Old Spice: Champions, Losers, Trophy Wives, and the Bizarre

By: Joe Einsig

Old Spice is one of the modern day champions of rapidly-paced advertising that features impossible situations and outlandish humor. We all have had a hearty laugh over the crazy scenarios presented to us by Wieden & Kennedy’s creative team. But behind the laughs and seemingly harmless jokes, there lies the possibility for problematic messages that often pass through the screen without a second thought. To start this analysis, I want to reference a quote from Goldman & Papson’s “Ads in the Age of Accelerated Meaning,” an article that I will quote extensively throughout this piece.

“Once the commercial narrative framework is accepted as unproblematic, we are able to decipher and evaluate the combinations of meanings that commercials advance as potential sign currency. We rarely pause to consider the assumptions imposed by the advertising framework since our attention is usually fixed on solving the particular riddle of each ad as it passes before us on the screen; just as importantly, our attention is usually fixed on the question of whether or not we like the ad. The vast majority of ads offer viewers few satisfactions from deciphering; but the few ads that do excite decoding pleasures place their products in line to realize profitable sign values.” (Goldman and Papson 81.)

While indulging in or studying the “Believe In Your Smellf” campaign, all of the main points brought up in this quote can be checked off. Old Spice utilizes a sporadic, rapid technique that has been rendered understandable by the speed at which we consume ads today. The rapid turnover of images and symbols “has contributed to an important cultural shift, the ‘substitution of referential density for narrative coherence.’ Referential density means that frames become packed with multiple referents minus unifying threads that give the viewer clues about their relationships” [Goldman and Papson pg. 93).

The ads contain such bizarre imagery and a seeming lack of coherence that we often don’t consider the implications of what’s being said. Goldman and Papson noted this phenomenon, and many of the techniques they pointed out show up in Old Spice’s ads:  “Accelerated editing, a refusal to obey sequencing conventions, and a devotion to supermagnified close-ups–all place greater emphasis on the isolated signifier whose meaningfulness is now divorced from the contexts that initially gave meaning to it.” [Goldman and Papson pg. 93]). We also neglect to consider the implications of Old Spice’s ads’ messages because so often we get caught up in the humor and absurdity of the ads, noting to ourselves that we enjoy the humor, and that because of that whatever they’re saying is harmless. This all ads up to a perfect storm in which we project the values and attributes of the protagonist in the ads onto the bodywash or deodorant, thus differentiating the product. Essentially, we make Old Spice bodywash and deodorant out to be more than it is. We give it extra value, sign value as G&P tell us: “A sign value is generally equal to the desirability of an image. A sign value establishes the relative value of a brand where the functional difference between products is minimal” (Goldman and Papson pg. 84)

If Old Spice is able to utilize techniques such as referential density, parody, and sporadic narratives to push their products through the transference of desirable qualities, what are some of the possible implications in regards to what those messages are actually encoding? Several issues arose during my analysis. First, as is the case with many advertised products, is the promise of success through the purchase and use of Old Spice instead of through action and effort. While this is a notable issue, I think it is one that has quite often been discussed in the analysis of advertising, and as thus won’t be focused on as much as the other issues that I found with the campaign, namely the oversimplification of roles of masculinity and femininity, the objectification and trophy-fying of women, and the parodic twist on the “male as loser” role often associated with beer ads.

Now that we have identified some of the strategies that Old Spice uses to create commodity value for their products, and some of the underlying problematic messages that get propagated through their ads, let’s address those issues and strategies more in depth with actual examples from Old Spice’s “Believe In Your Smellf” campaign.

Ad #1:

Let’s start with a shorter commercial ad as there’s a bit less to process. At a short 15 seconds, there doesn’t seem to be much time or potential for problematic issues and messages to arise. But instead of just assuming that nothing problematic could arise, let’s force ourselves to ask the question “What’s wrong here?”

To start, the woman is portrayed as the prototypical “hottie” that is objectified as a sort of trophy for the man to win. “Hotties” are very common in advertising, and they’re more or less typecast and fitted for one purpose. When attractive women “appear in  ads, it is usually as highly sexualized fantasy objects. These beautiful women serve as potential prizes for men’s victories and proper consumption choices. They sometimes serve to validate men’s masculinity” [Messner & Montez de Oca pg. 1887].) Interestingly enough, the male here (Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings) is also portrayed as a simplified and sexualized object. Neither gender can escape the narrow lens of objectification in this case. That being said, there certainly is still a power dynamic shown that favors the male.

Another issue with this ad is that it suggests that “you can too” pleasure a beautiful woman while doing pushups with several hundred pounds on your back, or through more practical sexual measures, simply by using Old Spice bodywash.

After forcing ourselves to take a closer look, we’ve identified some problematic themes that arise in this short ad. But that alone is not enough. We need to ask why these issues seemingly fly over our conscious minds when we view them in a more natural setting. This ad veils the rather blunt claim that “using Old Spice can lead to pleasuring attractive women” by presenting us with a bizarre scenario: a guy doing push ups on a concrete slab (while wearing cleats, seemingly impossible on its own) on the beach with a jet ski on his back-and one that a woman is seated in. Now Greg Jennings is a spectacular athlete, but not that spectacular. The absurdity of the situation consciously distracts us from the message while prodding us to buy in because we’re amused.


Ad #2: http://instagram.com/p/JzxedWNNcu/

This “ad” isn’t so much problematic as it is bizarre. Again we’re dealing with another jet ski, but this time on top of a mountain. Old Spice seems to have made a conscious effort integrate the jet ski in bizarre scenarios into their “look,” which “has become an essential element of currency production because escalating market competition has made it renewable, ephemeral, and disposable.” [Goldman & Papson pg. 86]). Jet skis are often associated with fun, water sports, leisure, and expendable income- all aspects of the lifestyle Old Spice implores us to reach for. Because of that positive alignment, Old Spice has gone out of their way to make that association between themselves and the jet ski, to the point now where it’s more or less common knowledge that if you see a jet ski, you’re probably looking at an Old Spice ad.

In terms of strategy, Old Spice is definitely playing towards the medium they’re operating in here, utilizing the filters of Instagram and the “photoshop culture” of the internet. If this image ran as a print ad, it may be perceived as shoddy and not quite of an expected quality. But because we’re on the internet where photoshop is often implemented in creating humor, this ad is certainly passible.

Ad #3

“I Can Do Anything”

Old Spice speaks to their target audience in a peculiar way when compared to the “loser” labeling beer commercials employ. By “loser” I mean “men that are often portrayed as chumps, losers. Masculinity-especially for the lone man-is precarious. Individual men are always on the cusp of being publicly humiliated, either by their own stupidity, by other men, or worse, by a beautiful woman” (Messner & Montez de Oca pg. 1887). Old Spice subverts this labeling by portraying men in their ads as confident, successful, and primarily alone-but never afraid. The man is never in danger of humiliation and always is in control. Which seems like it would be favorable for men, right?

No, not really. There is an understanding between the ad and the viewer that there is a large element of parody involved in these ads, and that Old Spice won’t actually make you the perfect man-but you’ll need Old Spice to even come anywhere close to it. In other words, we can all laugh at your ineptitude in failing to be this perfect man, but you’ll need Old Spice to be passable. So ow does all that relate to this ad? The ad actually shows us that men need Old Spice (the “walkman”) in order to become hyper-successful. Before using Old Spice, you’re nothing more than a frail, skinny guy. But immediately after you start using it, you’ll start to see results. And in no time, you’ll be packing on muscle, picking up chicks in eco-friendly sand cars, and winning horse races-on foot. Again, it’s all parodic, but the humor covers up the message-you need Old Spice in order to succeed.

The issue of female objectification and rejection comes up again here as well. Even actress Heather Graham cannot escape the imminent transformation from desirable “hottie” to dump-able “bitch” (Messner & Montez de Oca).


#4-Print Ad


This ad is more or less a snapshot of the previous commercial ad. That being said, this ad again implies that Old Spice products are the key to achieving success, which Marx would be quite critical of. And again, the success is parodied, but the message is still there.

Ad #5-“Never Again”

This ad is another example in which humor and a bizarre event eclipses the fact that a woman is being displayed as nothing more than a trophy wife. Other than the brand slide at the end of the spot, there is absolutely no correlation between the events in this commercial. There isn’t even an allusion to the idea that Old Spice can get you the mansion, tux, and trophy wife. But because it’s humorous and we recognize the style and whistle at the end, we associate the positive feelings of humor with the brand.


This ad is unique to the campaign as it features some typical “losers’ who presumably don’t use Old Spice. They can never hope to become “stars” in “their own movies,” because they don’t use Old Spice. For us, the choice is simple: use Old Spice and be a star like Greg Jennings, or don’t and either be a figurative tree or dog in the background of someone else’s exciting life. This ad is also unique in that it totally breaks through the 4th wall of advertising. The other ads allude to the fact that they’re ads with their parodic styles, but this ad pulls the camera back and shows you that we are in fact on a studio set. G&P frame this point well: “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. Some ads humorously caution viewers to remember that a sign is just a sign, and not the product itself” (Goldman & Papson pg. 83).

Old Spice utilizes a number of tactics to create a brand identity and differentiating value for their product.Among these are the use of parody, the re-contextualization and re-appropriation of images, and the promises of success and attractive women. These tactics create a positive relationship between the humorous Old Spice and the viewer that gets transferred to their products.

These tactics also cover up some of the issues that Old Spice’s campaign contains in terms of what’s actually being said, including the objectification of woman, the unrealistic expectations of the “perfect man” (and the mockery of men who can’t reach said unreachable ideal), and the falsehood that a bodywash or deodorant is all that separates the average man from greatness.

I don’t believe that the Old Spice ads or the “Believe In Your Smellf” campaign are intentionally sexist or offensive. That being said, we as consumers of media and goods must be cognizant of the messages that lay behind the humor of today’s advertising landscape.

Works Cited

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 4 May 2013.

Messner, Michael A., and Jeffrey Montez De Oca. “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013.

By Joe


(1) Superbowl Ad

(2) Galaxy vs. iPhone Image

3) Print ad



4) Workplace Party Ad

5) Graduation Pool Party Ad

            Since the dawn of the first computers, our world has changed into a highly technological one where smartphones and laptops are a must-have in everyone’s lives. For a while, America’s smartphone industry has been dominated by Apple’s iPhone, and whether it be a child, teenager, elderly, woman or man, we could observe everyone using an iPhone, or waiting in line in front of the Apple store for hours to buy one when a new iPhone is released. Recently, Samsung has been trying to break Americans’ loyalty to Apple and launched “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign to promote their Galaxy smartphones. At first encounter, all of these ads may just seem like witty, or maybe even slightly “playing dirty” to degrade the iPhone to the Galaxy. However, behind Samsung’s attempt to go viral with their bold commercials, lies a core marketing strategy. By positioning the Galaxy as “the next big thing,” Samsung’s campaign seeks to embody the social values of the Generation Xers. All components of the campaign, including the advertising tactic, visual presentation of ads, celebrity endorsements and more, highlight the values originally created since the dawn of the Generation Xers who are media and tech savvy.

            First, it is rather obvious but we must take into account that the Generation Xers were “more media savvy, and critical of the rampant consumerism of their parents” (Leiss, et al., 466). Although the target market for a smartphone has a diverse range from young children to the elderly, Samsung latches onto a specific demographic of seemingly tech savvy people to insist to the public that the Galaxy is “already” being used by trendsetters; in other words, the Generation Xers.

            For instance, in the graduation pool party ad (5), we can see that there are two distinct groups: the parents, and the high school kids who have just graduated. Throughout the entire ad, we can see the parents using phrases such as “You’ve got to be kidding me!” or “Oh wow! So you’re saying that some smartphones are smarter than other smartphones?” as if they are completely ignorant of “the next big thing.” They are the group of consumers who are not knowledgeable and just buy products for the purpose of consumerism. Furthermore, they don’t weight the benefits of which products have good features, and just use the iPhone because everyone else does. On the other hand, the high school students who already have their tricks figured out with the Galaxy suggest that they are “more selective about what they consume (Leiss, et al., 477)” and that they are “less loyal to brands (Leiss, et al., 477)” because they made a quick switch to Samsung without being loyal to Apple.

           This concept of “loyalty,” though, is a bit ironic. While the Generation Xers are generally known for their lack of loyalty to certain brands, the campaign still attempts to create Boorstin’s notion of a consumption community, in which the “context rather than the product becomes, in a sense, the object of the consumers’ desires (Leiss, et al., 148).” At 0:37 of the graduation pool party video, a high school graduate does a cool trick of swapping photos instantly with another Galaxy. Seeing this, a parent who owns an iPhone asks how she can do the same thing, and the high school graduate replies “Yours doesn’t do that,” thus making the distinction between the tech and media savvy youngsters who own Galaxies, versus the old and ignorant parents who own iPhones. By differentiating these two groups, Samsung latches onto the personality of the younger generation and interpellates them as Samsung’s supporters, but also speak to the older generation by suggesting that they should follow what the Generation Xers are doing.

