The other evening, I was half-watching television (I was most likely also eating hummus, reading a magazine, instant messaging, and watching videos of baby sloths going to the bathroom) when an advertisement came on that prompted me to halt everything and pay attention. Not an easy feat, I must say. Really, the only television advert that’s managed to fully capture my attention in recent memory is the Citibank rock-climbing one. And when that comes on, I grab for the remote control to mute it or temporarily change the channel. Seriously Citibank, make it stop.
Anyways, the 30-second commercial (embedded below) that captivated me this time around was from Air Wick, pushing a new line of air fresheners directly inspired by the "vibrant" olfactory splendors of four select national parks. “So you can experience the spirit of these national treasures in your home,” explains the grandfatherly voiced narrator as a close-up shot of one of those plug-in scent diffuser thingamabobs cuts to some blissed-out looking woman wearing a white dress prancing around a tastefully decorated, mostly white room. She gently caresses and sniffs at her white drapery before collapsing into an indoor hammock in a state of aromatic ecstasy. "Thank god, I can finally unwind in my indoor hammock now that my living room smells like Glacier Bay," she thinks to herself. "Also, these new super absorbent pads are really doing the trick."
So what we have here is a collection of petroleum-based home fragrances made from not-found-in-nature chemicals that are meant to mimic Mother Nature’s most seductive natural scents, correct? That appears to be the case.
The four indoor air quality-compromising, phthalate-containing (tantalizing!) national park aromas include “Glacier Bay Serene Waters,” “Hawai’i Tropical Sunset,” Yellowstone Wildflower Valley” and “Virgin Islands Paradise Flowers,” a fragrance that promises to transport you “to the idyllic tranquility of Virgin Islands National Park” while evoking “delightful notes of native mimosa, jasmine and white rose.” I’ve only been to one of the national parks selected by Air Wick — Glacier Bay — and I certainly don’t remember the “clean, fresh and soothing fragrances of this Alaskan wilderness.” I do distinctly remember the sweet perfume of cruise boat exhaust, however.
Along with traditional Air Wick fragrance offerings like “Vanilla Indulgence” and “Apple Cinnamon Medley,” this very special quartet of aromas is available in several Air Wick formats such as Scented Air Warmers (the plug-in scent diffuser thingamabob in question, I believe), the battery-operated Freshmatic Ultra Odor Detect with “odor sensor technology,” frosted glass candles, cans of aerosol air freshener, plus a couple of other options that I can’t quite wrap my head around. And I should point out that Air Wick’s aerosol option now uses compressed air instead of flammable chemical propellants.
The sale of the limited-edition Air Wick National Park Collection benefits the National Park Foundation, and that certainly isn’t a bad thing at all. The parks need our help now more so than ever. But do you really need a mass-produced chemical air freshener that mimics the essence of Yellowstone? I think I’ll pass. Here’s my suggestion if your spring travel plans don’t involve sniffing around a national park: Make a small donation to the National Park Foundation, procure a bunch of sweet-smelling fresh-cut flowers, open a window, and get your PBS on. Or you can always just leave the television on for a few minutes — that Citibank commercial, filmed at Utah's Arches National Park, is bound to eventually come on.
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