Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Scented Television Is Headed Our Way: Are We Ready for It?

Have you ever seen those Dove-brand chocolate commercials on TV—the ones where dense pools of melted milk chocolate fill the screen and turn into vortexes of luscious, velvety goodness? Well, one day soon, you may be able to smell that chocolate as you’re watching it.

Scented television is in development, so get those nostrils ready for sensory experience of a generation!

Get that nose ready–it’s time to watch TV!

Studies in this particular domain of advanced tech have yielded promising results, and thanks to the dedicated minds at the University of California (working with the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea), the first step has been taken. A research team recently delivered a “proof of concept” report demonstrating how the technology could work. They apparently developed a small, circuited device capable of housing thousands of specific scents and compact enough to attach to the back of a TV set.

Here’s the actual “proof” part: according to an official release from the university, “The UCSD team tested their device with two commercially available perfumes, ‘Live by Jennifer Lopez,’ and ‘Passion by Elizabeth Taylor.’ In both cases, a human tester was able to smell and distinguish the scents within 30 centimeters of the test chamber.” Sounds to me like it works. Now, if they can replicate the tantalizing aroma of a 20-ounce porterhouse from Outback Steakhouse, they might just have a commercially viable product.

Pictured: the product you’ll want to buy as soon as you “smell” the commercial.

A new technology is all fine and dandy (and admittedly exciting), but the application of said technology is where the fun really begins. It’s easy to envision how advertisers would use scented TV to their advantage: they’d pair the onscreen images of their products with the corresponding scents and laugh themselves all the way to the bank. Product placement would no doubt take on a whole new level of effectiveness as well, particularly for restaurant chains featured on programs.

Of course, a more interesting way to look at it is from a creative standpoint, which is where the possibilities really present themselves. Think of it like this: if you’re a television producer, and you want your program to give viewers a truly unique and immersive experience, how would you apply scented television to your programming? As one article puts it, we can look forward to enjoying “the exhaust during a car chase, [the] fresh grass during a football game, or the aftershave of Mr. Darcy.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to odors…

…though it would probably be best for producers to avoid fart jokes when scented TV hits the market.

Here’s the real question: is scented television something that consumers are ready for?

Scented TV would allow us to become immersed in our programs in an entirely new way. Then again, it’s also an entirely new investment. At some point, we’ll have to ask ourselves when enough is enough. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen huge gambles in the technology arena pay off big time (iPad, anyone?), but there have been a few misfires as well. 3D television sets, for example, are still struggling to gain traction among consumers. Would “scent-boxes” for TV sets fail to catch on as well? I suppose we’ll have to find out for ourselves if/when they hit the market.

Hey, remember when TV was black-and-white and there were only three or four channels to choose from? Yeah, me neither.

What are YOUR thoughts on scented television? Yay or nay?


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  1. Scooby

    That’s crazy. Tony Promo, now your girlfriend will find out what you have been watching “those” late nights. Why does it smell like body butter? Oh, you have been watching a cooking show. Rigggghhhtt.

    • Tony Promo

      1.) What is body butter? Apparently you know all too well.

      2.) I forgot what #2 is.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I considered mentioning what the implications would be regarding “those” types of programs, but I figured that someone would most likely bring it up in the comments. Thanks for addressing that for me, Scooby. 🙂

      • Tony Promo

        Leave it to the married guys to have their minds in the gutter.

  2. Tony Promo

    I think the next logical step is selling space on our brains for advertisers. Scented commercials? Sorry to sound cynical, but come on! As if there aren’t enough subliminal messages and other sly methods of attempted brainwashing in advertising today, we have to get another sense involved? The problem is that people will march in lock-step directly into this and LOVE it. I’m sorry, but this is just a *little* too Orwellian for me.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “Orwellian” is an interesting way to put it. While I don’t see scented TV as being a malicious new way for advertisers to get inside our heads, I agree that it’s probably a little much to incorporate another sense into the viewing experience.

      • Tony Promo

        IMO, any attempt to control or manipulate people in order to sell more of whatever you’re selling is at least a little bit Orwellian. It isn’t necessarily malicious, but it is a means of control, no matter how cute or cool it is. The problem with advertisers and large corporations doing things like this (as shown yesterday in the support for “cooler” bar codes which, as clever as it is, is also a bit strange), is that they can and will sell it to us and make us want it. They don’t need to force it on us when we’re already convinced it’s the next best thing. It isn’t only advertising firms that use this tactic, unfortunately.

