equality / Feminism / gender / Nope / opinions

Nope! BonBon Perfume

As predicted may happen, this is my first Nope!Post not related to the portrayal of women in comics. This one is instead slightly broader in that it relates to the portrayal of women in perfume ads and specifically for BonBon Perfume.

There are many terrible adverts out there for perfume, both in film and print media. So many in fact that I’m not going to open that can of worms today. What I am going to do through is share with you this Nope!Post relating to the advert I pass every day on my way to work for Viktor & Rolf’s BonBon Perfume.

Oh look, a naked woman advertising something :O

Oh look, a naked woman advertising something :O

In short, I hate this advert. Firstly, it is completely objectifying – treating the woman as a decorative accessory to the perfume. Secondly, it gives the potential customer no clue as to what the product is – or in this case how it smells. This advert is an example of a female product being marketed at men. Ladies, if you get this perfume as a gift, you can bet it’s because your fella saw an eye catching advert. This is not to say that it isn’t selling well (I have no idea of their selling figures), and yes, perhaps some women may feel some aspirational draw towards the advert, but in reality it tells us nothing about the product.

Personally, I’d prefer something that hinted at the type of scent you might expect it to have. Is it a light and airy scent – represented by a lady (preferably clothed) frolicking in the meadows. Is it a sultry musk perfectly suited to a snap of a sophisticated woman at an important and dressy function? We don’t know. From this advert we know nothing. Having read the website, it apparently has caramel notes. I’m actually not sure where you would wear such a sweet perfume, but perhaps having the model (fully clothed) in a sweet shop, or hell, just images of sweets, might better portray the scent!?

http://www.fragrantica.com/news/Viktor-Rolf-Bonbon-5067.html leads with this much more explanatory image!

Fragrantica leads with this much more explanatory image!

On the Viktor & Rolf website I find further information about the marketing on this –

“Bonbon, a timeless sensation inviting a pure and absolute pursuit of pleasure. She who wears Bonbon, dresses herself in perfume whilst creating her own story. She is empowered, beautiful and complete”.

Ok, so I get what their doing. The ribbons around our painted model are supposed to represent her being dressed in the perfume. But you know what? Without the context of those words (which do not appear on the print ads) all I see is a tied up naked women with a bizarre look on her face. I’m not sure what that expression is, but it isn’t happy. Nothing about this leads me to believe that she is empowered, and I’m not even sure I want to go into the mess of using the words “beautiful and complete”.

In order to better convey the product and remove the use of the female form, I have fixed the advertising. Hope you like it.

Ten minutes and basic photoshop skills later....

Ten minutes and basic photoshop skills later….

Alternatively, a model dressed in sweet wrappers might have made an impression. Again, think where you might wear this scent? How about an excited young woman on her way to prom? A little digging online and you can find this creation –

Starburst Prom Dress

Starburst Prom Dress

This lovely young lady’s mother made this dress for her out of starburst wrappers! Read about it here and marvel at the love and skill that went into this. Sure Viktor and Rolf could have gone to a similar effort in “dressing” their model in perfume. In fact, how cool would it have been for them to reach out to some of the amazing artists, designers and even the awesome mum of this lady, in order to bring together something pretty cool. But you know what? A naked woman is much easier isn’t it, oh and of course “sex sells”. pfft!

Have at it – 

Below is my complaint to Viktor and Rolf, which has not yet been acknowledged. I also complained to Debenhams, who were displaying the image, and this was the result!

Dear Viktor and Rolf

I am writing in complaint of the advertising for your Bonbon Perfume. Every day I pass this advertising and everyday, instead of a perfume advert, I see a bound woman used as an object to advertise a product.

Women in all cultures have to endure on going disrespect and everyday sexism. How can we expect this to change whilst mediums such perfume marketing encourages the acceptability of such representations and thus disrespect and sexism towards women? Every time a woman is portrayed  as an object you are adding to ideas we are constantly fighting on how women should be treated – every disrespectful portrayal or circumstance adds to the acceptance and propagation of the disrespect. From your website you describe the wearer of your perfume as “empowered, beautiful and complete”, I do not see that in you advertising, I see a tied up naked women with a bizarre look on her face. I’m not sure what that expression is, but it isn’t happy.

Moving forward I ask you reconsider the portrayal of women in your marketing and strive to make changes that will empower rather than objectify women.

Many thanks
L.E. Turner

– Submitted to inquiries@viktor-rolf.com on 01/06/2014. Will let you know if there is a response.


12 thoughts on “Nope! BonBon Perfume

  1. It looks like some kind of bondage thing. I just wanted to thank you for following my blog. . . . I hope somebody cuts her loose and feeds her. She looks a bit thin. Robby.

    • Ha! Either way she doesn’t look too happy! Thanks for commenting, and its a pleasure to follow your blog, I found the post on beaver dams oddly compelling reading (I neither fish nor live in a country with beavers – though I did find evidence of “beavering” on some prehistoric wood when I was on a dig at Flag Fenn in my younger days, so they must have been in the UK back then!) 😀

      • I’m glad you liked that piece. I hope it sells. I sold “Saddle Up” the other day. I see Beaver sign everytime I go fishing. Thanks again. Robby.

  2. Great blog! I really hate the placement of the bottle in the ad, like we need our vaginas to smell like something other than what they are…something else that’s wrapped up in a pretty pink bow. Yuck!

    • Yes! I meant to comment on the placement, but it somehow got lost off my list of above ranting, but you have put it perfectly!

      Glad you enjoyed the read, still awaiting a response from them but I won’t hold my breath (unless I come into sniffing distance of the perfume!).

    • Thanks 🙂 that’s what annoys me most about a lot of stuff like this – that there is an alternative and possibly better/more interesting way to market it than objectifying women… Which is actually just a lazy solution anyway!

  3. Pingback: Nope! Bon Bon Perfume – Debenhams Edition | My Brain On A Page

  4. I am actually writing a research paper-The Social Body in advertising, and this was the advertisement that started my paper. To take a break from my research, I googled the ad to see if anyone had problems with this woman being bound together in ribbon and the perfume covering up her genitalia…yes, with a disturbed perplexed look on her face,…as I see there are so many social problems attached to the whole thing…(seems like we have not really changed as a society…same shit going on, different contemporary displays)…and I came across your blog, I laughed so hard and loved what you wrote and your new version of the ad…thank you for this , you are awesome !

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t know if you read the follow up posts but I complained to my local Debenham store that has it on display and they removed it. Bloody horrific ad on so many levels!

      • Interesting and great that you did that, I appreciate that…finally.

        It is like bystander apathy, people just stand by and watch these disguised violent and objectifying messages and internalize them…like they are normal…like people watching and taking pictures of women sexually assaulted instead of calling the police– a few instances out of many we can think of. Fortunately, it takes that one person…to call …or to ask to take that offensive advert down.

        The more I look at this ad, the more offended I become…like she is “asking for it” by being naked but wrapped up like a present-irony…hmmmph… poorly disguised however…Thanks again for inspiration

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