5 on 5: Perfume Ads That Never Should Have Happened

christies bottles

I’m constantly gathering images for my posts about art history and perfume advertising, and I’ve come across many beautiful examples from the past century. I’ve also encountered some ads that have not aged well at all. Here are five perfume advertisements that seem (to me, at least) unappealing, borderline offensive, or just plain odd.

yardley 1957 vab

“To make you feel especially feminine,” Yardley proposes (in addition to its fragrances)… a Madame Alexander doll, playing cards. “Of course,” as they add. There was a series of these ads. Some kind of cross-promotion? I do not know. (1957)

1946 gri gri

“Good Fighting. Good Hunting. Good Loving.” A “gri gri” is an African good-luck amulet or protective talisman. Weil is a venerable Parisian perfume house. The less we say about this ad, the better. (1946)

nectaroma 1961

Many vintage perfume ads are valued for their elegantly styled models, their artistic photography, and the evocative names of their featured products. And then we have Nectaroma (“goes with a woman”) from Tuvaché. (1961)

vintage ad browser centaur 1967

Centaur “Massage Cologne”: it’s “half-man, half-beast, all-male.” And more than a little repulsive. Plenty of cleavage and body hair, plus a confusing concept. Does anyone really want to be, or to mate with, a centaur? (1967)

1965 arpege vab copy

“Mommy, don’t cry… I’m sure Daddy’s giving you Arpège.” Nothing sells a classic like the suggestion of domestic violence, apparently. Promise her anything… (1965)

Images: advertisements from VintageAdBrowser and various online auctions. Top photo via Christies.


11 thoughts on “5 on 5: Perfume Ads That Never Should Have Happened

  1. I gotta get me some nectaroma.
    These ads are great. I don’t know how or where you find them but I’m glad you do.

    1. These are simply breathtaking!
      From Valley of The Dolls to ‘Necrophilia’ to the most insane perfume advert ever for Arpege – surely conjuring up images of hurt, neglect and being bought of with a bit of scent can’t be good for sales.
      Note though, Habanita still employs imagery not a million miles away from Gri Gri today – perhaps they were onto something after all…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      1. Dandy, My husband had the same reaction — “That just sounds way too much like ‘necrophilia.'” And you’re right, “exotic” African imagery is still used in ads and packaging. I remember some fuss over the re-release of Idole du Lubin, and even some of Dior’s J’Adore ads have made me a little nervous over the years, too.

  2. OMG!! I am laughing and cringing and my head is going 1000 miles an hour.
    Whatever they are it seems they now fall into the realms of art, if art is something created that can move you, change you or enhance your world vision.
    Portia xx

  3. Thank you for making me laugh! I looooove the perfume bottles, and as much as I wish I lived in the Regency era, or the 30’s or 40’s, you made me ever so happy to be a woman today :)

    1. Hi, Jane! Those bottles in the top photo used to belong to Elizabeth Taylor. I figured I’d lead with something beautiful before we descended into the madness of those ads!

  4. Yikes these are disturbing. That Arpege…I don’t even get why they went there. Most of the others are disturbing “exotic”…but the Arpege. Domestic violence sells?

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