           This separation of consumption communities can also be seen in the workplace party ad (4). In this ad, we see a woman at a fancy workplace party with her coworkers. As the party progresses, people who own the Galaxy receive instant photos of what’s happening at the party and are constantly updated. However, the protagonist doesn’t own a Galaxy, causing her to miss all the big moments of the party that everyone else is aware of. This places the protagonist outside of the consumption community. Nevertheless, this ad has a larger underlying community that it speaks to. In Veblen’s discussion, he refers to the culturati, which is “the culturally oriented consumer (Leiss, et al., 453).” The culturati maintain distinctive consumption patterns, which are constructed by their upbringings: “higher levels of education, access to cultural institutions, professional parents, and higher income (Leiss, et al., 520).” It is difficult to tell whether everyone in the ad, in fact, has all these qualities of the culturati. But, judging from the aesthetic presentation of the ad, we can assert that the workplace party is for people with office jobs rather than menial labor. Furthermore, the location of the party, the drinks and the language of conversations signify that the people who are at this party are most likely highly educated, have access to cultural institutions such as a workplace party, maintain a certain social status, and have enough income to purchase the nice clothes and most importantly, a Galaxy. Although the protagonist is initially separated from her coworkers who own the Galaxy, in the end, she gives in and says, “That’s it, I’m getting the Galaxy.” As a result, the consumption community that this ad speaks to is the culturati, including the protagonist who will ultimately join the other Galaxy owners by making a purchase decision. This again, ties into the values of the Generation Xers who “rather than being rejecters of consumerism, purchase and spend on things that increase their sense of esteem and belongingness (Leiss, et al., 488).”

           All of the aforementioned consumption communities are interconnected through a lifestyle format, where the ads “use a stereotype based on inferences about the relationship of the individual to the group or social context (class, status, race, ethnicity, role relations, group membership (Leiss, et al., 190).” Both the high school graduation party ad (5) and the workplace party ad (4) make clear stereotypes of the Generation Xers and the culturati. The consumption communities are not only distinguished through age and the level of education, but also through their uses of the Galaxy. In both the ads, the function of taking pictures and sharing them instantaneously is highlighted, which is essentially the “activity that is the basis of the connection with common use for the product (Leiss, et al., 194).” The specific function of sharing photos instantaneously is only one aspect of the Galaxy, but in the bigger picture, it is clear that the consumption communities are tied together by the fact that they have unified uses of the smartphone according to similar lifestyles.

           The lifestyle format can also be seen in the Galaxy print ads (3). First, the print ad that has pictures of different apps surrounding the smartphone has everything from music to Facebook to different search engines (such as Google) to sports. The signifiers such as the Super Mario character and a soccer ball outline all the activities that can be achieved through owning a Galaxy. Rather than speaking to consumption style, this ad positions the Galaxy as not just a smartphone, but more as a lifestyle companion that helps people who have “common use for the product (Leiss, et al., 194)” carry out their daily activities. The other print ad contains a slogan: “Fast. Vivid. Slim. What’s Your Smart Life?” “Fast” emphasizes that the Galaxy does not lag, and thus helps its users carry out their activities quickly, whether it’d be making a Google search, or playing games on the smartphone. “Vivid” accentuates the Galaxy’s vivid screen and camera pixel, insisting that its users can enjoy photos, videos and other content without having to worry about distortion of images. “Slim” highlights the fact that the Galaxy is slim enough to fit into people’s pockets, and that carrying the Galaxy around won’t be a hassle. The people who could possibly need the fast, slim and vivid features of a smartphone are probably people who A) do so many routine things with the smartphone that they need it to be quick and painless, B) are tech savvy enough to have the propensity to view visual content through their phones or use their phones to share visual content, and C) need their phones at all times which is why they want the phone to be slim so that it’s easy to carry around. The slogan, then, asks “What is your smart life?” fundamentally asking the consumer if they are leading a “Smart Life” that can be assessed through whether the consumer’s daily lifestyle choices can benefit from the fast, vivid and slim characteristics of the Galaxy. Hence, the slogan asks the consumer to construct their identity as an individual who belongs to the consumption community of people who lead a “Smart Life,” through consumption choices (Goldman & Papson, 85).

           In a way, the slogan asking “What’s Your Smart Life?” acknowledges the sovereign consumer (Leiss, et al., 81) but makes a statement on their consumption choices simultaneously. It recognizes that the consumer may buy whatever they desire, but at the same time, it asserts that a smart consumer would buy the Galaxy. This same concept can be applied to the print ad comparing the iPhone and the Galaxy (2). In this ad, the functions of the iPhone and the Galaxy are outlined, clearly showing that the Galaxy is superior to the iPhone in its capabilities. Visually, the ad gives light to the Galaxy as the Galaxy has its screen showing, and the white color scheme that is coherent throughout the ad makes the Galaxy standout as opposed to the rather dead and dull-looking iPhone. This product information format is often preferred by the Generation Xers because they are media savvy and already knowledgeable of the obvious marketing tactics of brands (Leiss, et al., 488). Moreover, again, this ad’s slogan “It doesn’t take a genius” makes a statement on consumption choices, alluding that it really doesn’t take a genius or a particularly savvy person to choose Samsung because its superiority to the iPhone is so obvious. Hence, providing information of the Galaxy recognizes consumer sovereignty (which is a distinct characteristic of the Generation Xers who selective about what they consume), while questioning the audience of their purchasing decisions categorizes them into those who are smart, and those who aren’t.

           Samsung’s campaign also uses the advertising of “cool” to reach its target consumers. As aforementioned, the Generation Xers are media savvy. In other words, they are not prone to being manipulated by advertising strategies, and they pride themselves in being aware of the media scene. “To Generation Xers, the marketplace, the advertising and mass media continue to be a seamless fabric of popular culture, one not more important than the other, and all interacting in a complex web of intertextual references and commonly shared experiences (Leiss, et al., 488).” Because they grew up surrounded by new media and technologies, they are able to relate one platform to another and make connections between brands, products, media contents and technologies. This is exactly the youth market that “cool” advertising aims to target. Not only does this youth group have enough disposable income that allows them to purchase unnecessary products, but also youth in general as a cultural ideal exert a sense of trendiness and freshness that Samsung wishes to exude in its brand identity.

           An example of the “cool” tactic can be seen in the Superbowl ad (1) that uses celebrity endorsements of Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, and Le Bron James. Celebrity endorsement is a primary example of cultural cannibalism or intertextuality, as the tactic requires that the audience is aware of the pop culture reference; in other words, in order the understand the ad, the audience must know who Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, and Lebron James are, and also understand the reason for their appearance in the ad. “For brands to be truly cool, they need to layer the uncool-equals-cool aesthetic of the ironic viewer onto their pitch (Klein, 78).” In the context of the Superbowl ad, we can see Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan fighting over who is the real new face of “The Next Big Thing” campaign. Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd are clearly not A-list Hollywood stars like DiCaprio, but they have recently gained popularity for their characters in movies that are “uncool.” Therefore, by using humor of the “uncool” but funny actors claiming to be the new face of Samsung, the ad establishes the “uncool-equals-cool.”

           Another strategy that brands can use to be cool, is by self-mocking and talking back to themselves. Again, this is demonstrated in the Superbowl ad. The Samsung employee who’s hiring Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd is clearly a snob who speaks obnoxiously and degrades the two actors in terms of their value to the company. He treats Lebron James like a star while speaking to the two actors in a condescending tone, which pokes fun at the high-income marketers who judge people based on superficial qualities. By adding these negative traits to the figure who’s supposed to represent Samsung, the brand mocks itself which communicates humor and a sense of “cool” to its audience. And by attempting to communicate the sense of “cool,” Samsung’s campaign validates the Generation Xers characteristic of being media-savvy.

           Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign has successfully gone viral across the United States, and now Samsung levels with its major competitor Apple in terms of brand awareness and popularity. By using the word “next,” Samsung positions the “brand as an alternative to the current, and in the vernacular of the times, seemingly ‘uptight’ category leader” (Leiss, et al., 500) which is Apple. “Big Thing” positions Samsung as a wagon that everyone should hop on, led by the savvy Generation Xers. “Already Here” speaks to consumers who are sensitive to trend, and alerts others who aren’t yet aware to join. We can see that even the main campaign slogan seeks to highlight the values of the Generation Xers who are aware of their media surroundings and are trendsetters. By creating consumption communities and categorizing them into those who own the Galaxy and those who don’t, the campaign taps into the consumer’s desire to lead a certain lifestyle and be included in a particular group. Furthermore, by acknowledging that its consumers are not ignorant, Samsung is able to communicate with its audience through using “cool” tactics and witty slogans. Henceforth, Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign ultimately carries values created by the Generation Xers.


<Works Cited>

Goldman, Robert and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.”

            The Consumer Society Reader. 2000: 81-97. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Alt.Everything: The youth Market and the Marketing of Cool.” Print.

Leiss, William, et al. Social Communication in Advertising. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Narls. “Samsung Galaxy S3 Marketing Campaign.” Blogger. Blogger, 25 Nov. 2012.

            Web. 7 May. 2013.

TechLifeChannel. “Samsung The Next Big Thing Super Bowl Commercial.”

            Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 May. 2013.

“The Next Big Thing Ads: 3 Great Camera Tricks.” Samsung. Samsung, 12 Oct. 2012. Web.

           7 May. 2013.

Zaandaruwala. “Samsung Galaxy S4 The next big thing is here. (takes on the iphone).”

            Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 4 May. 2013. Web. 7 May. 2013.

Coca Cola would be one of the most consumed drinks all over the world. Often when thinking of Coca Cola, regardless of the geographical locations, will lead people to think of a polar bear not only because they appear on many TV advertisements but also because they are the mascot of the Coca Cola company. Polar bear has been a mascot since 1922. Coca Cola and polar bear have had a long and close relationship; observing Coca Cola still using polar bear as their mascot on current commercials, it can be inferred that polar bear has helped a lot with the sale of Coca Cola. On the other hand, Coca Cola has not done much for polar bear. Then, Coca Cola realized that there is a constant threat going on in Arctic, where polar bear lives. According to the letter of Sam Dorrance, a director of WWF to Helen O’Neil, a National NewsFeatures editor, he wrote

“Besides being Coke’s mascot since 1922, the polar bear is also a key aspect of the arctic ecosystem and a culturally and economically important part of the livelihood of the Inuit people. However, melting sea ice is threatening their survival” (Dorrance)

So, Coca Cola started the new campaign called “Arctic Home” since 2011, teaming up with WWF. WWF is a non-governmental institution and stands for World Wildlife Fund for Nature. “WWF’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. Their vision is to build a future where people live in harmony with nature”(WWF). The official goal of the partnership is to raise awareness and raise funds to help polar bears. This campaign, however, is more than raising awareness and funds; there is a marketing reason Coca Cola is involved in benevolent movement. Arctic Home campaign is a brand imaging campaign using a part of cause-related marketing.

History of advertising can be divided into three stages. The first stage was when the advertisements was product based. It was after the industrial revolution. It was the time when customers were satisfied as long as their need is met.

“The Marketing Concept starts with the firm’s target customers and their needs and wants; it plans a co-ordinated set of products and programs to serve their needs and wants; and derives profits through creating customer satisfaction”(Kotler and Turner, 1981, quoted in Leiss, et al. , 8).

However, after industrial revolution has started the mass-production, there started competition between companies that produced the products of same category. So, “…corporations invested in advertising to influence consumer opinion and behavior in their battle fields of survival—rather than lower prices or develop new goods”(Leiss, et al., 9). This became the second stage. Second stage focuses on services and appeal to customer’s emotions.  Then, customers realized that companies treated them as no more than potential buyers, never fully understanding their value that drive them to choose the product of one company over the other. This led to a current stage of advertising, which is about values and moral of the brand; it is about brand imaging.

One of the strategies of third stage can be cause-related marketing. Cause-Related Marketing is

“A strategy in which corporates brand identity and products are connected to charity or non-profit organizations, primarily through the sale of commercial products with a percentage of the profits being channeled to the ‘good cause’ in question”(Littler 29-30).

Coca Cola successfully use the cause-related marketing by promoting Arctic Home campaign. The campaign was international. For the Arctic Home campaign, Coca Cola made several different advertisements using different medium. However, six main advertisements Coca Cola is using today are in forms of TV, print, movie, mobile, interactive, and packaging advertisements.

