Ciroc’s advertising campaign uses the power of the brand ambassador in defining masculinity, in a way that taps into high class culture and what can be argued as a throwback to masculine leisure. This stems from the way that advertisers have always “provided consumers with advice about how to live and [provided] models for different styles of life”(Leiss et. Al, 414). However, through the use of “lifestyle branding,” advertisers were able to establish a “taste leadership” that constructed “a consumption-based masculine identity relevant to contemporary social conditions” through things like product placement, cultural coattails, and humor, which I will be discussing(Messner 1880). This is especially apparent in alcohol advertising, which, according to Messner, is where they “construct a ‘desirable lifestyle’ in relation to contemporary social conditions [and] construct a plausible and desirable world to consumers”(1880). According to Messner, liquor is a central player in “hegemonic masculinity”(1879).
A great example of lifestyle branding is an ad used in my previous post, “Luck Be A Lady”. In my post, I argue that it “associates this luxury, leisurely lifestyle with the product itself,” which stems from Thorstein Veblen’s “Conspicuous Consumption,” who argues that “esteem is awarded only on evidence,” which in this case, is Ciroc(Veblen, 24). The ad itself depicts the lifestyle of people who “work hard [and] play hard”. This specific style of ads date back to the mid-1970s, where “these ads began primarily to depict images of men drinking with other men in public spaces…as a pleasurable reward for a hard days’ work.”(Messner 1880-1881) This calling to this specific style serves almost as a nostalgia and a throwback to the days of hard work and rewarding oneself for that hard work. The fact that all of those in the ads are themselves people of social status and are respectable in their careers, whether it’s Aziz Ansari who’s known for his comedy, or Aaron Paul for his acting, it’s inherent and assumed that the audience knows who these people are and that they are hard workers, or else they wouldn’t be where they were now. It’s interesting to point out how the way that hard work was depicted in the 70s, which would usually be a middle class man coming home to a family, has been framed in this way, where celebrities now are the face of “hard work” rather than a working class family.
Positioning Itself as Timeless and Classic
One could argue that the reference to the Big Band Jazz style of the Rat Pack and the Frank Sinatra era is an example of “classicism” which Leiss refers to as the “creative output of the ancients,” that are “removed from history..timeless objects”(548). The use of the music could be seen as an attempt at associating the timelessness of Sinatra and the Rat Pack with Ciroc, making it timeless itself. This theme is recurring throughout some of the ads discussed, including the “Smooth Off” which serves a more humorous tone, but it’s a layer in meaning that is an interesting note on how they are positioning themselves, almost as the timeless archetype of high-class masculinity with an updated, modern look on it.
Defining Gentlemen/Masculinity through Leisure & High-Class
One popular video consists of P. Diddy throwing a house party. It shows snapshots of tons of up and coming artists and basically documents a day party for a basketball game and a boxing match, then converted into a club-like atmosphere. It’s very casual in nature and seems informal in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be a “commercial” feel to it. There are quotes from Diddy like “Why do I need a club, I’ll turn my house into the real party” (2:43). Considering that this video, juxtaposed with videos like the “Luck Be A Lady” ad, is an example of how Ciroc is attempting to define high-class masculinity through leisure, which Veblen talks about as “evidence” for projecting “wealth and power”(Veblen 24).
The associations of a house party the way that P. Diddy throws one, with amazing food, a pool with a jacuzzi/bathtub, depicts that of a high-class house party, or at least, according to the video, “how a house party should be done” which points to how ads serve as cultural intermediaries in establishing social rules and practices(0:09). This high-class is apparent in Leiss’s analysis of Holt, in which Holt “believed those with higher levels of education, access to cultural institutions, professional parents, and higher income, would have distinctive consumption patterns”(Leiss et. Al, 519-520). Holt found that “those with high cultural capital, the cultural aspects of goods overrides their exchange value”(520). The cultural aspects then deals “support lifestyle construction and the articulation of taste” and that their “status and identity [are dependent on] social relationships and skill, not on their knowledge of goods”(520). As is akin to lifestyle branding, the product is not the main focus in these ads, the experience that is documented is. The informal setting also softens its high-classness in a way that seems much more attainable than the “Luck Be A Lady” ad.
Power of the Brand Ambassadors
The power of the brand ambassador is apparent in Ciroc’s Ad Campaign. Considering that Diddy himself is seen as a taste maker in one of the most influential genres of music, it wouldn’t be hard for him to get many more relevant, established tastemakers on board. And he has, with people like French Montana, Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, Ray Jay, Funkmaster Flex who are all very influential in the rap and hip hop genre and even some great actors like Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad and Michael K. Williams from The Wire making an appearance in the “Luck Be A Lady” commercial.
A great example of the use of the brand ambassador was the Twitter campaign “#CirocTheNewYear” where Ciroc worked with “lifestyle ambassadors that include world-renowned influencers like Sean Combs and DJ Khaled with strong Twitter followings” and targeted very specific Promoted Tweets to relevant interests (bars, nightlife, music, fashion) @TMZ, @rickyrozay, @NYMag).” According to Leiss, advertisers “shifted away from associating goods with the power of the economic realm, re-linking them instead to the ascendant media and cultural sphere” (Leiss et. Al, 552). This use of Twitter is a prime example of how advertising has focused on the value that cultural industries and media outlets can create through acquiring “cultural capital(552). There is influence from these outlets, and social media is a great platform for brand ambassadors.
