It's Pronounced Oh-vair-theen-keen Eet

It’s Pronounced Oh-vair-theen-keen Eet

Why you shouldn’t like that Glade commercial you like so much.

While we’re on the topic of commercials, I thought I’d bring up one that particularly bugged me.  You’ve seen this one before.  The Glade candle commercial.  Or should I say the Glah-day candle commercial?  You know, this one:

I know.  Everyone likes this commercial.  So cute, right?  Can’t you, like, totally relate to the Glah-day woman?  Wouldn’t you like to be her friend?

No.  You’re wrong.  This is a dumb commercial.  And I’ll tell you why.

Like most of the OTI writing staff, I went to a university that did not offer “practical classes,” so I’ve never taken Advertising 101.  Fortunately, as usual, the Internet saved the day, this time in the form of the University of Tennessee: Knoxville website.  One Megan L. Bruch, Marketing Specialist, had this to say in her very helpful PDF (here in html form) called “Advertising 101”:

When developing advertisements, consider the six point advertising strategy.  This strategy will assist in creating a focused and comprehensive advertisement that will effectively communicate needed information to potential customers.

A six point strategy?!  Tell me more!  What are these six points?

  1. Primary Purpose: Ask, What is the primary purpose of our advertisement?
  2. Primary Benefit: What unique benefit can we offer our customers?
  3. Secondary Benefit: What other key benefits will customers receive from using our products or services?
  4. Target Audience: At whom are we aiming this advertisement?
  5. Audience Reaction: What response do we want from our audience?
  6. Company Personality: What image do we want to convey to our audience?

I can only assume the marketers at Glade answered the questions thusly before making this commercial:

  1. Primary Purpose: To let people know about Glade Scented Candles so they will buy them.
  2. Primary Benefit: Glade Scented Candles smell as good as home-baked cookies or more expensive, foreign candles–but for half the price!
  3. Secondary Benefit: If you use Glade Scented Candles, you, too, will have a gaggle of witty friends who will visit you and laugh with you under the delicious scent of candles!
  4. Target Audience: Middle-aged but vivacious women who live in the suburbs not because they have to, but because they want to.
  5. Audience Reaction: They will go out and buy Glade Scented Candles.
  6. Company Personality: Fun and willing to laugh at itself.

But here’s my reading of this commercial:

  1. Primary Purpose: To warn people of the stupidity of using Glade Scented Candles, because no one, including the women in this commercial, would ever believe for a second that a Glade Scented Candle could smellsas good as an expensive French candle.
  2. Primary Benefit: If you use Glade Scented Candles, your friends will make fun of you for being a pretentious idiot.
  3. Secondary Benefit: The candle’s label will also stick to your ass.
  4. Target Audience: Dumb women whose self-esteem is so low that they habitually lie to and hang out with catty “friends” who mock them mercilessly about their stupid bourgeois affectations.
  5. Audience Reaction: I will never, ever buy a Glade Candle.
  6. Company Personality: Full of people who don’t know how to make effective commercials.

And don’t get me started on the commercial’s sequel, in which the scent of the Glade candle makes the Glah-day lady start hallucinating that her cookies are talking to her:

Man, I’m so stressed out over this!  Maybe a scented candle would calm me down…

10 Comments on “It’s Pronounced Oh-vair-theen-keen Eet”

  1. Eddie #

    You are absolutely right about the creepiness of that situation. I read your analysis first, then convinced you were over-overthinkingit, took a gander for myself… and just, wow.

    I don’t even know if this would be effective for dumb women with low self-esteem. Just those couple of frames showing the facial expressions of these “friends” turns this fairly effective commercial about pre-recession quality (lavish french fragrance) at mid-recession prices (Glah-day) into a cauitonary tale about getting mocked by fake friends for getting caught in a lie. Even worse, getting caught in a lie about the origin of your scented candle product, which is roughly analogous to social/economic status.

    Maybe this particular woman was going through a rough patch in the neighborhood, recently having been the talk of the town for being a housewife whose husband’s plant just closed and it was widely rumored that they were having a hard time figuring out how to keep the kids enrolled in karate. Perhaps for a few weeks now, her invitations for the neighbor wives to come over for dinner had been rebuffed and she was becoming increasingly aware of her outcast status. However, being the typical suburban socialite, she keeps insisting her “friends” come over until they finally (and reluctantly) accept.