TV is one of most common medium through which the company put their new advertisements, because TV has one of higher viewerships than any other mediums. Statistics shows that “By 1957, television reached 97% of continental United States and over 82% of homes owned a television set” (Leiss, et al., 113). Due to the reason, Coca Cola also has placed its Arctic Home campaign on TV.

Since the campaign itself was international, they had to make an advertisement that solves these two problems: a way to escape the language barriers and universal attraction for international audiences. First, this advertisement aimed for audiences in different nations who speak different languages. So, instead of using lots of words, Coca Cola depended and emphasized more on visual images, which is a way that the textbook points out;

“Escaping the language barrier, international ads tends to be highly visual, and to use animals, cartoons, or celebrities as a means of creating character identification without making reference to a particular ethnic group”(Leiss, et al., 440).

As a result, Coca Cola Company used a video of mom polar bear and its cub, striving to survive on melting iceberg. By solving the first problem, the second problem was also solved automatically because

“To build intrigue and attract attention, advertisers draw on techniques they have accumulated over years—music, noise, celebrities, humor, intensive visual imagery, and drama (Admap 2003). Children, animals, and humor are used endlessly in television”(Leiss, et al., 431).

In the video, the main message they put in words was “Together we need to look after the arctic, so polar bear can look after her cub”. Then, the ad asked people to participate that again could be tied back to cause-related marketing.

To promote the Arctic campaign, Coca Cola made a film by sponsoring. I have not gone to see the movie; however, on the official website for Arctic Home campaign, I found this summary/explanation.

“Using the power of IMAX® 3D film technology, To The Arctic 3D, is an extraordinary journey to the top of the world where a family is struggling for survival. The film follows the intimate story of a mother polar bear and her two cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home”(Arctic Home).

Involving in cinema is a growing medium of advertisements along the TV. If it is promoted through cinema, negotiating how to advertise in the movie is crucial because purpose of movie producers is to put up an artwork, while purpose of an advertiser is to gain profits through movie. There are three ways of negotiating relationship between program producers and advertiser. First is the traditional product placement, in which products are inserted to the storyline. Another way is to produce branded entertainment, where a program is to showcase a brand. Coca Cola did not use first two ways of advertising because it is a documentary movie where has its setting in the Arctic. Putting Coca Cola can in the arctic and polar bear picking up the can and drinking it will be a soap opera, not documentary movie. So,“…instead of, or in addition to, having advertisement inserted between programs, in many cases brands are now sponsoring program—a return to an older practice fating back to the nineteen-fifties and –sixties”(Leiss, et al., 358).

Print is the one of the earliest sources of pictures and information about the products (Leiss, et al., 56). It is still one of the frequent mediums of advertisements. However, while TV sort of force people to see or hear ad, assigning certain times slots that cannot be skipped by viewers, advertisement in prints often get ignored because viewers can skip the advertisement. In order for more audience to see the print ad, the print ad needs to be eye-catching. As I described on previous paragraph, besides the fact that a polar bear is mascot of Coca Cola, use of animal is quite effective. Coca Cola, also with the print ad, decided to use polar bear as well. However, the realistic picture of polar bear may not be enough to grab attention. “Believing curiosity stimulates attention, the creatives gave audience images to puzzle over”(Leiss, et al., 435). So, Coca Cola made a picture of a cub of a polar bear in a creative way.


Arctic Home Print Ad

Coca Cola made the irregular-dotted picture of a cub. Giving a close look to the polar bear, audiences can find out that they are not irregular dots, but different fingerprints. Utilizing the fingerprints, it was not something audiences expected from a picture of a cub.

Mobile Ad for Arctic Home Campaign– application

The next ad is done through mobile phones. One of the fastest rising mediums of advertising today is the mobile phone. Although textbook is not yet updated and does not talk a lot about the mobile advertising. the textbook quotes Alvin Toffler, a prominent futurist in America; he said that computers, robotics, and telecommunication “smart” technologies will allow greater customization, and will bring a big change to life. One can do shopping with a click and will not be restricted to time when stores open or close. (Leiss, et al., 334) Some of the things the textbook are already done like customization of production, one click instant shopping and finally not being constrained by old 9-to 5 routine, which means no time restriction. Not only time is not restricted, the location has been unrestricted by development of mobiles. Development of mobile made easy for people to participate whenever and wherever they feel like. Using this advantage of mobile advertising, Coca Cola invented the application. Once purchasing a coke, if one finds a code that is imprinted on the Coca Cola can, one just has to open the application and text the code. By texting more codes, the picture of a cub will be clearer.

Like other companies, Coca Cola started to use the medium for the advertisement: interactive.

“The Implication of interactive and digital television which would allow viewers to touch the screen and purchase the shirt that the celebrity on the screen is wearing, is a dream that computer manufacturers are currently working very hard to turn into reality ”(Leiss, et al., 346)

It is a not to the level where clicking the celebrity on screen leading to purchase the item; however, it started to happen. Coca Cola showed an augmented reality of polar bear that made people to feel as if they are in the arctic.

This type of ad is called interactive is because audiences interact with the advertisement. Recent years, there has been an increase in advertising in use of this type of medium. The reason there has been an increase, can be related to giving people a special moments and experience. “There is a strong affinity between modern advertising’s communicative modes and social framework for the personal experience of satisfaction and well-being in a consumer culture”(Leiss, et al., 233). Likewise, personal experience is getting more emphasis today. How do companies make the experience memorable, which can leads to the sale of the product? Currently, It is being done through interactive advertisement because they evoke more senses than traditional and usual ads through TV, radio or prints. TV ad evokes two out of five senses: vision and auditory. Radio ad only evokes auditory; print ad only evokes vision. However, interactive can evoke more than two to up to all five senses. In Arctic Home interactive ad, three senses were evoked: vision, auditory, and tactile, which means touching.

To celebrate the campaign, Coca Cola produced a limited edition Cokes.


Arctic Home Limited Edition Package

Apart from usual red can, Coca Cola made the special packaged Coke white. These limited edition cokes were placed to be sold in various places, including vending machines. The whole purpose of making limited edition was to make customers to feel special. “In conditions of modernity, where maintaining identity and individuality is an ongoing struggle, commodities are more often offered as a means of standing out from the crowd than standing in it”(Leiss, et al., 539). People usually have purchased luxury goods to stand out from the crowd. However, While all Coke packaging is same, having a special packaging on coca cola makes one a special person even without having high cultural capitals.

Since each of six mediums (TV, print, mobile, movie, interactive, and packaging) of advertisement is different from each other, six ads I analyzed was used different aspects of the medium and had different characteristics to each. Although different mediums have different aspect, six ads have successfully demonstrated the cause-related marketing in market 3.0; the main message of all six ads was to participate in the campaign so that Coca Cola can raise the fund for a good cause of helping polar bears in the Arctic.

Works Cited

“About Us.” WWF. 06 May 2013 <http://worldwildlife.org/about&gt;.

“Arctic Home.” Arctic Home. Coca Cola. 14 May 2013


“Arctic Film.” Arctic Home. Coca Cola. 07 May 2013


Dorrance, Sam. “WWF & Coca-Cola: Arctic Home.” Letter to Helen O’Neil. WWF & Coca-Cola: Arctic Home. 06 May 2013


Leiss, William, Jackie Botterill, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally. Social communication in advertising: Consumption in the mediated marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Littler, Jo. Radical consumption: Shopping for change in contemporary culture. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open UP//McGraw-Hill Education, 2009.


JeeIn Oh

Professor PS

May 15, 2013

Advertising and Society

Less Inch for Whom?

             As one of the most famous products of Kellogg, Special K product line contains cereal, snack bar, chips, and cracker that are designed to help reducing weight while still enjoying food. With the guidance for losing an inch or more in two weeks, Special K attempts to change the way consumers think about losing weight from painful experience to enjoyable and achievable goal through the 2012 “Defined by a Number” campaign, combined with the National Weigh-In Day Event and the Gains Project. Although the campaign seems to change consumers’ motivation in positive way, it is actually turning consumers’ attention from the very fundamental and unchanged ideology: you need to lose weight to be happy and successful.

The warm female voice in the commercial seems to sympathize with women’s exhaustiveness of losing weight. Yes, most females are always conscious about their weight, and fat-talk never ends. Although the primary message of the Special K commercial emphasizes the importance of a self and asks consumers not to be defined by a number, the commercial is actually forcing women to keep being uptight about their body shapes as reinforcing the stereotype at the same time: women have to be in shape. The “Defined by a number,” campaign is a brilliant advertising that successfully re-implanted the stereotype while consumers being unaware of. It could have failed if the campaign’s title was “Good Body, Happy Life,” although it is the very fundamental message that everyone is aware of and cries out for decades.

The campaign prioritizes the value of consumers’ self-identities, implying that the number on the scale should not be the one that forces them to lose weight, but the words such as “pride, confidence, or self-esteem” should be the ones that inspire them to pursue good body shape and ultimately, their happiness. However, the stereotype hidden under the touchy campaign can be discovered in “the study of how attitudes toward weight management impact on success,” promoted on the Special K’s official website (See the Figure 1). If the logic of wording is flipped, what the study indicates is “women who are happy with their body are more likely to be positive thinkers”.

Figure 1: Study Report

Figure 1

Figure 1

With the satisfaction of own body being associated with success in life by the study, the campaign is somewhat paradoxical; it implies that consumers will never succeed if they stay with their bodies while, at the same time, it emphasizes that the self-identity is the most important thing that it should not be measured by numbers. It is crucial to understand why female body became such significant object that determines lives of women in this modern society.

During the transition from traditional to industrial period, urbanization and mobility removed the traditional way of classifying social group so that people began to construct their identities through consumption choice. The idea of possessing a product that contains elite or high-class image would put consumers on the desirable social status as what Leiss called, “therapeutic ethos,” aroused as a cultural responses to the “erosion of social group,” (Leiss, et al., 74). Due to the increased desire to ascend one’s social level, “selling one-self,” became a “lifetime task” (Leiss, et al., 74). The desire for the better features and more possessions boosted the trend of making themselves look good to others, and the products that have “therapeutic,” impact began to dominate the market (Leiss, et al., 74); now that the better look of me is for others, not for myself. According to Bordo, the “contemporary women,” is required to have “control over others than the self,” which indicates that female body is so critical object to judge others (Bordo, 105). In addition, the “displacement of female by a male figure,” in a certain way implants the ideology that female’s weak appearance calls for men’s protection, and that is considered as “natural inclination,” and femininity (Bordo, 108).

Figure 2: Show Off Your Confidence

Show Off Your Confidence

Show Off Your Confidence

Special K introduces its product as a “therapeutic ethos,” that fulfills women’s desire (Leiss, et al., 74). Presenting its product in that way can be possible because female bodies are perceived as the most important display that puts them on the certain social status along with their possessions in these days; Kellogg is simply using it. Because of the fire of “selling one-self,” Special K resorts to turning its product into another form of “conspicuous consumption,” that Veblen discusses in his articles, “Conspicuous Leisure” and “Conspicuous Consumption”. Veblen argues that the ability to have leisure time and refined habits requires good amount of time and money, so that displaying his or her affordability is an “evidence,” of wealth in consumer society (Veblen, 34). Along with the physical possessions, female body became another form of the “evidence,” since having good body refers to the affordability of time and money to take care of their beauty (Veblen, 34). Thus, consuming Special K products indicates financially comfortable state enough to care about features other than just living: a mark of wealth.

Back to the campaign analysis the commercial, “Defined by a Number” has a significant role on inviting consumers to associate themselves with the positive images that the commercial gives out. As Goldman and Papson discuss that “ads’ story includes success, desire, happiness, and social fulfillment, and they always, appellate us, name us, and invite us to take up the position in relation to the advertisement,” Special K commercial drives consumers to view themselves in the ad as if defining by numbers is so painful so that it is right to push themselves with more credible and self-caring motifs (Goldman, Papson, 82). The real power of interpellation lies under the fact that it makes consumers take the ad’s message as their “own [already] ideological assumptions and personalities,” thus, the message is deeply embedded in consumers (Goldman, Papson, 82).

Commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1PL8f5X0UI

The commercial features from infant to mid-aged women, targeting wide span of female consumers and letting them share the weight anxiety through the entire life. From the early age, women get measured and defined by numbers on the scale. It makes them nervous all the time, but the smile on their face remarks confidence and happiness when they fit in pretty dress. In other words, the commercial is embedding the stereotype that only slim women are happy and confident, and not-slim women should be nervous. With several women in the ad who are not limited to Americans but globally featured from Hispanic to Asian verbalizing their pursuits in life– self-esteem, confidenza, strength, pride, courage, and spirit -, the commercial invites female consumers to follow those pursuits through losing weight and be part of the inspiration. The reflection of both anxiety and confidence in their body actually gives a choice to consumers to be happy or anxious. However, in reality, it is not an option for consumers because the ad is shaping and brainwashing everyone’s view on female body through the media. The ad ingeniously ends with emotional scene of a mother whispering to her baby, “beautiful” in order to restate its point as “the real beauty is in you, not on feature”, while capturing the “beautiful moment” instead of beautiful body. Alternate interpretation could be it is telling mothers not to hand over the number anxiety to their daughters by keeping their daughters in shape.

