‘Believe in the Wonder of Giving: Signature Scent’ aired during the 2018 holiday season as part of Macy’s ‘Believe in the Wonder of Giving’ campaign.
The ad begins with a woman walking through a holiday decorated Macy’s perfume department. She picks up a bottle of perfume off a Tiffany & Co. display and spritzes her wrist. The video cuts to the back of a man’s head as it turns slightly in response to the scent.
In another scene, the woman enters her house carrying a Macy’s bag. The man is sitting in the foreground wearing headphones and says ‘You’re back’. Before the woman has even had a chance to look at him and realize he is wearing headphones, she asks ‘how do you do that?’. In the next scene, the woman tries to spritz perfume, but realizes she’s out. This leads to the next scene, with the man sniffing a paper strip that has been spritzed at the Macy’s perfume counter from earlier in the ad. He tells the sales woman ‘that’s it’.
In the final scene, the man enters the room with a guide dog as the woman is opening a box with a red ribbon. The woman asks ‘how did you know I was out?’ The ad wraps up with the man giving the woman a hug while sniffing her deeply. The screen reads ‘Over 250 of the best fragrances in the world’ followed by ‘Believe in the wonder of giving’.
Usually disabled people are gift recipients, and so we applaud Macy’s for turning the disabled person into a giver. That being said, we’re not entirely sure if the perfume was actually for her or if it was for him.
By telling this story as part of their ‘Believe in the Wonder of Giving’ campaign, Macy’s implies there is something wondrous about the blind man’s ability to smell and thus recognize his partner’s perfume. This plays into the age old trope of disability compensation, where it is believed that the absence of one sense leads to a heightening of other senses. But this is an ad about perfume, presumably one of 250 of the best fragrances in the world, which can only become the best if their scent is recognizable. And so we’re left wondering if the blind man has an extraordinary, superhuman nose, or if the perfume is just doing its job.
While this spot makes a compelling case that this man knows his partner intimately, it is worth noting that she doesn’t seem to know him very well at all. When she expresses surprise through statements, such as ‘how do you do that’ or ‘how did you know I was out’ it’s as though she is just meeting him for the first time. But this woman’s not knowing informs all the ways those who contributed to this film were equally unknowing. There were no audio descriptions, not even when there was text on the screen. Even though this ad featured a blind person, it was not intended for blind audiences.
And so we ask Macys, what is a story a blind person would want to tell?