Bethany Frankel, reality TV star (Real Housewives of NY), founded the SkinnyGirl Cocktails brand with only a single product: the SkinnyGirl Margarita. It is now one of the fastest growing liquor brands and has expanded their product line to include three wines, four flavored vodkas, and a pina colada mix. It’s all low-calorie drinks. In 2011 it was sold for a large undisclosed sum to the liquor magnet, Beam.

        This commercial from 2012, “Lady Rules” is the first Skinny Girl TV spot. The brand and product are heavily—dare I say—fully female centric. It’s not a very adventurous dare acknowledging the brand name is after all “SkinnyGirl.” First and foremost this brand meaning lies in its foundation, its name. This obviously shapes the reading of the product, especially in this commercial, “Lady Rules” for the Skinnygirl. I’ll be doing a semiotic analysis of the commercial.


       The premise of “Lady Rules” is that a 50s style lady is narrating/starring in the commercial. She is describing proper lady etiquette while shots of contemporary women interject doing the opposite…sort of. There is an underlying paradox to this ad.  It superposes rules of the 50s and how now, women can do what they want: look at how far we’ve come! But simultaneously it looks at how far we’ve come…but with the SkinnyGirl Cocktail…how far have we come? In the ad, “people appear, but as representations of abstract qualities” (Leiss, 183), the skinny girl qualities. The 50s lady echoes, “A lady always wears sensible shoes”, as shots of contemporary ladies laughing over manicures together, looking put together and relaxes sippin’ on her lady cocktail. Symbols of femininity are reinforced through out the ad.

       This ad is very much a lifestyle ad, it positions the individual “into a framework of judgment for social beings in a social context” (190). It uses the stereotype of a lady to reinforce the social context of the product. As the women move from scene to scene, at a mani-pedi party, to the club, to a casual deck hang-sesh, the product is central. As Leiss points out in lifestyle ads, “no other information is really necessary because the ad provides a direct vision of consumption style” (194). The ad creates a consumption style with its product in the very female social context. It seems like the ad screams: ladies now you can do whatever you want because you have a secret weapon: a low-cal drink! The drink enhances your lifestyle, as shown in the ad. You now have it all, it’s quite post-feminist product.

         In Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning, Goldman and Papson state, “signs provide people with real social indicators of identity—consumers do use signs to construct identities” (92). The commercial combines rampant signifiers of femininity coupled with a system of referents, the historical context of the 50s lady to reinforce what it means to be a skinny girl. It announces that women have this newfound agency, they aren’t the 50s lady anymore, they can choose to drink whenever they want…but they can only do that because they have a low-calorie drink. The stereotype of the 50s lady is a cultural “referent” (88), it is a playful cultural reference that immediately solidifies the other signs values of femininity. This is about being a lady. No matter what time you live in, you are a lady, look at all the femine things you are doing. Going to the club, hanging out, it’s a lady activity now, not just something you do.

      So if “ads ask us to choose and construct our identities out of our consumption choices” (85), and “Lady Rules” tells us that we are ladies, what kind of Lady are we? Although it is one big stereotype under the guise of false agency and empowerment through low-cal body shaping technique, it’s agency through consumption. Whatever type of “Lady you are?”, you are lady consumer. It doesn’t really matter if you are a lady, girl—skinny girl—or women the SkinnyGirl Cocktail is an accessory.  

Works Cited: 

Leiss, William, Stephen Kline, Sut Jhally and Jackie Botterill. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Goldman, Robert. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” The Consumer Society Reader (2000): 80-97. Print.