Event Footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rUDlYxyZHw

Figure 3: Twitter


The National Weigh-In Day Event was held in various locations across the United States in order to strengthen the association of good body with the aspects of success. The event information was spread through the social media, and the event was videotaped and published online. The National Weigh-In Day event is an example of cross media advertising that combined “guerrilla [marketing],” and “buzz” (Leiss, et al., 403). With the wide-spread impact of the commercial on TV, this street event was not designed to merely reach the people on the street but to generate a number of viewers online and ultimately create real buzz. The giant scale located in the public threatens the audiences, which reflects the fact that everyone is afraid of being judged by his or her weight. But instead of the number, the scale shows motivating words that people would like to achieve and pursue in life. The audiences are greatly satisfied with the result and filled with motivation to challenge for the better of self. While the documentary formant of the event approaches consumers with more objectivity and empathy through addressing that weight should not limit them, the underlying message is quite simple and critical: if you do not lose weight and make good body, you won’t achieve such goals. The impact of the event might seem insignificant in the first place as it only affects the people in the street, but uploading the footage is another way of “to appellate,” consumers because the online viewers are seeing the affected people and reflecting themselves (Veblen, 34).

As it is mentioned earlier, the view on the female body has been constructed and shaped through the media, and it is especially filtered by the male standard. In their article, “Commodity Feminism” Goldman, Heath, and Smith discuss how the male view other than women themselves affected the view of female body. Although the advertisers have set up new definition for women as independent and away from the male power since 1980s, the freedom from the male gaze is not true, and female body is still a symbol of femininity, defined as “attractiveness to men,[…] sexual availability on male terms” (MacKinnon, 530-531 in Goldman, 337); the definition indicates that male gaze is inevitable and inseparable to define women.

Figure 4: Confidence to stir things up

Figure 4

Along with the Figure 2, one of the posts from the Gains Project, the Figure 4, also asks women to lose weight to attain confidence. But it is important to think that from whom women getting examined and feeling secure. As the definition of femininity, the self-identity of women is determined by how attractive they are to men, and women become sexually vulnerable in that way. The expressions, “gain the confidence to stir things up,” or “show off your confidence,” do not imply the expectation of men, but it is true that those expressions are missing the objects in the sentence. Stir what things up? Or show off your confidence of your body to whom? The missing objects in the Gains Project posts implicitly take place in women’s perception and make them believe that “the confidence” comes from sexual beauty. Since the mass media in these days feature female body with “a code of poses, gestures, body cants and gazes,” too often, both male and female naturally accept and absorb it (Goldman, 337). Although Special K campaign has no indication of male gaze or femininity push, it is reinforcing the ideology along with the femininity.

Goldman explains the “commodity feminism,” as a “sign of independence […] and self-control,” that empowers the identity of women in society, and the Special K campaign could be considered the one (Goldman, 337). The entire campaign convinces women to move on from the number that male gaze imposes, but in reality, the whole thing is about just different wording of the stereotype and ideology. The ideology, “meaning made necessary by the conditions of our society while helping to perpetuate those conditions,” in this campaign is closely the critical relationship between female body and female’s success, and the “conditions,” for the ideology are thoroughly made (Goldman, Papson, 96); the confident smiles on the ad confirms the perpetuation of that ideology, and the missing objects in the posts disguise the ugly truth of it. A number of similar ads already made the world think that ideology is normal and right, and Kellogg just needed to deceive consumers with more plausible words in order to sell its products (Goldman, Papson, 96). Special K’s “Defined by a Number” campaign truly succeeded in disguising the perpetuation of femininity as the promotion of commodity feminism; for Kellogg, women have to be defined by the number. The question is still left unanswered. What will we gain when we lose? The answer would be, the self-identity for others, and the self-identity for us. So, less inch for whom?

Words: 2031

Work Cited

The Commercial

: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1PL8f5X0UI

The Event Footage

: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rUDlYxyZHw

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

Veblen, Thorstein. “”The Theory of the Leisure Class”” Journal of Political Economy 8.1 (1899): 106. Print.

Goldman, Robert, Deborah Heath, and Sharon L. Smith. “Commodity Feminism.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 8.3 (1991): 333-51. Print.

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” (1996): n. pag. Print

Borado. “Hunger as Idology.” (n.d.): n. pag. Print


Since its rebranding by cosmetics conglomerate L’Oreal in early 2004, “Garnier Fructis” has established itself as a brand that exudes freedom and youthfulness, promotes glossy, fortified hair, and advocates for a greener planet. These themes are made immediately apparent just with the packaging of their products: TerraCycle-able bottles, golden halos, and green leaves are some of the many carefully constructed tools used to create a strong brand identity. For the purposes of this analysis, we will analyze their newest line, Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean,” to evaluate the company’s brand and discuss the ways in which it appeals to its target market as a whole. This curation aims to provide an analysis of the Pure Clean campaign as one that targets “Generation X” using strategies of guerilla marketing, cool hunting, commodity feminism, and cause-related marketing. Through this analysis, we may begin to understand the strategies Garnier Fructis implements with regards to the “Pure Clean” campaign to successfully attract its consumers.

As is illustrated in the advertisement below, Garnier Fructis’s “Pure Clean” brand consists of five products: shampoo, conditioner, smoothing cream, gel, and wax, a diverse line that generates appeal for both women and men. We will begin with conducting a semiotic analysis of this print advertisement, in order to extract the connotative meanings behind the denotative image. Semiotics, or the study of signs, is used to interpret an image based on our cultural and social experiences within a society. According to Leiss et al. in Social Communications in Advertising, questions to ask when conducting a semiotic analysis include finding the signifiers in the ad, and what they signify, what meanings are assigned to the product as a result, and what social values the ad promotes (Leiss et al, 164). Reading these ads in the “age of accelerated meaning,” we accept that advertisers have drawn upon our experiences and the signs we encounter to create new meanings that “detach from signifieds and reattach to other signifieds” (Goldman, Papson, 87). We can find examples of these ‘neo-signifieds’ in the advertisement below.

Garnier pure clean full line and blonde

We see that the campaign has drawn upon certain “knowns” that we are familiar with- simple images like trees, sunlight, even fish- and reassigned their meanings to fit the narrative of healthy shampoo. At the topmost part of the ad we see a bold, green phrase: “LOVE THE EARTH, (and) YOUR HAIR.” The new “Pure Clean” line does not simply encourage environmental friendliness, it commands it. Through the vibrant shades of green and excitable punctuation, the statement compels the audience to care for the earth as much as Garnier Fructis does, and sets the stage so that the advertising and imagery that follows fits into this narrative. To the right of this phrase is the goldfish, which seems to be floating in the air. Upon further research and examination, it appears that Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean” is telling us that their new shampoo formula is so eco-friendly, the water from our shower runoff would be clean enough for a goldfish to swim in. The playful imagery presented in the advertisement for “Pure Clean” is characteristic of the Garnier Fructis brand as a whole, which embodies ideals such environmentalism and youthfulness- two themes that will be further dissected throughout this analysis. We see additional signifiers of the youthful appeals that the campaign attempts to make from the link in the far right corner of the ad: “Take the Pure Clean Pledge [on Facebook],” which sits right above a Caucasian, young woman with voluminous blonde hair. This direct link to social media, in addition to the other symbols in the ad, give us clues as to what the demographic that the Pure Clean is attempting to target: one that is young, environmentally conscious, predominantly female, and digitally savvy (see the Garnier USA Facebook page below).

Pure Clean FB image 1

Screenshot by User

Through our semiotic analysis of the advertisement above, we as the audience have been interpellated, or hailed to, in a number of ways through a variety of themes. There is the overarching theme of environmentalism, where Garnier invites us as their guests into a greener world. There is the direct appeal to Generation X, through imagery and links to social media outlets which the brand knows us to be familiar with. And of course, as with the overwhelming majority of consumer goods in the beauty industry, there is a direct appeal to women and what the definitions of “beauty” are, as encapsulated by the concept of commodity feminism as outlined by authors Goldman, Heath, and Smith.  By conducting this short semiotic analysis, it will be easier to expand upon each of these themes in detail below, as they relate to both the “Pure Clean” campaign and to the Garnier Fructis brand as a whole.

Appeals to “Generation X”

As outlined by media scholars William Leiss et al. in the Social Communication in Advertising, “Generation X” was the youth market detected in the late 1980’s that defied consumption as it was presented in previous generations and eras (464). “Generation X” was especially hard to appease because it required advertisers to completely revamp all past marketing strategies and break free from clichéd promotional practices to engage this new cohort. Since its coinage in the 1980’s “Generation X” is a term that has evolved to encompass various subgroups of tastes, cultures, and lifestyles. Leiss and others state that “Gen Xers were more educated than any other generation before them; they were “weaned on” television and pop culture…and were very comfortable with the emerging technologies of computers and the Internet” (470). The overwhelming majority of advertisements we see today for this cohort targets these very same concepts, and the Pure Clean commericla is no exception.


From the commercial above, we can establish some overarching themes that make the “Pure Clean” campaign relatable to the lowest common denominator of people within the “Gen X” cohort. In the ad, we see a blonde girl fresh out of the shower and very much upset about her hair-care experience, followed by a boy in a similar pose with a likely similar struggle. The dull, black and white backgrounds parallel the notion that other shampoos will leave your hair feeling limp and lifeless. However, once Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean” is introduced, the entire experience in the following scene is immediately transformed into one that is lively, vibrant, and exciting. This falls directly in line with Goldman and Papson’s claim that advertising in the age of accelerated meaning bring with it a “creation of manifest emotive moods of freedom from the mundane and the everyday” (464). Garnier epitomizes this kind of carefree living, and conducts extensive market research to capitalize on lifestyle trends such as these. Indeed, as media scholar Naomi Klein states, “Cool, alternative, young, hip…was the perfect identity for product-driven companies to become transcendent image-based brands” (68). Garnier Fructis has used this strategy consistently and effectively to appeal to our generation and establish itself as a brand that young consumers can really connect with.

As the definition of “cool” changes by the millisecond, it appears that in our day in age, it is cool to care about the environment, and to frolic in fields of green. The advertisement is a refreshing break from the mundane routines of our day-to-day lives, offering a window into a brighter, more festive world. As with the idea of the “therapeutic ethos,” where goods are meant to fulfill a remedial need in consumer’s lives, using this shampoo and thinking about issues like the environment with friends is a means by which “Gen Xers” can attain a happier place, both for their earth and their hair (Leiss et. al, 74).

Guerilla Marketing

Moving for a moment outside of the “Pure Clean” campaign specifically, Garnier Fructis as a holistic brand has used various “cool hunting” strategies to channel its brand through a number of different portals.

Taken by User

Taken by User

The image above depicts a giant, green truck for the HeadHunter College Tour, co-sponsored by VICE Music Channel and Garnier Fructis. The tour will feature a “full-size tour bus that will travel across the U.S., hosting live auditions at each stop to find a male and female host of HEADHUNTER.  HEADHUNTER, a 6-episode series launching this summer on Style Stage, will feature the two hosts as they visit music festivals and events nationwide this spring and summer in search of the newest emerging hair and style trends” (PRNewswire).  The tour depicts Garnier Fructis as a company that is attune to the beat of Generation X, using mass adolescent appeals to music and style to infiltrate youth culture from a myriad of angles.

This particular strategy echoes the concept of “guerilla marketing,” an advertising strategy that involves a corporation implementing unconventional techniques to target specific niches in a market segment (Leiss, et.al, 333). Of course, Garnier Fructis’ sponsorship of the HeadHunter tour is not a direct parallel to guerilla marketing, per se, (as they are not furtively handing out shampoo bottles on the street); however, we see the giant, green truck to be symbolic of the brand identity that Garnier hopes to establish within their consumers. We understand their support of music festivals, individualism, and youth style to be an ode to the ideals of their own brand. These conscious and subconscious appeals offer a reaffirmation of Garnier’s brand identity, and are what ultimately propels a consumer to a purchase.

