PORTRAIT OF A CONTEMPORARY ALIEN

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Month: January, 2015

Basics, Laces, and Pretty Faces

// Discourse of Advertising Assignment 2

There is often a clear division in lingerie ads that signify a segregation between the practical and the fashionable. Through advertisements, it is evident that not all lingerie serves the same purpose. In addition, it is also apparent that lingerie brands utilize familiar signs in order to produce palatable advertisements, which minimize the potentially negative effects of themes and images that may be otherwise perceived as taboo.

Fruit of the Loom

It is typical for brands such as Fruit of the Loom (pictured above) to exhibit their supposedly comfortably, ready-to-wear undergarments on vivacious and energetic models. The advertisement to the left is crisp and fun. The model wears an immense smile while sporting a soothing green coloured lingerie set. The colour of her attire alone conveys the ideal of freshness, and her minimal-makeup face does the same. Meanwhile, the ad towards the right portrays a similar scene, but with different models of varying ethnic origins. The colours in this ad are just as eye-catching as those in the previous ad, if not more. The poses in these advertisements portray movement, which communicates to the viewer that these are comfortable and non-restrictive. The models are engaged in a variety of poses, in some instances they are not even facing the viewer. Instead they are looking beyond their immediate environment which indicates that they’re busy, and too preoccupied enjoying their mobility to completely lock gazes with the viewer. In fact, this attitude almost seems to imply that these women are free and single, as there is almost no detectable sex-appeal in these ads. It is as if comfortable underwear is for single women.

Victoria's Secret

Victoria’s Secret

Now, Victoria’s Secret, a notoriously more upscale brand often portrays women in lacy, itchy looking undergarments. The model above does not look like her lingerie will enable her to move about freely and practically, in fact she isn’t even fully covered. She also appears to be waiting for someone, which could imply that more lavish and scandalous underwear is for women with a partner. Here the model is engulfed in hues of red, gold, and fuchsia. These colours in unison do not contain the same free, innocence as the Fruit of the Loom ads. In unison with the model’s posture and expression, they create a sexually charged atmosphere.

Although, the model’s features can also communicate a more sinister undertone. Her lips are pouted and slightly parted, meanwhile the look in her eyes seems somewhat pained – it is almost as though she is whining or complaining which are mannerisms similar to those of a child. Jhally claims that “persons using [beds] will be positioned lower than anyone who is sitting or standing. A recumbent position also leaves people in a poor position to defend themselves and thus puts them at the mercy of others. These positions are of course also a ‘conventionalized expression of sexual avail-ability.'” Altogether, this constructs a very awkward contradiction where adult women wearing hyper-sexualized lingerie create dangerous associations with the puerile, vulnerable children. Even the direction of the model’s gaze implies that she is fixated on someone above her, someone more authoritative. While such taboo messages should make the reader uncomfortable, they don’t. This is because “as pictures of reality, they do not look strange to us” (Jhally). Semiotically, the way such an ad is interpreted in modern, western society is that it denotes a pretty woman, on a bed, wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. There is the connotative, or associated, meaning that surfaces all of the sexual, and potentially pedophilia, implications (Barthes). To elaborate, we assume that she is looking up at a man, because in contemporary, western society, a nearly-nude woman in lingerie laying on a bed indicates that some form of sexual interaction will occur. Readers can assume that there will be an encounter with another person because the model’s gaze implies that she is not alone in that room. Furthermore, it is assumed that this second person is male, because modern society is conditioned to expect the traditional, gender-binaries to be present in romantic or sexual relationships; this is another reason why viewers may not perceive this ad as shocking since it is “a reflection of the realm of gender displays” (Jhally). While it is sexual, contains devious undertones, and depicts a provocative, impractical pair of underwear, it contains symbols that its readers are familiar with.

spring-2015-ads-agent-provocateur-02
Above is a ad featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell for the Spring 2015 campaign from the French lingerie brand Agent Provacateur. This image brings the prevalence of fashion above those of the Victoria’s Secret and Fruit of the Loom ads. Now, there is absolutely nothing practical about this lingerie, and consequently, it is probably targeted towards wealthier women who are able to splurge on multiple pieces of high-end, skimpy, silk garments. Unlike the Victoria’s Secret advertisement, there are no implications of submission. Campbell embodies a strong, edgy woman in this image. She casts a coy glance while sitting on the edge of the vanity with her foot triumphantly placed against the bed. Moreover, her left hand is in a man’s jacket pocket, tenderly holding what appears to be a thin book or passport. While the garments appear to be confining, the model appears to be in control. This image insinuates that she is wealthy, powerful, and perhaps even well-travelled. These are all characteristics that many women aspire to command in today’s modern world.

