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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Given how common fragrances are in our lives - from shampoos to detergents to makeup - we often forget about the creativity, skill and hard work that went into making them. Now is your chance to advertise the importance of fragrant molecules to the world by preparing an eye-catching poster. Posters are widely used in the university community, and most research conferences include poster presentations in their program. Posters summarise information concisely and attractively to help publicise it, and promote discussion. For this activity, your poster should be more like that for an advertising campaign - it should be striking, bold, well laid out, legible and importantly, scientifically correct.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds A good poster is a bit like a cartoon strip - a cartoonist uses a small number of words, and clear colourful images to convey the key messages. Pick any fragrant organic compound of your choice and highlight a key ‘selling’ point, focusing on a positive message. The compound may or may not have been covered in this MOOC - it is your choice. Your poster should include an aspect of chemistry, perhaps related to the compounds extraction, its uses, structure, shape or reactivity. The key here is to think about how to communicate this information to a general audience with a wide range of scientific backgrounds. You will need to think carefully about the language you use, including your advertising slogan.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds As an example, what about this slogan for limonene? ‘For a citrus clean, try C10H16, …..(or limonene)’ Perhaps you will be inspired by an advert you have seen in a newspaper, magazine, an advertising hoarding/billboard, or on the web. Have you seen any science-related advertising that has impressed you, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ‘not all chemists wear white coats’ campaign? Take a photo, or make a pdf of your poster, and post it on our site - it will be interesting to see what proves to be the most popular, widely advertised compound! Don’t forget to add your reason for picking your ‘star’ compound.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds Be creative and, like any good perfume, aim for your poster to be distinctive and have a long-lasting and positive effect.

Create a poster activity

So, good posters effectively summarise information, help publicise it and generate discussion. We hope you are now inspired to produce a colourful, distinctive and scientifically accurate poster. Don’t forget to keep the text to a minimum and include a positive message. Take a look at our example below, advertising limonene - can you do better?

There is an extensive list of fragrant compounds to pick from – around 4,000 chemicals are currently used to scent products – here are some examples, that you might find interesting to research.

Ambergris: A sperm whale secretion with a sweet, woody odour. As the sale of ambergris is illegal in many countries, ambroxan, a key odour component of ambergris, is made in the laboratory and used extensively in the perfume industry.
Cashmeran: Also known as musk indanone, this synthetic ketone has a spicy, ambery, musky, floral odour and is intended to convey the “feeling” of cashmere.
Hedione: Master perfumer Arcadi Boix Camps wrote of hedione “the compound that without a doubt has most influenced modern perfumery and has allowed the great artists to develop their ideas with inspiration…”
Iso E Super: A synthetic woody odourant used in perfumes, laundry products and cosmetics. Also known as OTNE (for octahydrotetramethyl acetophenone), it is a mixture of isomers with the IUPAC name tetramethyl acetyloctahydronaphthalenes.
Menthol: Used in mouthwashes and toothpastes to provide a cool fresh mint aroma. The cooling sensation of menthol is due to it activating a nerve cell that solely functions to provide us with a cold sensation. This nerve cell, called TRPM8, assists with regulating our body temperature and is present in our mouth, skin and nose. (Interestingly, a synthetic compound, appropriately named icilin, is nearly 200 times as potent as menthol in activating TRPM8.)
Musk ketone: Made serendipitously in 1888 by German chemist Albert Baur while he was trying to find a better way to produce the explosive TNT. In the perfume industry, musk ketone is called a fixative because it stabilizes the volatility and improves the tenacity of perfume aromas.
Raspberry ketone: From over 200 compounds that contribute to its distinct raspberry flavour, one of these, called raspberry ketone, was singled out by food manufacturers for its potent smell.
Skatole: In high concentrations, it is the primary odour of faeces. In low concentrations, it has a flowery smell and is found in several flowers and essential oils!
Strawberry furanone: Otherwise known as 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone, this compound is used in the flavour and perfume industry due to its sweet strawberry aroma.
Vanillin: The principal flavour and aroma compound in vanilla. The high price of natural vanilla extract, which contains plant-made vanillin, has resulted in unscrupulous venders trying to pass off much cheaper synthetic vanilla (containing lab-made vanillin) as the ‘real thing’. To detect fakes, an early detection method relied on measuring the minuscule amount of radioactive carbon-14 isotope – vanillin extracted from vanilla pods contains a higher level of carbon-14 than synthetic vanillin made in the lab. In response, the fakers added extra carbon-14 to their synthetic vanillin! On some levels this is not a substantive problem, as both natural and synthetic vanillin are identical and so have the same taste.
Watermelon ketone: Also known as calone or methylbenzodioxepinone, this is a synthetic perfume that has an intense “sea-breeze” note (the chemists who created it were originally looking for a food additive that offered both the taste and aroma of watermelon).

These memorable rhyming advertising slogans may also provide some inspiration.

Electrolux (Vacuum Cleaner) : Nothing sucks like an Electrolux
Heinz (Baked Beans) : Beanz, Meanz, Heinz
Mars (Chocolate Bar) : A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play
Quavers (Potato Snack) : The flavour of a Quaver is never known to waver
Thomas Cook (Travel Company) : Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it

A study from 2014 identified the following three primary factors needed for a popular slogan: (i) clarity of message; (ii) creativity; and (iii) familiarity with the brand.

When you are done we would love to see your results! Upload your posters to our open Padlet (we have included some examples from previous courses to help inspire you) or use the Twitter or Instagram hashtag #FLchemistry, telling us which compound you have chosen. We encourage you to comment on one another’s work using the Comments (below).

Creativity and Interactivity

A few years ago, Coca Cola took advertising to the next level, promoting Coke Zero in an unexpected way. It was not the sight, nor the sound, but the taste that was promoted in its campaign, by creating a “drinkable poster”! Indeed, interactive posters, presented on high-definition interactive touch screens, are on the increase for multi-media presentation of scientific knowledge at conferences, museums and galleries. What is the best interactive display you have used at a museum or gallery?

Also, where do you stand on the question of whether advertising is science or art? Is advertising success achieved through incremental research, careful checking of data and logical planning – or is it more to do with a creative “eureka” moment? You may have read the famous Bill Bernbach quote? “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

Finally, perfume commercials are typically made in such a way to let the viewer visualise the fragrance – they often create symbolism so viewers can experience what they are supposed to feel when they smell their product. To do this companies can spend millions enlisting famous actors and big-name directors. However, to some viewers the story-lines are baffling, often boring (always ‘beautiful female, handsome male’) and do not connect on any real emotional level. What do you think?

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring Everyday Chemistry

University of York