Commodity Feminism

Here, we can hone into another type of consumer within Generation X that Garnier Fructis aims to target: The Girls

Garnier collageWithin Garnier Fructis’ strategy of invoking emotive appeals of freedom, rebellion, and equality throughout Generation X as a whole, there are clear indicators for attracting the company’s predominantly female consumer base. The same rebelliousness and liberty can be channeled specifically to young girls as a means to invoke “girl power” and “feminism” within every consumer. This concept of exploiting the feminist movement purely for promotional purposes- better known as commodity feminism is a marketing tool used by companies to gain leverage within a target female consumer base. But media critics Goldman, Heath, and Smith point out that this marketing tool is not a recent invention; “There is nothing new in entrepreneurs trying to appropriate the legitimacy of a popular oppositional social movement and transforming those meanings into symbolic currency- by now we are all witness to scores of ads that feature glib ideological grafts of feminist rationality onto the assumptions of consumption” (Goldman, Heath, Smith, 334). We can see commodity feminism manifested through a number of beauty commercials, but most especially in Garnier ads; the company does not simply incorporate the notion of hair-care as a whole as ‘feminist,’ but exploits the ideals of freedom, liberty, and revolution as part of their brand identity- the very tenets in which feminism is grounded.

The real irony lies in the fact that these corporations often promote the very anti-feminist values they claim to eradicate. Both images above are of thin, Caucasian women who flaunt soft, voluminous heads of hair. As authors Josee Johnstron and Judith Taylor write in their Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists, “Feminist scholarship and activism since the 1970’s have critiqued oppressive beauty standards that repress women’s freedom, inhibit personal power and self-acceptance, and promote a destructive relationship with the body” (944). But the images in advertisements do just the opposite; granted, they make us believe that we are in complete control of our freedom and our decisions, and that buying products like Garnier Fructis will empower us to be stronger, more confident women.  However, portraying consumption in this manner does nothing to address the various demographics of women or their individual body types and hair-care needs; rather such commodity feminism singles out one hegemonic representation of women and obfuscates the very real issues of feminism as a sociopolitical movement.

Environmentalism and Cause-related Marketing

Our last point of discussion for the “Pure Clean” campaign ties back into the appeals to environmentalism that the brand makes through its claims of eco-friendly products.  As I have alluded to earlier in this analysis, capitalizing on the green movement is a common trend for corporations in various industries, and the beauty industry is no exception. Everything from the logo of the “Pure Clean” brand to the words used to describe it (“for a greener, cleaner world”) attest to what Jo Littler describes as cause-related marketing. This marketing strategy is employed as a means for corporations to “create a positive image for their brand and create emotional ties with consumers based on cosmopolitan caring and integrity” (30). Garnier Fructis exhibits CRM to some degree by partnering with TerraCycle to create more sustainable goods. The difference between cause-related marketing as a means of donating certain profits of a company to a non-profit cause and marketing of Garnier Fructis, is that the latter does not support any given organization with its calls to environmentalism. Furthermore, Garnier makes the claim to remove certain harsh chemicals from their “Pure Clean” line but does not address the other ingredients that may be cause for additional concern. As such, we can see that these rather empty appeals to a greener world work to build brand value rather than bolster a true cause-related marketing campaign. For Garnier Fructis’ purposes, however, it seems that their contributions to the green movement are embodied in their biodegradable shampoo bottles and paraben-free formula; perhaps raising awareness of environmental issues is enough for their purposes.

Pure Clean Terracycle Adgarnier_image_ch7

Based off of the analysis for Garnier Fructis’ “Pure Clean” line, we can see prevalent marketing strategies that are implemented by the company to convey brand identity, which in turn, builds brand loyalty. The “Pure Clean” campaign capitalizes on “Generation X” as a prime target market, and within that market, young women who are used perpetuate the idea of commodity feminism. Additionally, a large portion of their campaign focuses on “greenness” and the environment, which ties into strategies like cause-related marketing and environmentalism.  These distinct appeals within their marketing agenda work fluidly to form one holistic brand image that connotes youthfulness, freedom, coolness, and environmental activism.


Works Cited

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” Sign Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Advertising. New York: Guilford, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Goldman, Robert, Deborah Heath, and Sharon L. Smith. “Commodity Feminism.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 8.3 (1991): 333-51. Print.

Johnston, Josée, and Judith Taylor. “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists: A Comparative Study of Grassroots Activism and the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33.4 (2008): 941-66. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Alt Everything.” No Logo. London: Flamingo, 2001. N. pag. Print.

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

Littler, Jo. “Cosmopolitan Caring.” Radical Consumption: Shopping for Change in Contemporary Culture. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open UP//McGraw-Hill Education, 2009. N. pag. Print.

In ten short years, Slim Fast, the weight loss product’s, $2 billion brand shrunk to $200 million. In need of a revamp, Slim Fast hired the Manhattan based ad agency, “The Bull-White House” for help. As they described in their case study of the ad campaign they designed, entitled “Get What You Really Want,” they approached the challenge with “two radical goals”: “drag Slim Fast into the 21st century—and force women’s reappraisal of the brand.” The result: an ad campaign that’s attention-grabbing hook is sexual gratification. As they establish, through the commercials, print ads, and online polls and forms, what you really want is sex. However, in doing so, the campaign set itself up for an ideological trap. The premise, getting what you really want, assumes that they know what we really want. The Slim Fast campaign’s discursive nature, one that writes in for you what you really want, commodifies desire and constructs a powerless consumer dependent on sexual validation.

Weight loss products belong to a specific market of female products that contribute to the feminine culture of consumerism. In a market where all products are designed to alter or shape physical repercussions, the way those products are communicated to the female consumer shape and create standards of beauty. In Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activism, Josee Johnston and Judith Taylor compare the discursive contributions of two ad campaigns in their construction of beauty. They acknowledge “ideology is a useful tool for feminists interested in understanding how ideas enable and preclude possibilities for transformative change” (994). This product was designed for, literally, change—changing your physical shape. It is almost unfair not to imagine the ideological repercussions without persecuting the mere invention of this product. Yet, as it aims to change, it redefines ideals of beauty.

In the Slim Fast ad campaign, without a weight loss product, you cannot achieve that change or be considered beautiful because of things you really want. In the 3rd commercial from the campaign entitled “Lights On,” the protagonist wants to “just look good naked.” She follow with, “two kids ago, I was doing the reverse cowgirl naked.” She does not feel comfortable because she cannot do something. She is held back and her beauty is defined by what she cannot do. Similarly, in their online polls one of the “Oh Shit Moments” that motivates you to “get what you really want”, is “getting a traffic ticket instead of just a warning.” She cannot flirt her way out of it, but not because she is not a good flirt…the traffic ticket becomes a punishment for not being beautiful enough, not a traffic violation. These women are in constant lack; they lack what it takes to be beautiful. Women who are not on slim fast are limited by the things they want to do but cannot do. The campaign never looks to define beauty as a definite thing; it can be either achievable or unachievable (a want.) “Getting What You Really Want” makes beauty into something forever elusive, allowing the diet industry to market the struggle indefinitely. The campaign does not define beauty but rather taunts you with it and in doing so positions the consumer in a submissive state. The female consumer is never whole; but there is a solution! Slim Fast. Slim Fast will provide you with the change you need to achieve your wants.


However, there is a pattern to the wants, they are all sexually driven. She is not whole because she isn’t sexy, appealing enough. Slim Fast ads are not just shaping beauty but creating a sexually attractive female. The ads are creating a sexual being however, by suppressing another. These women aren’t whole, beautiful and sexy, because they are fat. Fat bodies are “reviled as asexual, out of control, or morally repugnant” (945). Fat bodies aren’t legitimate sexual subjects because they can’t desire. However, Slim Fast plays around with this notion. In their ads, the thing that is motivating the women to lose the weight is their desire for sex. In the first print ad, the silhouette wants her “jeans to go on easier” but also for them to “come off easier.” These fat women aren’t asexual and in fact want sex, but they cannot have it until they become thinner. There is a reward for losing weight and that is sex, but you can not have it until you accomplish one thing: taking control of your life and using Slim Fast. That means that the women hold all the power in controlling their fate, right?  



[print ad 1; speech bubble/whisper bubble]



[print ad 2, speech bubble/whisper bubble]

Sexuality becomes a reward. In “Hunger as Ideology,” Susan Bordo writes, “it is the created image that has the hold on your most vibrant, immediate sense of what is, of what matters, of what we must pursue for ourselves” (104). The campaign creates a fantasy for their consumers. Consumers of Slim Fast are sexy and get sex. They have accomplished their goal simply by using the product. Like the of the Dove campaign in the “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activist,” there is a “social imperative to feel beautiful” (Johnston and Taylor, 945), to use the product. She feels as if will be accomplishing something that she wants to pursue for herself. It’s central to any good advertising campaign is incepting the need within the audience that they need this product for themselves. The consumer now derives their self-value from their sex appeal and so the Slim Fast campaign creates a need to desire and become sexy. However, although it instills this need onto the consumer, how does it legitimize it?

The Slim Fast campaign works to deconstruct the stigma around a weight loss product by deconstruction the stigma behind reasons a consumer might want one. “The objects we acquire, display, or simply admire are powerful medium for the circulation of messages about ourselves to others, and for learning the forms of expression for social interactions. ‘Man speaking to man through the medium of things’ ” (252, Leiss et al) –but is a weight loss product something to be consumed conspicuously? Not generally. However, that’s ok for Slim Fast because they are creating a product not to feel shame about—the only thing you feel shame about is your body, not the product! Norming the practice of weight loss; instilling the idea that it is something that every woman wants to achieve. Slim Fast promotes conspicuous consumption and open communication about the product. In the commercials, the women are always communicating with other women, telling them this is why I want to lose the weight. In the print ads, the silhouettes of women tell the female reader, via speech bubble, what she wants. The words are put in mouths of women. On their website, there is a forum posting and communicating how and why they use the product. Legitimizing the product begins with legitimizing that the consumer should feel like this is what they really want. To do so, Slim Fast creates a consumption community surrounding the product.

A consumption community, as defined by scholar Daniel Boorstin, is a group of people “who have a feeling of shared well-being, shared risks, common interests and common concerns that come from consuming the same kinds of objects” (22).  More than just consuming the product, you are consuming the idea of “you’re not alone.” Consumption communities stress “the attractiveness of the community, not just the desirability of the product” (Liess, et al., 148 ). Wanting to belong to the community, and talk within that community, is in itself a form of salesmanship in advertising (Leiss, et al., 69). The consumer promotes the product on her own and once she is encouraged to use it by her fellow members, she can encourage other woman, outside the community, to use it. Slim Fast illuminates a symbiotic relation between the community and the consumer. The community legitimizes the desire for the product but the consumer, by buying it the community, legitimizes the community. However, the community Slim Fast creates perpetuates a particular ideology that restricts the members’ self-expression.


[polls that show audience for each answer]


A particular ideology is centric to the community: self-improvement to regain sexuality. The collective consensus reflected in the ads and online polls perpetuate that the members of the community, the consumers, are driven just by their sexual desires. One identity emerges as collective from the Slim Fast community and it becomes more than a consumption community but a collective community defined by a collective identity. The polls create this collective community around the campaign, like a collective campaign similarly to the women of the PPO who performed a “piece” called “Move It Fatty.” In the performance “in which the girl‐gang comes to the rescue” solidifies the “significance of female friendship.” It builds “solidarity and community” but also, “import[s] a feminist politic and a therapeutic effect”(Johnston and Taylor, 949). In the Slim Fast ad campaign, the therapeutic effect of self-confidence through sex assigns a collective identity to that community. Belonging to the community means prescribing to that identity. It binds the consumers to the reasons given to them by that community. Although they have agency to belong to that community and power to take control of their lives to use Slim Fast, do the reasons really belong to them? Is that what you really want?

Slim Fast constructs these “wants,” constructing you. Susan Bordo spends much of her essay “Hunger as Ideology” discussing the subjective relationship advertisements create between the consumer and food. The female consumer’s consumption of food is always contextualized in terms of sexuality. A woman’s “hunger for food is employed solely as a metaphor for their sexual appetite” (116). For the Slim Fast campaign, as in any weight loss campaign, hunger and food are the problem, they cause the weight problem, and their product comes up with a solution: controlling your hunger. But if food is a metaphor for sex, as hunger is for sexual appetite, what you are hungry for is not food but sex. Bordo writes, “a slender body may be attainable through hard work, but a ‘cool’ relation to food, the true ‘secret’ of the ‘other’ is a tantalizing reminder of what lies beyond the reach of the inadequate self” (103). The true secret in Slim Fast is the product; to achieve a full self and an adequate self–in the case of the campaign, a sexual self–you have to control your appetite. However, if what you are hungry for is sex but sex is what is supposed to motivate you, how do you assert that control over something that controls you? To be seen as that full self you have to be acknowledged as being sexy. “Body and sexuality emerge as coincidental signs: The body is something you shape, control and dress to validate yourself as an autonomous being capable of will power and discipline; and sexuality appears as something women exercise by choice” (Goldman, 388). If you want to be sexy you have to have control, yet even after you exercise control, you have to be validated as sexy. The women in the ads want to become objects of desire. What they really want is to lose weight “to look hot undressed,” be the hottest “MILF”,mom, in her area code. They desire being desired. Yet those desires are imposed on these women. The Slim Fast campaign employs commodity fetishism to project those desires upon the woman by associating them to the product. The product moves past its function. It’s not only the “things you produce but the feelings and affections they stimulated and challenged.” (Leiss, et al., 282). The feelings and affections associated to the Slim Fast product are ones of dependence and a need for validation. The consumer is dependent on the product to feel whole again. What they desire isn’t food or sex but the control the Slim Fast product promises to afford them. What they desire is sold to them in bottle, nutrition bar, or candy form. If they ever want control, they have to buy.

