hypoallergenic detergent range – whilst simultaneously satirising the perfume trope.

In this interview, Jungle Studios sound designer Ben Leeves, shares key insights into what exactly makes a perfume ad so identifiable and why, spoof or not, creative excellence is imperative.

Q> L’eau de Bébé, we all know what it smells like, but how did you evoke those smells with sound design?

Ben Leeves> Using the joyous sounds of happy babies – coupled with liberal amounts of sniffing, of course!

Q> How did you approach the spoof element? Obviously, there are the tropes to follow, but how did you accentuate them without making it totally ridiculous?

Ben> Well, with any spoof, you have to approach it as if it were the real thing. So the sound design was akin to any high end perfume commercial. We also tried to keep the ‘rug-pull’ as late as possible. Then, when the ‘rug-pull’ moment comes, we lift the viewer away from the sound for a few seconds, to then bring them back to a perfume ad sound finale.

Q> Did you face any creative challenges along the way?

Ben> Getting the right balance from the voice performance was key. Christopher and Tom had very strong ideas on how it should sound. Kemah [the voice actor] was a perfect fit!

Q> Are there any integral subtleties to making it sound like a perfume ad that a casual listener might not expect?

Ben> I suppose it’s that slightly aloof, maybe even mystical, feel. So, using delays and counterpoint whispers to nail the key messages was essential. If you read the satirical tweets from @PerfumeAds, you almost do the reverbs and delays internally as you read them!

Q> What are some common requests when being briefed for a ‘real’ perfume brand?

Ben> They usually pay for an expensive piece of music sync – so getting the music edit right is especially important.

Q> Are there any other ‘spoofed’ ads out there that you admire?

Ben> The Australian Carlton Draught ad, ‘It’s a Big Ad’ was an absolutely brilliant spoof of Hugh Hudson’s British Airways Epic ‘24 Million’. Awesome!

Q> And finally, what’s the best and worst perfume ads you’ve experienced?

Ben> My favourite perfume ads would be Gucci by Chris Cunningham and Kenzo by Spike Jonez – they’re amazing. But, are they too good? Do they have that slightly mad quality of say, Brad Pitt’s Calvin Klein? Or the ads for Davidoff Cool Water that made us all want to swim butterfly? I do think that I prefer my perfume ads to be the slightly mad, esoteric, art house ones.

Check out the work here: https://vimeo.com/333360372