On a more sour note, all of these ads do share the similar trope of a young, physically fit, and attractive model. There is little variation between the models’ waistlines and physical appearance; they all encapsulate the fantasy of a youthful and toned beauty, regardless of the price of their panties. This may be due to the fact that there is no overwhelming demand for realistic models. Lingerie brands want to sell their products, and they want to please the masses. In the rare event when non-super-slim women are featured exclusively wearing undergarments, the campaigns will be met with backlash. A man named Richard Roeper whined “give me the fantasy babes” after seeing an advertisement will full-figured women (Pozner). Roeper critiqued the audacity of Dove for publishing an advertisement that did not cater to his desire to see young, attractive, idealistic women. Therefore, while there may be a wide variety of types of lingerie that is presented in a vast array of settings; however, the slim, youthful, and beautiful model remains a constant similarity among print campaigns for lingerie giants.

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Textual References

Barthes, Roland. Rhetoric of the Image. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Barthes-Rhetoric-of-the-image-ex.pdf

Jhally, Sut. What’s Wrong with a Little Objectification?. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://www.sutjhally.com/articles/whatswrongwithalit/

Pozner, Jennifer L.. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash. 2005. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://www.wimnonline.org/articles/dovebacklash.html
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Image References

Fruit of the Loom:

Victoria’s Secret:
http://www.gafollowers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Erin-Heatherton-Victorias-Secret-Lingerie.jp

Agent Provocateur:

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Tech-Tox

So I broke my iPhone 5 after nearly two years without a hitch. I accidentally slammed it in a car door the screen was completely shattered. Now, this wasn’t the end of the world, my phone still worked but its surface was shedding glass like a golden retriever sheds hair in the summertime. Despite the occasional ‘ow-I-poked-my-finger-while-tweeting’, everything was relatively fine. The real problems didn’t start until I naively took my precious little baby to a third-party repair service. Needless to say, they botched my little sidekick beyond functionality. Those meanies. Serves me right for being too cheap to go directly to Apple.

After having spent several hours in the Apple store, they told me that there’s nothing that can be done. My only option is to get a new phone, but is that even necessary? Do I need a phone? No. I don’t need a phone. While crying as the Apple CSR delivered the bad news, I had an epiphany. This little device is the single greatest harbinger of stress in my life. The incessant notifications, phone calls, text messages, e-mails constantly bind me to my 3 jobs and 2 on-going group projects. Really, my workaholicism should finish when I close my laptop for the night, but because of my phone it doesn’t. On numerous occasions, I’ve woken up at 2am because of late-night text messages and e-mails from colleagues and coworkers. Now, this might not be so bad if I cared a little less, but I honestly care too much. Oftentimes, I feel guilty if I feel like I’m not working hard enough. It distracts me when I should be sleeping, when I should be paying attention in class, and even when I’m out for dinner with friends. Now, with the new year and all, I’m determined to cut back and simplify while committing myself to a technology detox (or a tech-tox as I like to call it). My laptop will be for school and work, my iPad will be for fun, and my phone will remain turned off for the next four weeks at least.

I guess this mishap was really a blessing in disguise. Or, I don’t know. Maybe this will hinder my ability to organize myself and stay connected to friends. Either way, I’ll be sure to post an update in a month’s time.

“Smells Like Overly-Sexualized-Fragrance-Industry Spirit”

//Discourse of Advertising Assignment #1

Perfume ads have always intrigued me, so upon seeing the selection of possible advertising genres to analyze the choice was obvious. There are numerous fragrance advertisements plastered throughout magazines, but there usually seems to be several common themes among them. Throughout this analysis, I will be primarily focusing on various advertisements for men’s fragrances.

Screen-shot-2014-09-02-at-11.09.46-AMThe ads pictured above belong to a 2007 campaign for Tom Ford’s debut male fragrance. Now, despite being a men’s fragrance, this ad campaign features a fully nude female in erotic poses with the product strategically placed both on the woman and in the advertisement. There is no man in these photos, nor is there any information about the perfume. Instead, the text simply states “Tom Ford For Men” in big, bold font. Solomon states that “nothing cuts through the clutter like sex”, in the sense that among the overwhelming amount of advertisements we are exposed to on a daily basis the sexual ones are usually the most shocking, provocative, and engaging. Advertisements such as the one above do not directly sell the product or inform you about any of the perfume’s features. However, these advertisements do incite conversation, evoke reactions, and allow the viewer to establish his or her own connections. Barry implies that it is usually best to imply a message, and “Leaving a bit for the consumer to figure out will engage them with your idea” (25). Therefore, the ad doesn’t need to explicitly say ‘use this perfume, then you can have sex with flawless women‘, it visually screams this connection between the fragrance and sex which allows the viewers to establish their own interpretations, all while engaging the viewers much more effectively than if the ad were to simply feature an image of a perfume bottle without the nude model.