The Slim Fast campaign more than permeates ideologies and construction of beauty. Selling the female consumer her own potential, the person she could be, Slim Fast turns the woman into the product. Slim Fast drink or bar can’t give “pleasure” like sex, but rather the “satisfaction” that it might lead to sex. In Social Communication and advertising, satisfaction “is a state of being, whereas pleasure is a ‘quality of experience’ Pleasure can also be simulated through dreaming and thinking in a way that satisfaction cannot” (Leiss, et al., 311). The Slim Fast individual needs satisfaction to achieve her goal, the heavier women’s feelings are actually irrelevant if they don’t relate to wanting, desiring the end goal of weight loss. Slim Fast is creating and positioning women into desiring pleasure, ultimately relegating women to just seekers of pleasure. Removing the complex motivation for wanting to reshape their body or anything, woman just was pleasure. They would do whatever they need, not “really want” to attain it.

By turning a satisfied desire into something the consumer can buy, they are turning the consumer into the product.  The imperative to become that person is so strong because the potential persona they have created–one that is validated both by a consumption community and sexuality–isn’t whole until they use Slim Fast. Taunting women to wonder: how much do you believe in yourself to lose the weight? “You” is what you desire. You are buying into you. What you really want is you, the Slim Fast you. “What you really want” is Slim Fast.


 Johnston, Josée, and Judith Taylor. “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists: A Comparative Study of Grassroots Activism and the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33.4 (2008): 941-66. Print.

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

Bordo, Susan. “Hunger as Ideology.” Discourses and Conceptions of the Body (n.d.): 99-134. Print.

 Heath, Deborah, and Sharon Smith. “Commodity Feminism.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication. By Robert Goldman. London: Routledge, 1991. 333-51. Print.

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Americans, the Democratic Experience. New York: Random House, 1973. 22. Print.


Kareen Abi Rafeh


Ad agency BBDO, New York launched M&M’s “Better with M” campaign earlier this year in an effort to incorporate the candy into the M&M consumer’s everyday moments. Roy Benin, Chief Consumer Officer, Mars Chocolate North America explains, “‘Better With M’ showcases how M&M’S irresistible chocolate makes moments more fun and delicious. The ‘Better With M’ story is delivered through our colorful spokes candies, whose irresistible chocolate always makes moments even better – be they watching the Super Bowl, baking cookies, gathering the family together for a movie or even tailgating” (PR News Wire). The 13 million dollar campaign features television spots, print and digital ads, in-store displays, social media incentives, a Super Bowl commercial, and a massive cause-related marketing effort. Looking at various aspects of the campaign, M&M takes an integrated approach and utilizes advertising techniques from personification to personalization to create a unique marketing experience that speaks to a wide range of customers.

In an attempt to position M&M candies as an everyday commodity that can easily fit into life’s everyday moments, the chocolate company has the obstacle of trying to reach a very large audience that occupies a range of lifestyles. Mars is able to successfully mobilize a large demographic that encompasses everyone from mothers to fathers to teenagers to grandparents by effectively building a relationship with each and every consumer. The “concern for the stylistic integrity of branded products” lends way to a tactic known as personification, in which M&M utilizes to reach its consumers (Leiss et all 138).  The “Better with M” campaign gives life to its chocolate candies – each color with its own personality – as a tool to appeal to all types of consumers. Customers can meet the personalities of each candy on the M&M webpage and take quizzes to find out which color matches their personality.


The stylish and glamorous Mrs. Brown is the brain behind the company, acting as the CCO (Chief Chocolate Officer) of Mars Chocolate. Mrs. Brown was unveiled earlier this year and has since been the star in many of the recent campaigns (making her worldwide debut in the 2013 “Devour” commercial) where her sexy glasses and high-heeled Marc Jacobs pumps speak to the independent female consumer. Next, there is Red, who claims to be “30 something with a genius I.Q and physical prowess.” He has the best of both worlds and therefore attracts the young professional male consumer. Yellow appeals to the younger crowd as he is “in touch with his inner child” and likes “pretty ladies and fluffy things.” Blue exudes confidence and enjoys “moonlight nights and jazz” as an emblem for the older demographic. Green represents the upper class female female, as her personality is intimidating and sassy. She prefers her candlelit dinner to be in Paris, and when asked about her best attribute she responds saying, “Honey, I can’t even choose. That’s your job.” Lastly, there’s Orange who is constantly stressed and doesn’t eat or sleep and represents the parental consumer base. By giving each and every color candy their own personality, M&M successfully leverages a very wide audience of consumers: “America’s favorite spokes candies, the fun and colorful M&M’S Characters, will come together to reinforce that “M” has always been the symbol of irresistible chocolate and to suggest new usage seasons and occasions including birthdays, back-to-school and baking, just to name a few” (M&M Press Kit).

By bringing the bright colored candies (and personalities) to the forefront of the campaign, M&M takes on a lifestyle format that speaks to a variety of customers. The lifestyle format combines elements of personalized and product-image formats and “immortalizes the trivial moments that tell consumers the appropriate social occasions for consumption” (Leiss et all 195). These advertisements place a product in conjunction with various leisure activities and within a consumption style that shows consumers how/where to use a product (Leiss et all 194). M&M implements this strategy in a variety of its campaigns, but it’s most prominent in the “Love Ballad” commercial that aired during the 2013 Super Bowl.

With over 108 million Americans watching the championship football game, “Love Ballad” gives life to the M&M brand. The spot features Red playing the piano and singing Meatloaf’s song “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” Red interacts with a pretty brunette – holding her shopping bags, painting her nails, etc. but when the “I won’t do that” section of the song comes in, Red resists any activity that involves eating him – baking, licking, cooking. Who can blame him? “Love Ballad” exemplifies the lifestyle format that Leiss et al describes and consequently the very goal of the campaign – fitting the crunchy chocolate into life’s everyday moments, whether shopping or watching the Super Bowl. M&M creatively uses slogans, personification, and association in order to establish product identity in this commercial. The red M&M is brought to life and characterized with a unique voice, name, and personality. The commercial also uses association – images of the beach, shopping, cooking, watching movies with friends – in order to link the candy with pleasant experiences, as well as everyday activities (Leiss et all 139). At the end of the commercial, the slogan “Chocolate is better with M” comes in with hash tag #betterwithmms at the bottom of the screen. By inserting the hash tag in the commercial spot, it’s clear that M&M is attempting to launch a fully integrated campaign, blurring the lines between their television, digital and social efforts.

The signs found in advertising are used to structure and “boost the value of commodity brand names by attaching them to images that possess social and cultural value” (Goldman and Papson 81). In other words, signs are used to illustrate that ideologies and values of a brand’s consumers. Social Communication of Advertising, writes, “Semiotics highlights the way that we ourselves take part in the creation of meaning in messages, suggesting that we are not mere bystanders in the advertising process, but participants in creating a code that unites the designer and reader” (Leiss et al 164). Advertisers depend on these signs in order to communicate a point quickly and effectively to consumers.


In this particular M&M print advertisement, the signifiers include a library setting where each M&M personality is stripped of their color. By stripping each candy of their color, the advertisement signifies a sense of cohesiveness and is able to penetrate a large audience. Each M&M color targets a different type of consumer with their unique personality, but this advertisement illustrates that underneath it all each M&M (and everyone) is the same. M&M sets up this narrative to assign meaning to a chocolate candy: “sign values are constructed out of meaning, they must be articulated with reference to another system of value – a meaning system that is external to, and different from the product” (Goldman and Papson 89). This idea speaks to the campaign’s goal of incorporating M&M’s into the everyday moments of people. It doesn’t matter which M&M color the consumer identifies with, the candies characterize a sense of unity and togetherness. This particular representation promotes a normative view of the world that disguises and suppresses inequalities and showcases everyone as equal. M&Ms are candies for everyone and because no person is left out of their narrative, everyone can have equal access to this world of chocolate (Goldman and Papson).

The launch of the “Better with M” campaign prompted a more interactive online effort by Mars. Through contests, promotions, and digital advertisements, the candies take center stage as M&M successfully leverages all facets of the fully integrated campaign. The goal? M&M’s Press Kit states, “The 360° plan will [help] drive consumer awareness and engagement.” Each status post on Facebook comes from a different M&M personality and unites all marketing efforts. With Internet campaigns and strategies, there is an “emphasis on ‘pull’ and creativity, as audiences are provided the opportunity to engage with the message instead of simply enduring it” (Leiss at all 345). Through Facebook, customers opt to click on posts that are of interest to them based on the M&M personality posting. For instance, Mrs. Brown promotes the campaigns cause-related marketing effort when she asks fans “This weekend, I pledge my time to help M’Prove America and Habitat for Humanity Will you join me?while Orange urges fans to follow the M&M Instagram page.

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 9.12.46 AM

What makes the M&M social media experience unique is the fact that the product is the one communicating with the consumers. Personification has been a tactic used by advertisers for many years, but now, Twitter and Facebook allow for a new aspect of this function. As exemplified by the M&M Twitter and Facebook account, Mars is one of the first companies to take advantage of this social media affordance. When Ms. Brown was introduced to the public in earlier this year, she tweeted “Well behaved women seldom make history” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich “Making history is easy when you’re the original milk chocolate.” Each M&M has their own Twitter handle and tweets according to their personality using the hash tag #betterwithmms to connect its customers.

Twitter Brown

Twitter Red

As Mark Andrejevic argues in “Productive Play 2.0: The Logic of In-Game Advertising,” the web’s version of consumption is interactivity where the consumer may be active, but their activity can be “captured, channeled, and directed” (Andrejevic 70). While Andrejevic focuses on online video games, his ideas about interactivity can be applied to M&M’s online presence. M&M engages with its customers by using its social media pages to leverage promotions and contests. For example, one particular promotion encourages consumers to be on the lookout for a bag of M&M’s with all black “M’s” for a chance to win $100,000 dollars. As the M&M Press Kit states, the black “M” symbol was printed on the candies in the brand’s early days, so this promotion honors that legacy. Consumers also have the ability to text the unique under-the-wrapper code for a chance to win from more than $225,000 dollars in instant prizes. A return text will immediately notify the consumer if he/she has won and will link them to Facebook so they can continue the conversation with other M&M customers. By using multiple platforms, there is a unique interactive component that combines the digital, physical and mobile space. Social media enables users to build a community in which they can chat and connect, and M&M capitalizes on this affordance. It is interesting to note, that even though M&M strives to make each customer feel like an individual, the company makes a large effort to connect each individual – urging customers to interact online.

FB Page

In conjunction with the “Better with M” campaign, M&M launched its biggest cause-related marketing effort in company history. The brand teamed up with Habitat for Humanity – an organization dedicated to building affordable housing  – and promotes the organization and their mission on its web page and social media platforms. In “RED is the New Black: Brand Culture, Consumer Citizenship and Political Possibility” authors Sarah Banet-Weiser and Charlotte Lapsansky explore the relationship between consumer and brand, specifically looking at how this relationship changes with varying levels of political, social, and civic participation. The authors write cause-related marketing campaigns are “illustrative of the ways that brand culture, defined as the complex set of arrangements, artifacts, and messages created and distributed by marketers to consumers in global society, is in a state of flux at this historical moment” (1249 Banet-Weiser Lapsansky).


M&M’s cause-related campaign exemplifies these changes with two initiatives  “America Better with M” and “M-Prove America.” The former aims to provide funding for Habitat for Humanity by offering limited edition red, white and blue M&Ms (to be launched May-August) and donating $250,000 of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Secondly, “M-Prove America” was launched as an effort to revitalize the M&M community where M&M’s enlist Americans to pledge 1.5 million volunteer minutes at Habitat for Humanity job sites around the country. M&M incentivizes participation via a Facebook app where users can pledge up to 8 hours of their time to volunteer. M&M urges customers to take pictures, post about their day and encourage friends to do the same.  By utilizing social media to capitalize on its cause-related marketing, M&M allows consumers to actively engage in efforts to make the world a better place.  Banet-Weiser and Lapsansky writes, “Contemporary marketers deploy new strategies as a way to both recognize and exploit changing identities, resulting in an increasingly more sophisticated and complicated exchange between the consumer and the brand in a shifting cultural environment” (1250 Banet-Weiser Lapsansky). While this exchange could be more complicated, as Banet-Weiser and Lapsansky argue, it could also be more beneficial and effective with hyper social segments (e.g. teens, young adults, etc.).