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I say nay. The best thing about watching a car chase is that I DON’T have to smell the exhaust.

    I guess my real concern is the the authenticity of the scents. As someone who is and knows people allergic to grass, perfumes, etc., are these scents going to trigger allergic reactions? Or is everything going to be fabricated so that there isn’t any reaction? I mean, yes, the solution for me is “Don’t get one.” But what about people who don’t know that they are allergic to certain chemicals/scents yet?

    Short version: I think it’s cool, but I’m going to need serious testing before I run out and buy it.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      That’s a great question! Since the whole concept of scented TV is apparently only in the research/testing phase, there’s not a whole lot of information out there. I’d imagine that if something like this ever hit the market it would come with a number of disclaimers and warnings for people with allergies.

  4. Amanda

    This is a very interesting concept–great blog topic Joe! =)

    It would be neat to smell certain things through your tv I guess, like perfume or cologne…but what about things that you don’t enjoy sniffing? Like the farts you mention….or for example, Christmas type scents give me a headache instantly–so something with that scent could make me sick. So I’d be worried about being able to control or turn off the scents. Do you know if there will be any controls to it? I’m also wondering, how strong will these scents be? If you have to get real close to the tv set, that’d be annoying—and if it fills the entire room with scents constantly, wouldn’t they eventually form a nasty smelling combo? And in your home? Yuck! I don’t think I’m a fan of this–but who knows–this might be the next big thing.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Amanda! I’m still not sure whether I’m a fan of the concept either. While there would almost definitely be an “on-off switch” of some sort, the problem of odors lingering in a room for long periods of time could prove to be big problem indeed for people who aren’t keen on that idea. Then again, maybe the developers will figure out a way to control how quickly the scents dissolve or disappear once they’re in the room.

  5. Cybernetic SAM

    This is another thing in technology where the concept is really cool, but actually having it probably not such a great idea. By that I mean, unless there is an option to turn it off, it will be kind of annoying having to smell perfumes and chocolate all the time. I will give you an example: I watch tv at night to fall asleep and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be dozing off and then BAM! – smelly skanky perfume right up the nose, or something that smells pleasant would have the same effect, I don’t want to smell chocolate etc… Though, if they have specific channels designed (like nature channels) that smelled like fresh air and flowers that would not be so bad… but that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I rest mine.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Good point. The pervasiveness of the odors would be a big concern for just about every potential scented TV watcher, but I’m sure that there would be a way to turn the “odor function” off.

      • Cybernetic SAM

        wish you could do that with some people….phew!

        • amy


        • Vern-Matic


  6. Jenna

    This is a really cool concept, but I feel like it may be an unnecessary one. Applying this in movie theaters would be awesome (and just another reason for them to jack up the prices some more), but I don’t think I would run out and buy a special box to attach to my TV just so that advertisers can attempt to appeal to one more of my senses. If this new scent technology becomes a regular fixture and comes attached to all new TVs, then maybe people will chip out the extra buck, but I know I won’t go buy something extra for the TV that I already have.

    Really interesting post, Joe! 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Jenna! That’s an awesome point! A “scented” viewing experience would be much better suited to a movie theater than to a living room. 20th Century Fox should totally jump on this opportunity when they re-release Titanic in 3D — seriously! That way, I’ll be able to smell the saltwater while I’m watching the ship go down around me. That would be pretty amazing, actually. 🙂

      • Amanda

        Are they really re-releasing Titanic in 3D? Now that would be a movie I’d stand in line all night for! =)

  7. Doc

    This is my worst nightmare!!!! If I see/smell a commercial for a juicy Longhorn steak or Dairy Queen’s Blizzard of the month, it will cripple my self-restraint immediately. I would be such a sucker for this type of advertising.

    I do think this is cool, though. The best part about going to a ball game is being welcomed at your seats by the distinct smell of a jumbo hot dog, cotton candy, and ice cold beer. Combine this with the 3D TV and I would never have to leave my couch.

    • Scooby

      …leave your couch and never find a need to change out of those sweatpants, ever. It would be a sad day for Megan.

    • Tony Promo

      Just as long as you aren’t going to a ball game with Doc where it’s a guarantee that you will get:

      1.) Uncomfortably inebriated with the potential for violence, even if it’s only against a dumpster.

