You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …
Calvin Klein’s Obsession perfume
“Between love and madness lies Obsession.”
These are very strange ads … yet, at their core, they’re also a very familiar sort of ad.
It’s one of the go-to commercial formulas: portray your product as so good, so captivating, that it utterly dominates people’s lives, till they can’t care about anything else. Many even go so far as to suggest this obsession will drive people to ruin: the artist who became a has-been because they were addicted to Nintendo, the family who turned to murder because the life insurance benefits were just that good, the Quiznos worker who couldn’t resist f*cking the toasty oven …
But those ads were all framed as absurdist jokes. We’re meant to get the message that the product is good, but we’re also meant to laugh at the hyperbole on display. What sets these Obsession ads apart is, it’s unclear whether the people making the ads were in on the joke.
Oh, the hyperbole is absolutely intentional; I doubt anyone at Calvin Klein believed their perfume could wreak such devastating effects on the populace (and if they did, they’d be selling it to the military under a government contract, not on the open market). But is this hyperbole as comedy, as is so common in ads? Or is this more akin to poems that describe the beauty of a face or a flower with the ecstatic tones of divine revelation?
The straight faced, poetic line deliveries, the expressionist set design, the music that alternates between wistful and foreboding … it reads as a sincere attempt at expressing the profound power of Obsession, but it could also be read as deliberately ridiculous melodrama, believing the best jokes are the ones delivered as straight as possible.
I’ll tell you right now, I laughed at these ads, laughed hard. I enjoyed them quite a bit … but they still leave me with a strange feeling, ’cause I’m not sure whether this is how they wanted me to enjoy them or not.
… Well, since I’m someone who’s never bought an ounce of perfume in their life, they probably don’t care whether I enjoyed it or not. But still.