Perspective: Shaken, Not Stirred

Every normal, red-blooded dude wants to be like James Bond, and smell like him

When Skyfall opened in theaters in November last year, it became the 23rd film in the James Bond series, which began with 1963’s Dr. No. Judging from the box-office take (which has peaked $1 billion), Mr. Bond has proven to be rather a vigorous gent, both on the screen and on store shelves. Skyfall’s success has affirmed another truism about the film business, one amply demonstrated by the ads shown here. Once you’ve got a successful movie franchise on your hands, chances are the merch isn’t far behind. In this case, the product isn’t a martini glass, an attaché case, a silver 1GB flash drive or any of the customary man-swag bearing the James Bond name. It’s a more intimate product, the sort a fella slaps on his own jaw each morning: 007 cologne. Watch out, ladies.

While these two ads, nearly 50 years apart, obviously take very different approaches to fragrance marketing, they both share the same goal: playing on the everyman fantasy of being like James Bond. A tall order? Actually, not really. As best-selling author and beauty expert Jan Moran observed, “Maybe you can’t drive the Aston Martin DB5, but you can wear the 007 cologne, and, just for a moment in the morning, you can feel like you’re a member of the club.”

Of course, that club has changed quite a bit since the early days of the Bond series. When licensee Colgate-Palmolive ran this ad for 007 After Shave in 1965, Goldfinger was a recent release, and, well, let’s just say that attitudes about women weren’t terribly progressive. Because James Bond has always been an unapologetic Lothario, one can expect that any ad for 007 Cologne would bill it as a reliable seduce juice. But likening women to prey? It was truly a sign of the times. “The ad is about living dangerously and on the edge, and being part of the whole sexual revolution going on,” Moran said. “Having a license not just to seduce, but to kill, is the license to do what you want—which is to bed women.” Little wonder that this ad ran in Playboy.

Promises of carnal success aside, it’s hard to imagine 007 After Shave smelled much better than cheapo pharmacy musk water. “There was a time when men didn’t have many options,” Moran explained. “But they do today. So these ads really point to the maturing of fragrances.”

They point to the maturing of fragrance licensing, too. Gone are the stalker-like trappings of the pistol lying beside a clock, replaced by sleek, black-on-white imagery. And it’s eau de toilette that’s for sale now, not aftershave. “What I see in the 2012 ad is aspiration,” said Moran. “He’s wearing a tux and a status watch. It speaks to indulgence and confidence. It’s more upscale, more sophisticated.”

And who knows? If the stuff smells good enough, your love interest might not even notice that your car isn’t an Aston Martin.