The Smell of Fire - Sci Fi's New Ad
“It was a stunt, a joke,” says Dave Howe, Sci Fi’s senior vice president of marketing. But Grayle Howlett, associate publisher of Sports Illustrated, which ran the ad in its recent swimsuit issue, says, “They broke the mold. It was a stroke of genius.”
The scent strip, or fragrance sampler, according to its producer Vertis, was an integral part of the campaign to promote Firestarter: Rekindled, a two-part series that ran on Sci Fi early this month. “It focused on the star, Margaret Moreaux, who was portrayed as a hot, sexy woman. She sets fire to people with her mind,” Howe says. To make that point, the scent strip, which peels off a two page magazine ad, smelled of smoke.
Most scent strips, which promote fragrances, smell alluring. But this one was different. “It smells like charcoal, burnt fire,” Howe says. “Most people don’t like things that don’t smell good.”
But the ad was a winner for Sci Fi. “No TV network has ever run a scent strip. It got very talked about,” he says.
Diane Crecca, Vertis’ vice president of sales and development, says, “We went to a perfumer who works with us and asked him to develop something that smells like smoke and put it in a strip.” The perfumer used fragrant oils to capture the smell and encapsulated them in caplets that were applied to the ad during printing. The reader breaks the caplet open to get the smell.
“It was a very unique fragrance,” she says.
Howe says the strip, which only ran in SI, was part of a campaign for the show that also included national and spot TV and TV Guide. There was at least one other off the wall element -- matchbooks at urinals to promote “the burning sensation,” he says.
The ad was expensive because SI’s page rate for the swimsuit issue was higher, a scent strip ad demands two full pages, plus additional costs for the heavier paper stock and the flap that carries the strip, making it a 2.33 page buy. Howlett calls it “a major investment," which may have exceeded a half million dollars.
For SI, it was another in a growing series of scent strips. “We run one every two months,” Howlett says. The growth is primarily due to the expanding fragrance market, with a wealth of new products, some for men. Food and liquor advertisers occasionally use them, too. The Sci Fi strip was an aberration but a welcome one for SI.