“Advertising in the age of accelerated meaning” is usually packaged with a set of signifiers and specific codes of cultural conduct that speak to a specific audience. Ad campaigns during this age have become more sophisticated and complicated to follow and stay one step ahead of their consumers, who themselves have become more sophisticated and complicated. Authors of the essay “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning,” Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson, claim that consumers “rarely pause to consider the assumptions imposed by the advertising framework” but rather “whether or not we like the ad.”

In the 30-second scriptless, spiritless (and frankly kinda boring) commercial for New York-bred streetwear brands LVRS and 40oz NY, I happen to like the ad.

It’s because the uneventful video is loaded with slight nuances and semiotic behavior, and meaning is unpackaged so quickly that, in those 30 second frames, the ad has communicated everything it needs to communicate to us without issuing a single word. And because there are no voices or subtitles, LVRS and 40oz are calling on a specific segment of the audience who can understand what is going on and figure what it might mean.  The conjoining brands have fragmented their audience, and while they’ve excluded a large consumer population, exclusivity is what they’re aiming for. They want  their signifiers to reach the people who can translate their narrative and “attach them to images that possess social and cultural value (p. 81).” In the end, I want that cheaply-made fitted cap on the dude who’s coolly daytime shadowboxing on his roof.

But I understand who that dude is what he’s doing might connote. The brands called upon Theophilus London, Brooklyn rapper and hip hop style icon, to front and model their latest cap design (..if you can call it a “design”). The commercial never introduces him, which only introduces the viewers who can already recognize him. Goldman and Papson says this “appellation” is how the commodity positions us. “When ads hail us , they appellate us, naming us and inviting us to take up a position in relation to the advertisements. Consumer ads greet us as individual viewers with what seem to be our own (already) ideological assumptions and personalities (p. 82).”  Theophilus’s following is already selective–generally a style-conscious GUY who trolls indie hip hop music, so our assumptions and relationship to his fans and to him tell us that LVRS and 40oz are aligned with cool, stylish young men who listen to cool, stylish young music. Goldman and Papson believe that getting a celebrity is a sign vehicle in and of itself because “the referent systems that can pay off most handsomely when properly appropriated involve lifestyles and subcultures (p. 88).” This wave of urban chic hip hop-wear has been appropriated solely by Theophilus’s appearance–no rapping, no words needed.

The ambiguous nature of the ad is an attempt to break through all the clutter (and noise) of loud commercials and hail you to stop and engage with this one. “Where advertisers once sought to maximize the transparency of the framework, they now try to jar viewers into interpretive quandaries as a way of keeping them engaged in the ads (p 83).” This LVRS x 40 oz commercial is jarring in a lot of ways, for a lot of people: why is he staring at me? why is he staring into the distance? why is he blowing smoke into my face? what’s this music?  why is he backpeddling slowly on a roof? For some people, the answer is clear and the meaning is clearer. For most people, they are promped to Google and find out. The ad is successful.

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