As exemplified through M&M’s various advertising efforts, the chocolate brand makes a great attempt to not only personify their product, but represent various facets of their consumer base. Media images and messages have important influences on people’s identity formation, and by targeting such a large cross-section of society, the “Better with M” campaign takes into account consumer diversity and makes M&Ms available to (almost) all. As I conclude my analysis, I wonder – what demographic segments are missing from the picture? The brand takes into account the social and cultural constitution of consumers, including class, age, gender, personal history (but not sexuality, race, or religion) in an attempt to be as diverse as possible. Giving the LGBT community their own M&M color and personality would be a huge milestone. As Larry Gross writes in “A Niche of Our Own,” “To be ignored by advertising is a powerful form of symbolic annihilation, but to be represented in the commercial universe is an important milestone on the road to full citizenship in the republic of consumerism” (233 Gross). I wonder though – how would M&M create a gay personality without falling victim to stereotypes? This would be tough as the gay community is far from homogenous, however, M&M’s could be features as “buddies” or  “roommates” by straight audiences, but as gay to same sex couples. This tactic, known as “gay vague” would not offend straight audiences, or even alert homophobic audiences. However, if M&M’s really wanted to push the envelope though, they could do a “Show Your Colors” campaign showcasing its bright rainbow colored candies.

Work Cited

Andrejevic, Mark. “Productive Play 2.0: The Logic of In-Game Advertising.” Media International Austrialia 30 (2009): 66-76.

Banet-Wesier, Sarah, and Charlotte Lapsansky. “Red Is the New Black: Brand Culture, Consumer Citizenship and Political Possibility.” International Journal of Communication 2 (2008): 1248-268.

Gross, Larry. “A Niche of Our Own.” Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America. New York City: Columbia UP, 2001. N. pag.

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

Papson, Stephan. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” The Consumer Society Reader. By Robert Goldman. New York: New, 2000. 81-97. Print.

Officially established in 1984, Virgin Atlantic is a 29-year-old airline created by the eccentric visionary Richard Branson. Upon experiencing what Branson deemed an “unpleasant flight”, Branson took the initiative to create “the kind of airline that people would like to fly.” Thus, with the name “Virgin” and a bright red color scheme, Virgin Atlantic has attempted to create a pristine and revolutionary identity as opposed to the conservative, traditional, and essentially, dull identities other airlines personify. One way Branson and Virgin Atlantic have continued to distinguish Virgin Atlantic from other airlines is through brand messaging and advertisements. In its most current campaign, Virgin Atlantic seeks to continue to differentiate itself through branding techniques that exemplify glamour and sex appeal.

One of the key aspects of this campaign is a television commercial broadly entitled, “Flying in the Face of Ordinary” seen below.

To briefly summarize the commercial, viewers follows several young children around the world from the time of birth as they gain various superpowers that include telepathy, incredible reflexes, and an exceptional genius. As years go on, these children grow into superheroes that band together on Virgin Atlantic so as to save the common folk from “bland” and “ordinary” flight experiences on other airlines. Upon watching the commercial, perhaps the first notion one would comment on is the high quality of aesthetics the commercial commands; there is the grand voice of a narrator, a classical music score in the background, and a rich color scheme that all lend itself to a fantastical and cinematic nature. Given the obvious high production value, it is clear that Virgin Atlantic is attempting to stay out of the realm of “ordinary” or the “status quo.” This approach to a commercial is effective in retaining the attention of an audience. In television, reaching an attractive audience through a commercial is very difficult as there is an immense amount of clutter and competition (Leiss, et al., 199). As further explained, “The problem of ‘information overload’ describe consumers’ inability to make effective timely choices about what to consume due to an excess of information and a lack of time to identify and assess useful or valuable data” (Manzerolle and Smeltzer, 329). Thus, as Leiss describes, one way to break through the clutter and garner the appropriate attention of viewers is through high aesthetic quality, which this commercial clearly makes use of (Leiss, et al., 199).

In addition, when analyzing the content of the commercial, specifically the characters, it is clear that Virgin Atlantic is attempting to interpellate viewers through glamour and taste. Each of the characters, while signifying immense talents, also signifies overwhelming attractiveness. Each character is relatively young, good-looking by society’s standards, polished, and apart of an elite, esteemed group that many gape at. They also each exude a sense of passion and vibrancy in the work place that is typically not found in the average working environment. This relates to the idea that, “advertisements are structured to boost the value of a commodity brand name by attaching it to images that possess social and cultural value” (Goldman and Papson, 81). Everything that this commercial touches upon – youth, physical attractiveness, exclusivity, and energy – are all valued in society as something to strive for (though not everyone can attain it). It is this combination of valued social and cultural factors within each character that not only expresses a sense of glamour, but also interpellates the viewer to feel as though they too can be just as glamorous by flying Virgin Atlantic. Leiss explains that “the expanded field of signs also became a rich resource for identity projects […] the meaning of the goods had become essential to […] key aspects of the person’s sense of self” (Leiss, et al., 307). Hence, because advertisements use images that are culturally dependent on the values of society, it is up to the audience to realize how the glamour of Virgin Atlantic can fit into their personal sense of identity: it is the idea that if you fly Virgin Atlantic, you too will be a part of a sexy, modern, and exclusive community.

Thus, what these values and glamour draw upon is the idea of “taste.” While the term is relatively broad, Leiss explains “taste identifies the individual and their choices in relationship to the diverse and changing cultural field” (Leiss, et al., 305). Essentially, taste is a statement of one’s own preferences towards various commodities. Leiss furthers this point by indicating that those with high taste also have “considerable cultural capital” who “utilize its power to assure that their taste are recognized as being superior” (Leiss, et al., 305). Given the idea of exclusivity and glamour portrayed in the commercial, high taste can also therefore be associated to the brand. Thus, since glamour is essentially something taste sets out to achieve, it is apparent that Virgin Atlantic is seeking to identify with those that pride themselves on having high cultural capital. As a result, this can be associated with the idea of status and conspicuous consumption – that is, consuming luxury items so as to be identified as elite (Veblen, 24). Leiss explains that, “some sectors of society use goods to mark their uniqueness. Elites engage in conspicuous consumption, and flaunt their aesthetic knowledge in consumption acts” (Leiss, et al., 303). It is clear, therefore, that as Virgin Atlantic is attempting to garner an identity of high taste with this commercial, elites would feel connected enough to “consume” or choose Virgin Atlantic so as to “flaunt” and show society that they have high “aesthetic knowledge” of products, or in this case, airlines. Without saying anything, if people were to select Virgin Atlantic as their preferred airline, they would make a statement that not only do they not fly “ordinary”, but also that they themselves are not “ordinary people.”

Adding to this campaign of glamour and high taste is the idea of leisure that can be seen in their in-flight promotional pamphlets below.



Without much analysis needed, it very clear that these pamphlets are advertising their flight experience with connotations of sex. As anyone should and would know, sex sells. As explained by Leiss, “The sexual explicitness of contemporary advertising is a sign not so much of American sexual fantasies as of the lengths to which advertisers will go to get attention. Sex never fails as an attention-getter” (Leiss, et al., 446). In addition to seeking out attention, sex creates an environment of edginess and modernity. Similar to the creative revolution in the 1960s, these pamphlets exude a sense of humor, wit, and freedom that are not typically seen in advertising, let alone aircrafts (Frank, 54). While sex is much more widely discussed in society, it is still relatively taboo to explicitly reference, especially when in the company of strangers on an airplane. Hence, these pamphlets essentially “break the ice” and the rigid bars of societal norms, adding a spark of edginess to the experience that is playful and exciting – something other airlines arguably lack. They give off the idea that this airplane doesn’t follow the rules of society; it is free, spontaneous, and out of the ordinary.

A second addition to the in-flight promotional elements is Virgin Atlantic’s exclusive magazine entitled, Runway Magazine.



This magazine is meant to rival high-production magazines such as Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter; it is dedicated to fashion, celebrity interviews, and luxury city guides for every city that Virgin Atlantic travels to. With this high production quality and exclusivity to the airline, the magazine yet again plays off of the idea of high cultural capital and high taste. As noted, those with high taste and capital seek products that are rare and cater to an elite class (Leiss, et al., 307). Yet, even more than taste, when combining the elements of both the magazine and the sexual pamphlets, they come together to create an ambiance of “leisure” on board, which in society is what everyone strives to attain. As Thorstein Veblen explains, “A life of leisure is the readiest and most conclusive evidence of pecuniary strength, and therefore of superior force” (Veblen, 25). Thus, it is the idea that you as a flyer have the time and the leisure to not just fly to a city, but rather, you have the freedom to interact with a playful, yet elegant, atmosphere.

The last part of the campaign is dedicated to lifestyle branding and marketing. Virgin Atlantic has a glamorous and sexy style embodied by the stewardesses of the airline. As seen below in a YouTube video of the stewardesses getting ready for a Runway Magazine photoshoot, women of the airline are generally young, fresh, and attractive.

As they wear a red uniform composed of a short mini skirt, a tailored red blazer, a colorful scarf, fresh hairdo, and an iconic red lipstick, the women, to most, would signal a mixture of business and pleasure, something the airline hopes to exude. Yet, to take the style of the stewardesses’ uniform even further, Branson released a YouTube video on the Virgin Atlantic channel entitled “New Red Threads” revealing a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood to modernize the stewardesses’ outfits.

What is important to note, is that for those who are not fashion savvy, Vivienne Westwood is a couture fashion designer, lending her clothing to exclusivity and immense decadence. Thus, not only will these outfits signal high taste and style, but they will also be a walking advertisement to both flyers and potential employees that Virgin Atlantic represents a fashion-forward, modern lifestyle. Through conspicuous consumption yet again, these stewardesses will be walking in such avant-garde clothing, and without saying a word, are able to indicate to passengers they are in the presence of an exclusive, high-fashion design. What’s more is that Vivienne Westwood is an international designer that many Americans may not have heard of. This plays into the idea of high cultural capital in that “cultural elites look beyond their local groups to international elites for their consumption cues” (Leiss, et al., 520). Thus, because those with high capital “appreciate abstraction” and “refer to work by the producer’s name”, those that recognize Westwood’s work will “assert superiority” over generic airline passengers without such knowledge (Leiss, et al., 307).

In a more subdued note, there is an added element of “eco-friendliness” to Westwood’s upcoming outfits. This is known as “cause related marketing”, or advertising that attempts to appeal to the ethical or caring consumer (Littler, 27). In using Westwood’s name alongside an environmental cause, the new outfits for Virgin Atlantic are thus positioning glamour and altruism as purchasable experiences (Littler, 27). While the passengers themselves may not be able to purchase the eco-friendly uniforms, they are now able to positively associate Virgin Atlantic beyond the glamour as an altruistic entity that many would feel they might as well engage with and thus choose over other airlines. Whether or not these passengers are actually being eco-friendly themselves is another question entirely, but the campaign essentially gives people a moral feeling that because they are interacting with an altruistic brand that they too are being mindful of the environment, all with the added bonuses of glamour and leisure that comes with the aircraft.

The last portion of the lifestyle component is Virgin Atlantic’s collaboration with Bare Minerals to create its very own bright red lipstick entitled “Upper Class Red.”



The name alone indicates a sense of eliteness and sophistication associated with the brand that many in society seek to engage with. As a spokesperson for the company expressed, “Red lips signify jet-set glamour and style synonymous with the Virgin Atlantic brand”. Thus, it is a way for women to tap into the sexy lifestyle that Virgin Atlantic continues to portray as in the aforementioned commercial. Yet, perhaps the biggest issue that cannot be overlooked that both the lipstick and the Vivienne Westwood outfit exemplify is one of femininity. In addition to bold, red lips, Westwood explains in the YouTube video she creates clothing that is “body conscious”, that “look more hourglass, more woman.” Virgin Atlantic is thus seeking to empower women through their physical appearance as defined by society’s stereotypical standards: youth, fashion, beauty, body, make-up, etc. As Robert Goldman and his colleagues state, “Femininity has become widely synonymous with the intensive scrutiny [and] visual dissection of the female body into zones of consumption – lips, cheekbones, breasts, hips, waist, legs” (Goldman, et al., 337). While society is currently undergoing bouts of feminism combating these ideals of beauty and femininity, Virgin Atlantic is not questioning that women should have power, but that women should get power based on how they look (Johnston and Taylor, 953). As depicted in the “Flying in the Face of the Ordinary” commercial and the image of the stewardesses at the photo shoot, Virgin Atlantic women are supposed to be confident, independent, powerful, and glamorous women, yet the underlying theme is that they can only be those things if they are physically perfected as a feminine woman (Johnston and Taylor, 953).

