Creating the story and campaign for a new fragrance is never easy. Having helped create a few of them myself in the past I know this all too well. When they succeed they do so because of clarity of thought and of message and because they tap into the current zeitgeist. So how well the new Versace fragrance Dylan Blue campaign will fare remains to be seen because messages there are aplenty. And none of them are all that great.
Looking at the campaign as a whole (one lovingly shot by Bruce Weber, in a masturbatory style that’s steadfastly Nineties) it’s a bag of contradictions: on one hand we have the ‘modernity’ of a same-sex kiss (the inclusion of which we’re either supposed to shocked by or grateful for, I’m not sure which) and on the other some woefully archaic views about women (“As dad always used to say… you can’t live with women and you can’t live without them”). There are a couple of corkers about men too, including the cringeworthy “I learned at a young age not to show any weakness”. The video meanwhile lacks but one thing: the kitchen sink. It’s hetero yet homo; violent yet tender; old-fashioned yet throughly modern. It has girls, it has boys. It has boxers, it has bikes. It has… oh well, you get the picture.
Personally, I find much of this mind-numbingly naff and I’m at a loss as to why a campaign for a fragrance ever needs to show a woman kicking a man down a flight of stairs or feels the need to use the words “she doesn’t seem to know I exist except when she’s kicking me in the head”. But just in case this woman – called Gigi – has men quaking in their boots/slingbacks the campaign takes pains to reassure them she has her limitations. “She can out kick-box any of the smaller guys,” says the blurb (the bigger ones clearly being too much of a challenge of her). Billie Jean King would not be pleased.
To me, the apparent “kiss and make up” theme of the campaign also has uncomfortable associations with the destructive hit me/kiss me cycle in much domestic violence (the boxer kisses his opponent before delivering a knock out blow and Gigi can kiss as good as she can kick). Am I’m being over sensitive? A bit too PC for my own good? Perhaps, but following on the heels of the appalling marketing of Azzaro Wanted I’m seriously beginning to wonder where fragrance advertising is heading right now. “Dylan Blue is the essence of the Versace Man today,” says Donatella Versace. Well, if that’s the man of today I’m truly fearful about what the one tomorrow will look like if he buys into this particular kind of advertising.