A Definitive Ranking of Actors’ Performances In Cologne Commercials

A Handful of Hollywood Leading Men Are Killing the Fragrance Game Right Now

By Thompson Brandes ·

It is well known in the hierarchies of Hollywood that any actor’s success is simply a step on the path to landing their first big cologne deal. We’ve seen this time and again; for every star-making lead performance, a standout role in a Dolce & Gabbana fragrance campaign inevitably follows. But not every leading talent is built for the cologne game—a genre heavily reliant on authenticity, earnestness and likability (right?). Many of the greats have failed in their 30-second theatricals. Few have thrived. So who exactly does it the best?

Fortunately, through careful research and assessment, I’ve narrowed down a definitive top seven of iconic performances in men’s fragrance commercials. And in order to determine this, I’ve rated each performance through a simple set of baseline questions, on a scale of 1-to-10, with the highest combined score being the best. Follow? You follow. The criteria: 

Are we buying the sincerity of the star’s performance?
Unlike the big screen, each actor is, for the most part, playing himself in a cologne commercial. It is paramount that we determine just how genuine his performance is.

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
The main objective of a cologne commercial is to persuade the consumer to purchase said cologne. That's how ads work. If we’re walking away from the commercial with zero interest in smelling like the actor at hand, then the performance must be deemed a failure.

Time to musk up...

7. Brad Pitt for Chanel No. 5

Are we buying the sincerity of the performance?
This is a performance recognized as so overdramatic and forced that it was parodied on Saturday Night Live. It feels like Chanel sent Brad in an odd direction with this one—which is a shame because he seems like a lot more chill of a dude when he’s tossing a couple cold ones over to Drew Brees and Matthew McConaughey in New Orleans. - 4

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
Considering Chanel doled out $7 million to snag Pitt for the campaign, I should hypothetically want to buy the shit out of this cologne. Unfortunately, I do not. Though there’s something to be said for smelling as good as Brad Pitt looks. - 5

Performance Score: 9

6. Colin Farrell for Dolce and Gabanna Intenso

Are we buying the sincerity of the performance?
I am convinced from this that Colin Farrell broods. Endlessly - 10

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
Lol, no. - 1

Performance Score: 11

5. Jared Leto for Gucci Guilty

Are we buying the sincerity of the performance?
Oof… you know what? I am. I genuinely believe that a luxurious, contrite threesome with two beautiful models on the Italian Coast is just the kind of night Jared Leto embarks on at least four times a week. Not to mention “Gucci Guilty” sounds like the exact sort of response we'd hear from Leto after being accused of literally anything.

Jared Leto's Roommate: “Hey... who ate all the turkey sandwiches I had in the fridge?”

Jared Leto: “Gucci Guilty.”

- 9

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
As classy and luxurious as the commercial tries to be, the overall mission statement still feels a lot more like, “One splash of this and you’ll be womanizing in a bathtub by midnight.” - 3

Performance Score: 12

4. Johnny Depp for Dior Sauvage

Are we buying the sincerity of the performance?
This seems pretty on-brand for the veteran A-lister, only because I have to imagine Depp spends roughly 75% of his life pent-up in a dark room, ripping cocaine, drinking all the wine and jamming the hell out of some Muddy Waters. (And if you told me he spent the other 25% hallucinating and digging suspicious holes in deserts? I'd believe you.)  - 9

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
As much as I find Depp’s persona appealing, I’m not sure I could handle the sort of lifestyle he portrays. The guy lives hard. And a trip down Fear and Loathing Lane isn’t necessarily the vibe I want to put out when I throw on a spritz of the good stuff. Plus, it's probably made with real bits of Johnny Depp, so you know it's bad. - 4

Performance Score: 13

3. Jake Gyllenhall for Calvin Klein Eternity

Are we buying the sincerity of the performance?
I had to google “does Jake Gyllenhaal have a kid?” in order to try and sell myself out of this performance. So yes, I am buying Bearded Jake Gyllenhaal as an adorable, outstanding father. (Though get back to me on Clean-Shaven Jake Gyllenhaal. I’ve seen Nightcrawler one too many times.) - 9

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
There's something inherently and perpetually funny about the way cologne ads try to sell you on your whole persona relying on a smell. This one is a shining example. I’m not sure I’ve ever walked into the fragrance section at a Dillard’s and been like, “Yo, looking for something that smells super mature and generally puts out the vibe that I'm a really good dad.” As much as I'd like to be one of those, I’m usually just like, “Do you think George Clooney would wear this?” And then if the salesperson says yes, I buy it. I guess all of this is to say a bottle of cologne popping up at the end of this video made me laugh. - 5

Performance Score: 14

2. Matthew McConaughey for Dolce & Gabanna's One True Gentleman

Are we buying the sincerity of the star’s performance?
A thousand times, yes. Matthew McConaughey waltzing through a party of absurdly low-hanging chandeliers, eating grapes and chivalrously draping tuxedo jackets onto over-served women is exactly how I picture Matthew McConaughey every time I think about him. My only skepticism here? How quickly that passed-out woman wakes up upon feeling the touch of McConaughey’s jacket. Even so, it’s not entirely unbelievable, right? - 9

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
As a matter of fact, I think I kinda do. I’m not exactly sure how or why he’s strolling down a beach in a tuxedo, I just know he smells really fucking good while doing it. I, too, would like to smell that good. Count me in for a bottle of The One Gentleman. - 9

Performance Score: 18

1. Kit Harrington for Dolce & Gabanna's The One

Are we buying the sincerity of the star’s performance?
I can’t think of a single place on Earth where people wouldn't react with pure elation if Jon Snow popped up in a three-piece suit on Main Street—so everything seems to be checking out here. I’m also fully picking up what Kit Harrington is putting down with these handclaps:

Big high score here for the King In the North. - 10

(A quick thing to note here: Emilia Clarke also simultaneously ran as the face of Dolce & Gabanna’s women’s fragrance campaign.) (It’s just fun to imagine Daenerys and Jon having a go on that boat and then totally bailing on Westeros to go do a bunch of fragrance commercials.)

Do I want to buy this cologne now?
I’ve literally never wanted anything more. - 9

Performance Score: 19

Thompson Brandes

Thompson Brandes is getting sucked into another Jurassic Park movie on AMC right now.

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