There is something about liquor that speaks to the rich and posh, or advertisers and companies would have us believe. While reading Lisa’s post “Johnnie Walker: The Important Man” I could imagine what the ad looked like without even having clicked on the link that was provided — the important man, depicted as the ideal masculine, wealthy individual who chooses to sip on Johnnie Walker during all of his important outings as an important man. He is the epitome of good taste and high culture.

And the advertisement did not fail to deliver those ideas. From using the scotch as a cologne whilst in front of a large aquarium with a mythical mermaid to commanding a room of finely dressed people with the lift of a glass, everything about the important man oozes power, suaveness, masculinity. However, these ideas are signified to the viewer through means other than the expensive suit and extravagance that surround the important man.

Thorstein Veblen in “Conspicuous Leisure” explains that “In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence” (24). In other words, consumption must be made obvious while seeming effortless for the important man to communicate his power and wealth. One of the ways in which this is done is through the depiction of leisure time, as “a life of leisure is the readiest and most conclusive evidence of pecuniary strength…since application to productive labour is a mark of poverty and subjection” (25). The Johnnie Walker advertisement displays the important man’s leisure time in allowing him to stroll from scene to scene, never rushing and looking contemplative as he speaks to the camera. He has a moment to get his haircut, to gaze out a window, to play chess, to attend a party. He never so much as creases his shirt in the activities that he presumably participates in on a regular basis. Also, the fact that he is so impeccably dressed and groomed communicates that he both has the time to maintain such an image and can afford to do so.

Veblen goes further in “Conspicuous Consumption” to explain that wealth and power are also signified by the “unproductive consumption of goods” (44). In terms of the important man, he has the wealth to be able to afford things that are above the basic necessities of life. He has the leisure to use the scotch as cologne, to have three decanters instead of one, and then some. He has a vintage car, a dinosaur skeleton, the aforementioned aquarium with a mermaid and exotic fish, paintings upon paintings on his walls. Everything the important man has can be classified as excessive and unnecessary, but all play into creating his status as powerful and wealthy.

As Lisa points out, these signifiers play into associating Johnnie Walker with the same ideals. This important man who has both leisure time and the ability to leisurely consume goods exudes specific qualities that is representative of not only Johnnie Walker, but those who drink Johnny Walker as well. By extension the brand is characterized by the important man and leisure, good taste, and high culture become definitive points of access for all.

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