Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Fragrant Reflections

Saturday, 28 January 2012

  I saw a fascinating advert in a magazine in the other day. I need to share it.

  Before I do that, just take a minute to design your own advert, in your head. It’s for perfume. Women’s perfume. Just take a moment to think through the sort of ideas that make women want to buy perfume. What would you call the perfume? What would you put in the photo, for the advert? What would the slogan be?

  I imagine you’ve gone for a name like “Gorgeous”. Perhaps a photograph of a beautiful, elegant woman and a slogan like… you know… “Make everything gorgeous”. That’s the sort of thing that works on women, isn’t it, when they’re buying cosmetics? A vision of a lovely world in which, if they are in any way noticed, it’s for being particularly graceful, elegant and lovely.

  OR… this.

  Interesting choice, isn’t it? I don’t think women aspire to be “alien”. I don’t think anyone does. I don’t think women want to look like the woman in that photo, with her slightly alien face. I don’t think they want to “feel extraordinary”. It’s the wrong word. They want to “feel beautiful”, when putting on perfume. You could certainly get away with “Feel Special” - possibly even “unique”, but extraordinary? They might as well say this.

  Except it’s not even, technically, about “feeling”. That’s the extrapolation. Initially, it’s simply a perfume. So the message is actually this.

  But it’s not just “weird”, either. It’s alien. We can’t consider the extraordinary scent separately from the perfume’s title. Together, what they’re basically trying to offer - the invitation they’re sending out to women everywhere - is this.

  I think I might just stick with my usual brand.

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BaseMetal at 11:17 pm on January 28th, 2012

Is this is what you get when you let a mug(g)le make perfume? In this picture she looks just a touch more human than Voldemort.
It reminds me of one of my favourite kids joke.

“Why do women wear make-up and perfume?”
“Because they smell and they’re ugly.”

fingéro at 11:41 pm on January 28th, 2012

Hmmm….it’s the sort of thing the losing team on The Apprentice might come up with. I can see Big Al’s face turning red with rage now…
‘Quite frankly, your advert stinks. You’re an absolute bloody disaster… Thierry Mugler, you’re fired’

Barry Tinghart at 3:27 am on January 29th, 2012

Thank you so much for this blog, Victoria.  It’s really made me laugh.  It’s so delightful that, just as your wonderful father did during his life, you bring mirth and laughter to the world, in your own rather charming way.  I’m sure he would be very proud of you.  I am certainly grateful to him, not just for his own brilliant writings, but also for leaving behind such a lovely daughter. 

Idi Yacht at 8:43 am on January 29th, 2012

Great blog, but what’s your usual perfume?

It could be…..

“Deal me in” a perfume by Victoria Coren..  tea, tobacco and chips with a hint of baize.

Blewit at 12:00 pm on January 29th, 2012

Well Victoria, you are certainly lovely.  I wholeheartedly agree with the many others who use that word to describe you.  Gorgeous too, unquestionably.  If you are graceful and elegant you tend to hide this from public view BUT we can hear it in your words.  So two out of four is not too bad.  I will add radiant, exquisite, and totally delightful to the list of terms that you can own with confidence.  You also come across as more talented, genuine, and trustworthy than I would ever have dared hope for.  Your obvious shortcoming is your height, so a nice scent might help to get you noticed, but while you may not quite be irresistible, you would have to smell pretty bad to prevent me from finding you attractive.


Ian Paul at 2:05 pm on January 29th, 2012

I really liked your comment in the Guardian about bishops being men of God. Will you repost here?

Bill Green at 3:51 pm on January 29th, 2012

This reminds me of a piece I read about a supermarket-branded wine, described on the label as tasting “unusual”. I’ll stick to the stuff that tastes normal, thanks.

Victoria Coren at 3:58 pm on January 29th, 2012

Hi Ian, thanks very much. That piece about bishops (actually for the Observer, not the Guardian, though they share a website) is up on this site already, on the “columns” page under “Observer” (see menu on the left); my Observer columns go up there every week after publication.

Blewit at 4:49 pm on January 29th, 2012

Well, I didn’t actually say that she was clumsy, and I do consider that her dexterity with the poker chips is second to none.  However, I’m not sure that she has mastered the high heels she often wears, even if her logic in choosing them does not itself fall short. 


No Excessive Flattery? Well I’m flattered that I have been allowed to squeeze so many compliments through.

Hoopie1 at 9:38 pm on January 29th, 2012

Is having your own photoshop thread on 2+2 the greatest moment of your career?

Don Amoroso at 2:10 am on January 30th, 2012

Strangely, I did have a theory that you were in fact an alien.  This explains why you are so clever and don’t like people touching your hair.  In my fantasy you take me to your ship and brainwash me into doing all sorts of weird and naughty things to you that you make me believe you deserve….

Dragon's Apprentice at 11:03 am on January 30th, 2012

This is indeed an amusing blog. But have you actually smelt that Alien gear?... It’s really good.  My daughter (age 15, possibly a clue in that) wears it and, as she points out, it comes in a refillable bottle, so not much of that naughty packaging stuff after the first purchase.  You should, however, definitely launch “Gorgeous”.  As my boss would say, “I’m in” :)

Zoe at 11:07 am on January 30th, 2012

1) Is this Blewit character Giles after a few too many?

2) You’re right, this is one of the most stunningly misguided ads I’ve seen. In spite of using a creepy CGI-faced woman and a title that suggests the product smells like ET’s armpits, it still doesn’t manage even to be particularly ‘extraordinary’ since all that gold and blondness is a pretty obvious riff on the Carmen Kass/Charlize Theron Dior ads. Poor Thierry.