      2.) Possibly thrown out of said event, or at least yelled at by old people who don’t appreciate you screaming insults at people for literally two hours straight.

      3.) Vocal chord issues the next day at work.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Same here, Doc. The second I catch a whiff of a sizzling porterhouse, it’s all over!

  8. amy

    I don’t mean to give you a wishy-washy response to your question, but I’m just not sure if I’m shouting “yay” or “nay” quite yet. I’m not a fan of having to buy something so that advertisers can further pound me with ads, however the concept is pretty cool.

    (Pardon me while I go into “marketing mode”) Influencing customers using a nostalgic tactic for advertising is one of the best ways to attract a loyal following. And since smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously, some companies could greatly benefit from having a scented commerical. The smell of baking Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies filling up my living room would remind me of my grandma and baking with her, that I would instantly run out and buy their chocolate chips.

    I’m with you and your quote, “A new technology is all fine and dandy (and admittedly exciting)”, but I would advise that not every company jump on this bandwagon to advertise.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Don’t worry, I haven’t decided whether I’m a “yay” or “nay” either.

      But yes, the sense of smell is a powerful motivator indeed, so it’s no wonder that we’re seeing advancement in this area of technology so soon. The research team is probably anxious to see brands and advertisers jump all over this concept in order to advertise more effectively.

    • Amanda

      Good point Amy! Scents do bring about memories–both good and bad. This is a cool concept to think about. Can’t wait to see if it becomes a real product.

  9. Peemo

    Leave our TVs alone please. Unless you are making better the quality of the image allowing for a more enjoyable viewing experience, back off!

    This is a ridiculous idea that would be fun for only a small group of people for a few days and then the novelty of it would wear off.

    Same with 3D TV. Enough already. 3D stinks. Stupid glasses.

    Where is my damn walker?

    • Joseph Giorgi

      So, I take it you’re “nay” for scented TV? 😉

      Actually, that’s a good point about the novelty wearing off after a couple of days. That may very well be the case if such a product were to hit the shelves. To be honest, such a problem will probably prevent scented TV from becoming a reality anyway.

    • Amanda

      Oh man, I love 3D! =) Although I don’t think every movie needs to be in 3D.

  10. JPorretto

    This must be one of the most nonessential “breakthroughs” I’ve ever heard of. The last thing I need my TV to do is make smells. I’ll admit the technology is impressive though and may have practical use in theaters.

    Though I suspect that they’d just pump in the smell of popcorn all the time to get people to buy more. Advertisers really have the most to gain with this.

    You know what I want? Even WIDER screens. If there’s one thing TVs lack visually it’s peripheral vision. I’d love to watch a football game and see all the players on the field as a play develops… I’d never leave the couch.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Oh man, I agree! A TV screen that wraps around an entire room would be the best thing EVER! Imagine playing an FPS like that — or any game for that matter! 😀

  11. Kyle

    This post reminds me of the show Fear Factor when Joe Rogan used to say they needed smell-o-vision for when they ate all of that disgusting stuff. Hopefully I’m the only person that used to watch that…

    As awesome as this sounds and as amazing as the technology is, I still have to say no thanks to this. I have no doubt that this would present huge opportunities for producers, advertisers, etc. and I love seeing new advancements like this, but I could see these scents blowing your socks off initially and then turning into a gimmick after any type of prolonged use.

    Love the idea. Not sure if I’d love it in my house.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’d probably end up feeling the same way, Kyle. While scented television would be fun to experience at least once, the novelty would probably wear off quickly.

      But if this concept ever goes into production, I hope that at least one manufacturer calls it “smell-o-vision.”

  12. Jill Tooley

    Cool idea, but it would take a lot for most people to run out and buy a smell-o-vision thingamabob. As someone else already mentioned, advertisers have the most to gain from this and they’ll probably run it into the ground if it ever takes off. It would be neat to have in a movie theater (soon we’ll have 3D and scented movies, which means we’ll pay $20 a ticket for the “experience”) but not so much at home…

    I’m glad you mentioned the gas-passing, because that’s exactly what I was thinking while I read this post. 😉 Great blog!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Jill! Yeah, that kind of theater “experience” would probably warrant at least a $20 to $25 movie ticket. Still, it’d be interesting to see how professional filmmakers employ the technology.

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