I sprayed myself with water from Ometer, that ‘Melbourne Traffic’ scent, and asked 15 colleagues to rate my smell

Journalism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you get to satisfy your inherent curiosity about the world. On the other, you end up engaging in gruesome gonzo stories that feel like picking a scab – you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t really help yourself.

This belongs to the latter category.

There I was, sitting in a weekly editorial meeting, wisely not volunteering for anything. Then someone mentioned a story about Eau D’Ometer, a fragrance made to capture the smell of Melbourne traffic. “Can we get a bottle and I’ll take it to the office?” I blurted out, without really thinking.

That same day Large formatGeneralist reporter Doosie Morris dropped a small vial on my desk, courtesy of the creators Metascent. A quick sniff of the nozzle made my stomach turn. Smoke. Chemical products. Something a little putrid. It will smell different on your skin, I tell myself, not really believing it.

After waiting the better part of a week, I sprayed Eau D’Ometer on my wrist (one of the industry suggested application points) and walked around the office, asking people to, uh, feel me. In the interest of doing an unbiased test, I didn’t tell anyone about the scent or its concept, just that I was trying it out for an item, and can I get your thoughts please?

“I might like it, because it’s reasonably subtle.” – Robert Jakovac, financial controller

“It’s quite cool. Enough every day. It reminds me of the outdoors, coming back from the countryside for the weekend. – Sian Whitaker, Managing Director

What? To me, this thing was objectively gross and anything but subtle. I needed to ask more people. Specifically, people who would validate my revulsion.

“Some kind of smoke smell. It does not bother me. I think that’s pretty cool. – Simone Crick, Studio Director

“It smells of whisky. Smoky. – Sinead Stubbins, Brand Content Editor

“Too smoky. I like smoky, but it’s a bit too much, it’s overwhelming. – Carly Nanos, Access Program Manager

“It’s almost good at first, then it gets dusty and smoky. The longer you sniff, the worse. – Amelie Mills, Product Director

“At first it’s quite mild, then it just goes south. It’s like Sauvage, that Johnny Depp perfume with Dior. It’s a funny man smell. – Lucy Matthews, video producer

Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. Eau D’Ometer contains woodsmoke, which is supposed to be trendy for men’s fragrances.

But I have to wonder: is it unfair to test something at such a close distance? Most of the time, we smell someone’s scent from a distance, not with our nose two inches from their skin. Maybe it caused the heavier, more unpleasant aspects to take over and ruin the whole scent? Hence the comments that it’s “initially” or “almost” good. Hard to say. Even when I ask people to smell a little further, the results are usually negative.

“I hate it. It smells like sour pine. – Todd Rogerson, Head of Human Resources and Culture

“It smells of candlelight. Like…your mom’s bathroom. – Scott Renton, Scouting Editor

“It smells of leather. You know it [Tom Ford scent] Shaded leather? I think it suits men more than women. – Sarah Bullock, Senior Growth Marketing Manager

” I do not like it. It’s a bit musty. As if your closet has been closed for a little too long. – Emma Beevor, Head of Sales and Partnerships

“It’s a bit intense. I do not like it. It gives me the same vibe as Gucci Guilty, which I think is one of the worst smells ever. – Jade Bailey, Head of Sales and Partnerships

“It’s disgusting. It reminds me of some sort of ointment you used to put on bites as a child, like calendula cream. – Christina Voss, Director of Strategy and Solutions

“Smells like a freshly printed receipt. It’s good…I think? – James Williams, Head of Creative Solutions

“I feel like it could go either way. If it’s a nice brand, it’s one of those grassy brands. Then on the other hand, because I heard what James [Williams] said, it reminded me a bit of the smell of a doctor’s office. I feel like I smelled that in 19-69 perfumes. – Claire Booth, group sales and partnerships manager

Claire’s comment strikes me as insightful in an unexpected way. There are countless studies on the perceived value of wine and how drinkers consistently say that more expensive wine tastes better, regardless of what’s in the bottle. I’m sure it’s the same with perfume – without seeing the bottle or knowing the price, people aren’t quite sure what to think.

I decide to test this idea and ask three other colleagues (beyond the initial focus group of 15) to feel me. Only these three people were present at the editorial meeting and know what it is about.

“It smells of Bepanthen.” – Tomas Telegramma, Melbourne Editor

“It’s medicinal. Not good.” – Daniela Frangos, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth editor

“Mothballs!” – Chynna Santos, Affiliate and Editor of Things to Do

That sounds pretty conclusive, but I think the real test would be wearing the scent for several hours and letting it fade, rather than swirling it around an office in 10 minutes and forcing people to smell you.

That night on the way home – stuck in melbourne traffic, no less – I did this test accidentally. Every time my left wrist came close to my nose, I got this awful smell of expired cigarettes, motor oil, and unidentified chemicals. By the time I got home I had a headache and rushed to the sink to soap my wrist. Why did I go back to journalism?

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