Product Placement, Cultural Coattails
Rap and hip hop have been one of the “cultural coattails” that are “particularly popular with white males searching for a cultural meaning”(320). While before it used to be about “a particular ‘street cred [credibility],’ reflecting a touch machismo..and risky romanticism,” it has shifted to a more luxurious lifestyle and has even given a nod to high fashion. It is most apparent in a music video like “Diced Pineapples” by Rick Ross, Wale and Drake. For example, Rick Ross is quoted in saying “pop bottles, make love thug passion/red bottoms, moncler, high fashion”(“Diced Pineapples”).
In the video, there are around 19 shots of Ciroc(film shots, not alcohol) with about 10-15 of them being clear shots. Rick Ross also ends up even mentioning it in his lyrics, with “sex all night, couple shots of Ciroc/Crib on the water, got LeBron up the block”(“Diced Pineapples”). Rumor has it that Diddy pays “$25,000 for mentioning Ciroc on their album in a natural way”.
The idea of the brand ambassador stems from advertisers who have been interested in developing “relationships between program producers and advertisers” and “linking..lifestyle to celebrity culture”(Leiss et. Al 358-360). It came from the “desire to link brands directly to popular celebrities and programming, combined with the audience’s adept use of technology to avoid advertising”(358). Considering that Diddy and the Ciroc Boyz allow for a very powerful influence over a very influential genre results in a very manufactured way of “’taste’ leadership” (414).
Dual Purpose When Using Humor
Humor has served two purposes in this ad campaign. It first is used to break through the “clutter” that has plagued advertising for years and provide a sense of entertainment. This “clutter,” according to Leiss, has “been found to erode recall and brand recognition particularly those ads placed in the middle of the commercial period”(353). One example in which Ciroc uses humor would be the video of P Diddy curling:
This was part of a Twitter-introduced ad campaign for the Superbowl, which introduced 3 other videos with their accompanying hashtags and invited Twitter followers to vote for their favorite. Messner pointed out that there are websites out there who focus specifically on the ads and run polls to see “which ads were the most and least favorite”which would explain why these commercial spots would be very much in demand, since it gives brands the opportunity to stay in the minds of consumers after the game ends(Messner 1884). Some people wondered why these ads just weren’t run during the Superbowl. According to Aubrey Flynn, Brand Content Director at Blue Flame, it was a way to “convert passive TV audience into a more engaged online audience”. It was an attempt at “doing something different,” which was very successful in breaking through the clutter.
This definitely seems like a shift of focus from the high-class cultural capital that Ciroc and Diddy had spent so much time to set up. Keeping that in mind, though, Leiss asserts that when it comes to luxury and high-class culture, “advertisers re-wrote the narrative of luxury, poking fun at it or adding quirkiness to the objects of affluence” in order to keep people from being jaded from luxury items(Leiss et. Al, 532). According to Leiss, this serves “to scrub them of their seriousness and preciousness” and “it is possible to surround oneself with ostentation, but it must be done knowingly, tongue firmly planted in cheek”(533). There needs to be a self awareness put in place within the ads themselves, whether it be through the music used, the actors involved, and the actual setting. This is a result of people who saw luxury as “a bore” and possessed “jaded palates”(Leiss et. al, 530, 532). A great example of this tongue-in-cheek humor on high-class and luxury lifestyles include the Ciroc video – “Smooth Off.”
This depicts Aziz Ansari(Comedian) and Diddy meeting as nominees for Ciroc’s “Smoothest Man Of The Year” Award. This ad ends up poking fun at many of the tropes associated with high-class culture, specifically high-class masculinity, including a hilarious competition, called the “Smooth Off” which results in Ansari losing his exotic Italian girlfriend to Diddy. Already you can see that the actors chosen serve a very specific purpose, since it would be hard to take Aziz seriously in anything serious, and P Diddy, considering his surprisingly hilarious role in Get Him To The Greek, can also be depicted as pretty humorous. There is also a small jab at what one would call “traditional” masculinity, where P Diddy catches an arrow from behind. There is a primitive, raw masculinity seen through this gesture, one that signals(along with the music accompanied) towards a James Bond-esque persona. One can see the music as being a derivation of the James Bond theme music, which would only further enhance the humorous undertones. This has many of the aspects that Leiss points out, since, up until this point, there was a seriousness towards Ciroc’s campaign, and this humor does serve to “scrub them of their seriousness” (Leiss et. Al, 532). What is also different is the focus on getting the girl. According to Messner, in ads depicting masculinity, “these beautiful women serve as potential prizes for men’s victories and proper consumption choices, they sometimes serve to validate men’s masculinity, but their validating power also holds the potential(1887). This is very apparent in this ad, albeit in a humorous way, but the exoticism of the Italian woman along with the winning and losing her aspect is still something to point out in the underlying implications of the ad.
Leiss, William, and Jackie Botterill. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.
Messner, Michael A. “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.” Signs. N.p.: Research Library Core, 2005. N. pag. Print.
Veblen, Thorstein. Conspicuous Consumption. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.