gucci-guilty-for-men-perfume-L-Z0uy_CNow looking at a print ad for Gucci Guilty Pour Homme, another male fragrance, sexual undertones are once again present. While this ad for men’s fragrance actually has a male in it, there is still an element of sex. In this ad, the woman is clearly lost in a bout of ecstasy and her focus is entirely on the man. Meanwhile the man has his gaze locked on the viewer. This intense look could have several potential meanings based on the consumer. Men who view this ad could perceive this look as a means of intimidation, where the model is blatantly holding a sexually-engaged woman, and smirking and gazing intently at the viewer as if to communicate ‘look what I have‘ and to evoke a sense of inferiority or envy among viewers. In a way, ads such as these convey a idealistic lifestyle to their viewers, these ads “work by creating symbolic associations between their product and what is most coveted by the consumers to whom they are addressed” (Solomon). Consequently, these ads which seem to feature more sex appeal than fragrance can insinuate that men want sex. By associating their product with sex, a semiotic connection between the perfume and sex can be established.

The tricky thing about perfume ads is that there is no way to ascertain whether or not the models are actually using the product. You cannot see the man or woman applying the fragrance, it is all implied. There is a certain lifestyle associated with splashing on a designer label fragrance, and through these ads, this lifestyle is conveyed to the audience. Male fragrances seem to focus overwhelmingly on sex, and imply that using a certain fragrance will lead to passionate encounters with slim and glossy model-esque women.

Mark-Ronson-for-Fendi-fragrance-campaign1

Fan di Fendi Pour Homme

1409937436_doutzen-kroes-charlie-hunnam-zoom

Reveal by Calvin Klein

Overall the majority of men’s perfume advertisements share many similar characteristics. As mentioned previously there is the ominous and overwhelming association with sex. However, the images are also composed similarly. The colours are all very subdued and sophisticated. There are blends of nudes, golds, and flesh tones often accompanied by greyscale images or the reddish hues. The colour red is particularly striking for me as colours can have profound meaning. Red can symbolize passion, love, power, regality, and fire, among other things. All of these underlying, signified connotations of the colour red play well into establishing a connection between the product, and what the consumer desires most. It is common for most people to seek passion, power, and prestige, and colour is a subtle yet effective way that these associations can be created in ways that go deeper than flashing lights in the backseat window of a car, or a cityscape reflected through a window.

In addition, the placement of the perfume bottle is similar in each ad. The human gaze naturally descends from top to bottom of a page, so the first thing the viewer sees in each of these ads is the man or woman, then the gaze slowly drops to the bottle. This can once again allow the viewer to make his or her own connections, and arrive at a conclusion where the man and perfume are correlated.

Regarding the audience of these fragrance ads, they are saturated in sex appeal and therefore appear to be targeted towards an older, sexually-active demographic. This demographic is presumedly 20 – 50 years old, and can be male or female depending on the specific fragrance being featured. Men would purchase this fragrance for themselves, or women would purchase these products for their partners. The visual patterns present in these ads reflect a wealthy, powerful audience, or an audience of men who aspire to live a powerful, passionate life. All of these perfumes are well-known brands fragrances by these brands can cost upwards of $100 CAD; therefore, one would already need to have some degree of disposable income in order to responsibly sustain such purchases. There is also connotations related to The American Dream present in these advertisement. The men pictured are all young, assumedly wealthy and successful, and are able to easily attract beautiful women.  Now, this is not ordinary for the average citizen, but Solomon claims “Americans dream of rising above the crowd, of attaining a social summit beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.” This ideal prevails throughout the ads, as nothing indicates that the models depicted are ordinary. They are all incredibly attractive by Western standards, and wield a considerable amount of affluence and influence. Everything about the images reeks of an unattainable fantasy, from the colours, environments, emotions conveyed, and the people themselves. However, the perfume industry uses images such as the ones above in an attempt to dismantle the barrier between this fantasy and the viewer in order to really sell this highly sought-after lifestyle. The themes in these ads are all similar, and they’re all successful in portraying an unattainable fantasy in cohesion with a bottle of fragrance while selling the idea that smelling good leads to success, power, and sex.


Textual References:

Barry, Pete. The Advertising Concept Book. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2012. Print.

Solomon, Jack. Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising. Accessed on January 13th, 2015, from:
http://www.indiana.edu/~slavicgf/e103/assignments/solomon_reading_1.html

Image References:

Tom Ford Advertisement:
http://vestoj.com/app/uploads/2014/09/Screen-shot-2014-09-02-at-11.09.46-AM.png

Gucci Advertisement:
https://suhoal.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/edf7a-single_page_ad_-_guilty_male.jpg

Fendi Advertisement:
http://theedito.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mark-Ronson-for-Fendi-fragrance-campaign1.jpg

Calvin Klein Advertisement:
http://www.usmagazine.com/uploads/assets/articles/77151-charlie-hunnam-doutzen-kroes-topless-calvin-klein-reveal-ads/1409937436_doutzen-kroes-charlie-hunnam-zoom.jpg