    In a frantic attempt to impress, she brings the fine linen out of the closets and improvises where she would normally have just gone to her local Bed Bath and Beyond. She chases her husband and kids out of the house and spends the better part of the day cooking and cleaning. Finally, she is dressed and ready to greet her guests, when she activates what she believes will be the coup de grace for her guests’ perception of her and let her walk in with her head held high to the next PTA meeting- the Glade Scented Candle that smells like it could be an expensive French luxury.

    Of course, we know that they snicker behind her back, compounding her original problem. Slowly, she sees less and less of the people she considered her closest friends, and her husband’s inability to find work forces them to move back closer to her family in rural Illinois. There, she sinks into a deep depression and winds up an overmedicated wreck, ashamed of what she’s become but unable to improve her own situation. Her kids grow to hate their own mother, stopping by only occasionally to drop off the only thing that brings any emotion back to her tired eyes- a new scented candle for her odd collection.

    Thanks, Glade. I mean, Glah-day.


  2. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Eddie, you are an Overthinking champion. Well done!


  3. mkd #

    Overthought Reaction

    Primary Purpose: To warn people of the stupidity of using Glade Scented Candles, because no one, including the women in this commercial, would ever believe for a second that a Glade Scented Candle could smells as good as an expensive French candle.

    But Black Friend asked: “Are you baking a pie?” And did not seem sarcastic about it. She was TOTALLY FOOLED!

    Primary Benefit: If you use Glade Scented Candles, your friends will make fun of you for being a pretentious idiot.

    No, if you use Glade scented candles your friends will ask if it’s one of those “Glade Scented Candles” (which they’ve obviously heard of). Note that there does not seem to be a stigma attached to the question. Short Friend seems genuinely curious: “Is this one of those Glade Scented Candles?” Lying about the candle being French is what triggers the (much deserved) mockery.

    Secondary Benefit: The candle’s label will also stick to your ass.

    Only if you attempt to hide that it’s a Glade Candle (which you probably shouldn’t do anyway because it makes you look like an idiot).

    Target Audience: Dumb women whose self-esteem is so low that they habitually lie to and hang out with catty “friends” who mock them mercilessly about their stupid bourgeois affectations.

    Probably true. Lots of disposable income and undisciplined shopping habits in that particular target audience…

    Audience Reaction: I will never, ever buy a Glade Candle.

    No argument here.

    Plus, I like how at the end the Psychotic Liar Woman (who also bites the heads off cookies when she wants them to stop talking to her????) whispers that “it really is a Glade Candle”, like she has already scrubbed the humiliation of being caught in a lie from her memory and continues to exist in a pleasant fantasy where she has successfully fooled her friends into thinking it was a French Candle. Query: Are the friends real or is this all some kind of warped hallucination. The second commercial clearly points to severe mental illness.


  4. Kelley #

    I’ve always felt this way about these stupid commercials. It would be so much more effective if the friends initially thought on their own the candles were fancy over-priced candles or freshly baked cookies. Then the woman would proudly correct them, telling them it was a glade candle, and the other women would be all impressed of the high quality of the cheap candle.


  5. sarielthrawn #

    But what about those decorative glass jars? Huh? Huh?

    Am I right ladies?


  6. Johann #

    I’m hoping I won’t depress all you American folk with this, but I think this sort of commercial is exactly what fosters the European stereotype that Americans are naive and uneducated and have no culture.

    I mean, what is the argument here? That the Glade candles are “the real thing”, and also just like “a French candle”, or of equal quality as a “boutique candle”? What sort of quality standard is that supposed to be? I am even confused, what exactly is the real thing? Do they mean the pie or the “French candle”?
    What the hell is a “boutique candle”, anyway? A candle sold in a boutique? Or in a French boutique? I would guess that there are millions of different candles sold in thousands of boutiques in France, and they all are supposed to be of really high quality, worthy of imitating by an American company? This is making my head hurt.

