By creating ad storylines based on widely recognized tropes and familiar narratives, John Lewis’s advertising campaign uses this process of interpellation to “hail” to viewers in both direct and indirect ways. A somewhat unfamiliar brand here in America, John Lewis is a popular department store in the UK that specializes in home, technological, and personal appliances and clothing. The ad in discussion uses these tropes to familiarize us with the company’s products and engage us fully within the represented lifestyle, drawing upon Goldman and Papson’s discussion of ads as “accelerated meaning.” They go beyond simply telling us about a product and its functions to convey a larger story about the producer, humanizing the corporation and bringing its consumers closer to completing a purchase.

The commercial is about a young man and woman who are living in entirely different eras in London, England. The ad it shot in split-screen as these two people conduct their daily lives in tandem; while the girl is shown living in early-twentieth century London on Oxford Street, the young man is doing the same in the present.Through this portrayal, the company attempts to convey the fact that amidst a dynamically modern world, their brand remains true to its roots and beliefs. We can also unpack the idea that John Lewis as a company transcends both time and space, yet still succeeds in creating innovative and useful products for a given time period. The tropes that are employed in this commercial make it easy for directors to shoot the commercial in a way that lets the audience use their past cultural interpretations and experiences to fill in the blanks. We understand that the relationship is becoming more intimate when we see them in a bedroom on a bed, though no physical intimacy is shown. Our notions of relationships, interactions, and intimacy are what allow this ad to resonate within us, and are depicted through these known associations. By exploiting this channel, advertisements in the age of accelerated meaning are structured to “boost the value of commodity brand names by attaching them to images that possess cultural and social value” (Goldman, Papson 1996).

We can see these types of ads follow a specific format that instructs the consumer to buy into an entire experience or lifestyle. The lifestyle format is used to construct a relationship between product and consumer in a way that goes far beyond the product functions and tells the consumer what kind of person uses a product, in which setting it may be used it, and what kind of demographic or social class the consumer may come from. We as a society use brands to convey messages of status, individuality, and affiliations: they are the means by which we express ourselves. In the piece, “RED is the New Black,” Elizabeth Ann Moore is quoted, stating that “branding is the deliberate association of a product not just with a mere name but with an almost spiritual image, an idea” (p. 5) (Banet-Weiser, Lapsansky, 2008). There is a very distinct kind of lifestyle that presents itself in the John Lewis commercial that encompasses branding as a ‘spiritual image.’ The brand has taken a faceless, routine department store and transformed into something both timeless and relatable to the consumer. We can draw upon these commonly shared experiences of first-date anxiety, young love, heartbreak, and reconciliation. The products are not the center of this advertisement, for what is being sold is the experience and the lifestyle, into which John Lewis’ products seamlessly fit. And who dictates how this lifestyle is created? Banet-Weiser and Lapsansky discuss how it is virtually impossible to “theorize the relationship between brand culture and the consumer without taking into account the shifting dynamics in the economy.” Thus, the relationship between marketing/advertising and society is both cyclical and dynamic: each feeds off the other to produce a hegemonic, widely recognized “lifestyle” that we can all relate to and pine for, and we can see this represented in the advertisement above.

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