Marketing ploy makes scents

Times Staff Writer

Newspapers are struggling to keep advertisers. The Los Angeles Times thinks the answer is a piece of cake.

Frosted cake.

On Sunday, the paper will run a full-page ad for the Fox-Walden film “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” that when scratched will release “the universally beloved frosted cake scent,” The Times said in a statement. “Mr. Magorium,” starring Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman, is about a magical toy store, and the aroma is supposed to remind readers “to be young and have fun.”

Jeffrey Godsick, president of marketing at Fox Walden, said The Times approached the studio about “doing something that engaged people in a different way.”


“It works because you actually have to interact with the ad,” he said.

The studio paid $110,000 for the ad and some in-paper marketing of the ad itself, about double what a full page usually costs, according to people familiar with the situation.

Scent marketing, as it’s called, is nothing to sniff at. “Scent has the longest memory and is the most powerful emotional motivator, and that’s what advertising is all about,” said Carmine Santandrea, chief executive of ScentAndrea, a Santa Barbara scent-marketing company.

Newspapers are especially interested because they’ve “got to add some bells and whistles” as advertisers and readers migrate to other mediums, said Harald Vogt, founder of the Scent Marketing Institute in Scarsdale, N.Y. “There’s no way you can block out a scent.”

Best of all, odors aren’t available on the Internet. Yet.

They’re coming to TV, though. Santandrea said ScentAndrea had created television screens for service stations that run advertising and emit complementary odors. And, he said, the firm is working on a DVD of “The Simpsons Movie” that will allow viewers to smell doughnuts as they watch certain scenes if they have purchased special scent machines. He said the DVD would be released in New Zealand in November.

In April, USA Today began a campaign in which readers could pull back a sticker on ads for a coffee-and-muffin deal at Omni Hotels and inhale the whiff of berries. Other newspapers are interested, said Norm Harbin, vice president of Flint Group, which supplies printing ink for Tribune Co., owner of The Times.

To produce scented ink, Flint Group embeds a fragrance in capsules smaller than grains of sand and mixes the capsules into printing ink. The Times is the first paper to use the capsule technology, Harbin said. He said that decades ago newspapers experimented with scented ads but ran into difficulties; in one case strong strawberry smells from one ad overwhelmed workers in the pressroom.

Scent marketing doesn’t always work. When the California Milk Processor Board pasted strips that smelled of chocolate chip cookies next to ads for milk in San Francisco bus shelters, people complained. The ads came down.