    Regardless of what they really mean by “the real thing”, the commercial obviously arguments that the product’s advantage is that it is faking something really well.
    I don’t mean to offend anyone (especially not the fellow Overthinkers on this site), but this gives me the impression that “faking something really well” is a key value in American culture:
    * The Las Vegas casino “The Venetian” imitates a whole Italian city, minus the bad scents of the canals and the garbage in the water, of course.
    * One particularly ridiculous name for an American product that I can’t get over is: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” for a margarine.
    I bet there are lots more examples where the key quality of the product is to fake something. Don’t get me wrong: We have of course “fake” products in Europe, too. But the statement that it’s “just like the real thing” isn’t nearly as much an argument in advertisement.

    I mean, I get the rationale that the products advertised are supposed to be of equal quality — minus the disadvantages. But: They’re still fake!!!

    I’d be curious about responses to this by some of you. Do you see this too? Or is the reason why this irritates me so much maybe that it is often “us” Europeans which are being imitated (I am not French, by the way, I’m from Germany, but apparently these cases of “typical American stupidity” unite us more than the whole EU government).


  7. Melanie #

    Johann–you are mostly right!

    Wildly successful consumer culture = democratization of luxury = proliferation of fakes.

    The popularity of Las Vegas, the abundance of designer knock-offs in big box stores, the guy with the Romex watches and Fauxkley sunglasses on the corner in New York…everyone wants to get in on the next big thing. But luxury is always big, and it’s full of recognizable “brands” (I’m including things like European travel in this) and designs that are easy enough to copy moderately well at a low(er) cost, offering greater accessibility to American consumers.

    If you walk into any drugstore, down any aisle, you’ll see the name-brand products and the house-brand products, which are advertised as “the same as the name-brand product” and is cheaper. Someone is there to make a buck on the consumer who wants to enjoy luxury while saving a buck. In any successful consumer culture (with a socio-economically diverse bunch of consumers), that niche has always been there, and can always be filled.

    Amusingly, you may go into a store and find a boutique-type candle option, a Glade candle, and a store-brand candle, all mostly indistinguishable from each other except by labeling and price. Yet, markets MUST exist for all three, because they’re still on the shelves.

    I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, however, is a different problem. America is obsessed with fake food because there is a lack of rigorous, non-food-company-funded nutrition science. When some margarine company’s researchers said, “butter makes you fat and gives you heart attacks,” Americans dove headfirst into margarine. They missed butter, though, so they would of course put a high value on a margarine product that could replicate the taste and texture of butter. (I’ve tasted the stuff…it’s interesting, but is NOWHERE near the same.) Health food stores are filled with meat substitute products made of textured soy protein, which the jury is still out on in terms of health. Fake food is everywhere.

    It’s part of the same problem in that it’s about consumerism again…it’s hard for food companies to make money selling whole, natural foods because a) consumers want convenience food and b) how can they justify marking up the price if there’s no processing involved?

    But anyway…the “no culture” argument is where I get bogged down. I think the culture here is about democratizing luxury…we’ve taken the best that the world has to offer and we’ve done it our way and offered it to everyone: life, liberty, and the pursuit of pleasant-smelling homes. It’s not ignorance, rather, it’s full knowledge and willful appropriation. I can see how that might be a little annoying, but it’s a culture in itself.

    Sorry for the long comment!


  8. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Johann: To misquote the latest podcast, America is a third-level simulacrum. I’m mostly okay with this fact. Authenticity is overrated.


  9. Johann #

    Thanks for your long comment — I love long comments!
    First of all: I personally don’t think that Americans have no culture. It’s just your basic stereotype that you get attached from simple-minded Eurpeans from time to time. Kind of on the same level as the image of French people always walking around with a baguette under their arm.

    Your point about the store-brands made me think: These are very popular all over European grocery stores as well, so that kind of weakens my argument.

    I guess my difficulty with this commercial was that the product that is being imitated is so vaguely defined (a “French boutique candle”). Furthermore, I still don’t really see the point: Are all candles from French boutiques automatically of such great quality?
    I guess I just don’t associate scented candles automatically with France. Maybe that’s different for Americans?


  10. Hazel #


    I don’t think the “French boutique” thing has anything to do with candles, specifically. It’s an attempt to tap into the American stereotype of France as a fashion (and therefore quality and romance) hub.

    And in defense of Vegas–no one actually thinks the different places are “just like the real thing/country.” It’s the same principle as Legoland: people are amazed at the complexity of the design and the chance to see something famous in miniature while having fun. Incidentally, there are three Legolands in Europe and only one in the US. :)


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