Chris Luxford at 11:07 am on January 30th, 2012

I’m sure there are women out there who would relish smelling like an extra terrestrial, and there must certainly be men who would like to take such women home. Granted, these men probably have bedrooms that have been designed to resemble the flightdeck of the Starship Enterprise, but women who want to smell like an alien probably like that sort of thing.

Henry at 11:23 am on January 30th, 2012

I’m not a woman. I sometimes use Thierry Mugler’s A*men.

I think a lot of perfume-users (not you obviously) are a bit insecure, and have been taught by the industry and its advertisers that smelling of “just” woman is wrong. So – smell of alien, not even human let alone woman, problem solved.

And commentworthy enough to be picked up by your good self. I think that ad works.

B (Jack) Hyde at 11:52 am on January 30th, 2012

It got them looked at by me, so not so stupid!

psychofant at 12:01 pm on January 30th, 2012

all advertising for perfume is aimed at aliens, they “who must be obeyed”, who are from Venus. the poor old chaps from Mars had better buy the right brand, at the right time, or risk suffering an orchidechtomy!

Ian Brice at 12:27 pm on January 30th, 2012

Any self-respecting man-about-town should have in his possession this classic aftershave from the house of…er…Lidl:
(Photo thanks to I’m $partacus)

BenButton at 2:19 pm on January 30th, 2012

You were an answer on Pointless yesterday (Jan29th). Have a look on the bbc iplayer. It’s about 20 minutes in. Only ONE person out of the 100 they asked knew you were the host of OC.

Mike Sivier at 1:59 am on January 31st, 2012

Thank you very much for that. I’ve been railing against the pretentiousness of perfume ads (for women and men - let’s not forget the gender that’s actually allowed to be sweaty and smelly as part of its recognised identity) for years.
I had an idea for one (for men) called ‘Whiff-away’ with the slogan ‘It smells good’ but guys might think it was some sort of anti-flatulence device instead.
Alternatively, there’s the circular logic of ‘GoodSmell - it smells good’, but the ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ aspect mean it might just as well be called Ronseal.

Blewit at 2:44 am on February 1st, 2012

There are some rather amusing comments on this blog.  There must be a whiff of laughing gas in that perfume.
Zoe, what a wonderful, lovely person you are for comparing me to a member of the genius Coren Dynasty. 
In reality, I have to thank the superb moderation for deleting rubbish that I wrote while half asleep.  It makes me seem much more sensible.  I suspect there may be a rather clever “no excessive flatulence” rule that has saved me from embarassing myself.  Thanks Victoria for a super blog with some wise editing.

Josh at 2:22 pm on February 1st, 2012

Do you, like me, long to smell of Scotland, rubber, whisky and sex? Surely the world’s oddest celebrity fragrance... 

JazBenz at 1:22 pm on February 3rd, 2012

I am sitting here, crying tears. You set that up nicely. I think this is particularly funny when you do put imagination into the perfume ad. I am still laughing.

E Kerr at 1:13 pm on February 4th, 2012

Victoria, you’ve written some entertaining and enlightening things in GQ recently about relationships and sex. What’s your take on how scents and perfumes fit in to all this? 
I find some scents quite repulsive, even nauseating.  At the other extreme, others are enjoyable and pleasantly arousing, but in either case they are not something I would want to taste (hence, I suppose, food flavoured sex accessories, not that I’ve tried them).
My problem is I have no idea what any of these are called, they just waft up my nose and produce a smell pleasant or otherwise.

psychofant at 1:31 pm on February 5th, 2012

Victoria, 9pm tonight, bbc 4,  “CRICKLEWOOD GREATS”.  Who is playing you?  jennifer Aniston?

Bedd Gelert at 8:50 pm on February 5th, 2012

Maybe you could call it ‘Coconut Shy’...  ;-)

B.B..King at 11:42 pm on February 5th, 2012

I would call it Bee Sting. It’s beautiful yet resides like nature intended. A true love story.

mordantfox at 11:23 am on February 10th, 2012

A. Jolie as Grendel’s mum springs to mind.  Actually, I wanted to say thanks for “Could you repeat that, but a bit more patronisingly, please,” on the Hislop and Merton show - it’s entered my lexicon alongside the likes of your dad’s ‘the smack of firm gumment’ (sic).

joeking at 7:10 pm on February 20th, 2012

Actually, I want to smell like the back end of a bus. Rubber and petrol anyone?

Holly at 10:26 pm on April 17th, 2012

I cherish my bottle of Alien!

My parents bought it for my 18th birthday (I think they were maybe trying to make a point…).

I have literally passed strangers in the street while wearing it and have overheard: ‘*sniff* Can you smell ‘Alien’?’

It’s not that it stinks or that I wear too much (i’ve had it for two years and still have plenty left), it just has.. a distinctive smell, and not in a bad way. It’s basically the women’s equivalent of Old Spice.

And Don Amoroso (if that is your real name), while you can’t control your subconscious, you could surely have kept that one to yourself!

Bertie at 3:34 am on December 28th, 2012

Dear Vicky,

Just wanted to say I’ve been dipping in and out of your blog over the past few days to lighten my busy Christmas and I think it is absolutely marvellous. Usually I come back here for a giggle, but this post… I just woke my family up at 3.30am because I was laughing so hard. It might be just me, but even at the end of 2012, this is what takes the prize as ‘thing that made me laugh most all year.’ Even that bit in Downton Abbey when the Dowager Countess flails around in a swivel chair can’t compare. Just brilliant!

All the best and have a great new year,

Bertie (and his endorphins).

Victoria Coren

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