Yes, You Read That Right: A Case Study of État Libre d’Orange
Cannes Lions and the Clios are cancelled, but that shouldn’t stop us from showing off award-worthy work. Our creative director already alluded to this campaign earlier this year, but let’s do a deep dive into some of our most audacious work yet: the “Bad Reviews” campaign with the luxury perfume État Libre d’Orange. They approached us with a simple brief: help their fragrance break into the U.S. market. There was just one catch. “Please, for all that is holy, don’t turn it into another sexy perfume ad.”
One quick Google search and you’ll know that they were talking about. In Europe, they were known for their unique approach to perfume. Names like “I Am Trash” and outrageous-yet-tantalizing fragrance descriptions have given their products cult status. In a nod to that spirit, we went with our own bold approach.
Let’s say we got risky, not risqué. Instead of sultry models, we went with heavily clothed early-modern European art subjects. Instead of sensuous taglines, we mined the richest sources for copy: user reviews. And not just any user review. Bad ones. Comments that, if they weren’t outright insulting the fragrance, weren’t exactly endorsing them.
We source imagery from the French Revolution, specifically inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, alluding to both a revolt against typical perfume ads as well as the brand’s French heritage.
But we weren’t just showing off our art history chops. By breaking the mold of what a perfume ad—or heck, any ad—can be, we stopped social media scrollers in their tracks. What do they mean by “not convinced?” That Liberty can indeed lead the people? Or was that a review about the famous painting, the revolution itself, or the perfume bottle layered on top of it? And why on Earth would someone tout a bad review to sell their product?
With risk came reward. Lots of it. We’ll let the numbers (and audiences) speak for themselves:
For our creative director Guy Peires, these results took him back to Kworq’s main theory of change: the science of story. With users engaging with not only the brand but also the creative itself, it created a reiterative dynamic that constantly produced more content. User reviews beget more reviews, more creative, and so on. For Guy, therein lies the science: “Unlike a definition, which feels monolithic and immutable […] the science of or behind something has that never-ending thing about it. The energy of always searching. Always thirsty for answers. Always debating.”
Like a grand experiment, Bad Reviews showed us the only definitive in storytelling is that content drives more content. With that self-perpetuating cycle, you’ll always get to explore, question, and scrutinize to keep creativity pumping.