To sum up the campaign, Branson once noted that, “An airline has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” With its current campaign, Virgin Atlantic has attempted to raise its level of “fun” and “creative instincts” by creating a world of glamour and leisure through television, in-flight elements, and lifestyle marketing. Whether or not one agrees with the images portrayed in the campaign, it is undeniable that it is pretty influential. What makes this campaign ultimately work is that all of these components come together under the idea of commodity fetishism, that is, the idea that as we consume commodities, we also assign meanings to them (Marx, 319). Essentially, because society has trained humans to consume various goods not for their function, but for the values that they represent, it works for Virgin Atlantic to therefore associate itself with a lifestyle of luxury and leisure as these are values most sought out by all classes in contemporary society. As a result, more people will continue to fly the airline not just for the function to get to a city, but rather as a status symbol of glamour that differentiates themselves from other classes

Works Cited

Frank, Thomas. “Advertising as Cultural Criticism.” N.p.: n.p., 1997. 53-73. Print.

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” The Consumer Society Reader. New York: New York, 1996. 81-97. Print.

Goldman, Robert, Deborah Heath, and Sharon L. Smith. “Commodity Feminism.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 8 (1991): 333-51. Print.

Johnston, Josee, and Judith Taylor. “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists.” SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33.4 (2008): 941-62. Print.

Leiss, William, Jackie Botterill, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Littler, Jo. “Cosmopolitan Caring: Globalization, Charity, and the Activist-consumer.” Radical Consumption: Shopping for Change in Contemporary Culture. New York: Open UP, 2009. 23-49. Print.

Manzerolle, Vincent, and Sandra Smeltzer. “Consumer Databases and the Commercial Mediation of Identity.” Surveillance and Society 3rd ser. 3 (2011): 323-35. Print.

Marx, Karl. “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof.” Capital 1 (1867): 319-28. Print.

Veblen, Thorstein. “Conspicuous Leiusre.” The Theory of the Leisure and Class. New York: Dover Publications, 1899. 23-42. Print.


By the year 2001, Britney Spears had exploded into pop culture and established herself as the not-so-innocent girl next door that had captivated the world’s attention. At this point in her career Britney had constructed an interpolating image as the ultimate, virginal male fantasy. Her career began as the naughty schoolgirl that publicly vowed to save her virginity for marriage all while stripping down to a nude body suit during her latest performance at the MTV Music Video Awards. This collision of sex, innocence, and youth teased audiences and made her one of the most sought after performers of the generation.

This year also marked the launch of Britney Spears as Pepsi’s latest spokeswoman. This paper will explore how the success of Pepsi’s campaign featuring Britney Spears is rooted in the power of the “cool” consuming youth and the media’s portrayals of gender. This match made in consumerism heaven manipulates the power and tastes of the youth to create an interpolating campaign. Historically, Pepsi targeted the youth in advertising, specifically referring to this consumer group as the “Pepsi Generation.” This “Pepsi Generation” is defined by the young, carefree, fun, and lively ideals of youth. Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson explore the power of brand images in advertising in “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” The main goal of advertisements is “to boost the value of commodity brand names by attaching them to images hat possess social ad cultural value” (81).  The decision to use Britney Spears as Pepsi’s spokeswoman is meant to translate the elements of Britney’s popularity in pop music culture to the Pepsi brand. This brand image position can be viewed as an opposition of Coca-Cola’s traditional, classic, and nostalgic targeting.

By the mid-1990s teenagers had become a major target trend for advertisers worth 125 billion dollars (Leiss, et al. 478). In Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace William Leiss and others explore the generational differences between Generation X and their predecessors, “Rather than being rejecters of consumerism, Xers were purchasing and spending on things that increase their sense of esteem and belongingness” (478).  This generation of youth provided to be a profitable target for advertisers as this group was impressionable, just entering the consumer market, and had a disposable income. Naomi Klein describes in “Alt. Everything” the new attitude of 1990s youth and their tendencies to buy into the popular culture to create their own personal identities. She writes, “Their parents might have gone bargain basement, but kids, it turned out, were still willing to pay up to fit in” (Klein 68). In the past much of the youth culture was defined by anti-consumerism sentiments, however, this nineties youth generation presented a new breed of consumers that are aware of consumerism, yet, accepting and willing to buy into it to be accepted socially.

Klein focuses on the need for brands to reevaluate the modes of targeting this age group and their need “to fashion brand identities that would resonate with this new culture” (68). This new means of marketing was reliant on discovering what was cool by the youth tastemakers. The definitions of what defined “cool” manifested in schools and everyday life for the youth. Marketers investigated these trends and the “cool kids” setting them in order to capitalize on them before they are mainstreamed. This demand to discover what constituted “cool” streamlined into business opportunities known as “cool hunting”. Cool hunters “would search out pockets of cutting edge lifestyle, capture them on videotape and return to clients” (Klein 72). The ironic aspect of this hunt for cool is that once the next trends are discovered, they are mainstreamed by major brands, and therefore made “uncool” within the subculture. This creates a never-ending cycle of mainstreaming “cool” subculture trends, thus destroying the “cool” factor within that very same subculture. The quest for “coolness” is plagued by insecurities for this target market. This target group is consumed by questioning their “coolness” in every moment as if it is one of their most important necessities (Klein 69). This need to buy into a “cool” identity is an opportunity for brands to capitalize off of the youth’s insecurities. This generation of youth relies on brands and consumption to construct a “cool” identity.

Pepsi “Now and Then” (2002).

Britney’s second commercial, “Pepsi Generations,” exemplifies the ever-changing definitions of “cool” during past decades. The commercial is made of small clips that represent the major trends of specific time periods ranging from 1958, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1989, up to the release of the commercial in 2002. Each segment of the commercial reflects the fashion and music trends through the styling of Britney and the extras, but also through the styling of the Pepsi bottle and logo. From start to finish the viewer experiences all of the changes between the black and white Pepsi glass bottle to the vibrant colors of the 2002 Pepsi can and new simple logo. Goldman and Papson describe a common means of using cultural cannibalism, a tactic to transfer meanings of cultural signs to a brand or product, as “frequently appropriating an image—a celebrity, a style, or the like—that is ‘hot’ in terms of its potential market value” (89). Britney is the epitome of “hot” in 2002, thus her presence in the past generation’s ideals of “cool” assigns this hyper-cool messaging to the Pepsi products featured in every generation. The advertisement exemplifies the historical “emphasis on consuming, owning, and wearing signs as an indicator of personal identity” (Goldman And Papson 91). Each segment of the commercial is carefully designed to exude the historical trends of each time period. The two constants in the ever-changing definition of “cool” in every generation are Britney and Pepsi, thus cementing their cool status as a constant throughout changing generational trends. The lyrical content of the songs promotes ideals of the young, fun, and hip “Pepsi Generation.” commercial ends with Britney singing, “For those who think young,” which speaks to audience’s that value youth. This slogan was then utilized on the coinciding billboard in New York City.


Pepsi “Now and Then” billboard in New York City.

Britney’s superstardom had transformed her into the ultimate teen dream for the American public’s consumption. This ability to buy into her brand was made possible through her different channels such as CDs, music videos, tours, magazines, books, posters, dolls, apparel, and other endorsements such as Herbal Essences. Her popularity and the huge demand to buy into her persona collide to create the perfect union between Britney Spears and Pepsi. As Britney was the ultimate “it-girl” of the time, aligning her name with Pepsi transfers Britney’s coolness to Pepsi’s brand and products. William Leiss and others credit the use of celebrities in advertisements as “a creative tool that allows one to reach the deeper levels of meaning-construction in ads” (165). Britney was the major fixation of pop culture at this time. Her fashion raised eyebrows for parents that deemed her persona too sexual for young children. These concerns fueled the youth’s fascination with Britney and augmented her coolness.

Pepsi “Gladiator” (2004) starring Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Pink, and Enrique Iglesias.

The 1980s saw Pepsi’s first major affiliation with music and mainstream pop culture when Michael Jackson became the face of the brand. Two decades later, Britney Spears acts as the modern version of Michael Jackson for the Pepsi brand. Leiss states, “To Generation X, the marketplace, advertising, and mass media continue to be a seamless fabric of popular culture, one not more important than the other, and all interacting in a complex web of intertextual references and commonly shared experiences” (478). Pepsi’s brand identity relied heavily on popular music culture. All three of Britney’s commercials featured new songs performed by Britney herself and mimicked the style of her infamous videos: high production, intricate choreography, and minimal wardrobe. The style of the commercials reflecting music videos reflects the popularity of MTV culture during this period. The last of her three commercials, 2004’s “Gladiator,” featured other pop culture veterans Beyoncé, Pink, and Enrique Iglesias. The inclusion of the four major pop acts of the time cements Pepsi’s brand image as the epitome of popular music culture.

The rapid popularization of the Internet use by the youth resulted in changes within the music industry. The Internet allowed more interactivity such as online voting for music videos on MTV’s Total Request Live, but also created problems such as file sharing programs. This time began the shift from purchasing CDs to downloading music online, whether for free from Napster or purchasing songs from iTunes. To capitalize on this new trend, Pepsi launched http://www.PepsiMusic.com. A print ad for Britney’s campaign focuses on this new platform. The only text on the ad besides the Pepsi name on the bottle and Britney’s name is “PepsiMusic.com.”


Britney PepsiMusic.com print ad.

This online platform utilizes the trendy, new platforms to connect with media-savvy youth. Pepsi and Apple’s iTunes partnered to give away 100 million songs with the purchase of Pepsi products. In the promotion, a code would be printed on the Pepsi product’s cap that could then be entered in the iTunes music store where the user could redeem one song of his or her choice. This promotion exemplified the progressiveness of Pepsi when promoting music trends as iTunes had just begun as a music-downloading platform. Pepsi furthered their music affiliations by sponsoring Britney’s 2001-2002 “Dream Within A Dream World Tour.” The tour is a special opportunity for fans to experience Britney in person. Having the Pepsi brand logo and Pepsi products at each venue transfers the excitement of this Britney experience to the Pepsi brand. The poster below features Britney, yet also heavily features Pepsi branding. Within the letters of “BRITNEY” is the Pepsi sign that is featured in Britney’s “Joy of Pepsi” commercial. It also features the sleek Pepsi logo and followed the red, white, and blue color scheme of Pepsi, making Britney and Pepsi a packaged deal.


The “Dream Within a Dream World Tour” Poster available for purchase throughout her tour.

Britney’s first commercial with Pepsi: “The Joy of Pepsi” (2001).

The very first commercial ad from the campaign debuted at the 2001 Superbowl. This huge platform set the tone for the audience as the event embodies prevailing notions of gender. The Superbowl and its commercials promote the ideal male lifestyles that the audience is conditioned to internalize. Michael A. Messner and Jeffrey Montez de Oca analyze the construction of gender representations in liquor and beer advertisements during the Superbowl. The major representations for men in these ads are as “losers,” a male that is a chump and in constant danger of being humiliated by other men or beautiful women, or “buddies,” a group of male friends whose lack of masculinity is protected by the group’s numbers (Messner and Motez 1887). Both are portrayed in Britney’s first commercial, “The Joy of Pepsi.” First a loser is show in the ad when a young man is so invested in watching Britney that his gaze is not broken even when the kitchen he is supposed to be working is in flames. When the firemen come to put the fire out, one fireman joins him in the all-consuming state of staring at Britney. The ad also features buddies when a group of working-class men wearing Coca-Cola attire are gathered around a television in a similar gaze of Britney in her Pepsi commercial. Buddies are seen between the two senior citizens sharing an oxygen mask as they watch Britney dance around on television.

These representations make these men, and their masculinity, completely subordinate to Britney’s presence. Britney’s power is reliant on her sex appeal and perpetuates the media’s inclination of hyper-sexualized representations of females. Britney infatuates the men of this commercial as she embodies the ultimate “hottie.” Hotties in advertisements serve “as highly sexualized fantasy objects. These beautiful women serve as potential prizes for men’s victories and proper consumption choices” (Messner and Montez 1887). The sexual thoughts of the males in the commercial are made clear by their wide-eyed stares, increased heart rates, and need for medical assistance. At the conclusion of the commercial, Bob Dole tells his barking dog, both of whom are in the wide-eyed gaze, “easy boy.” This is the comedic punch line of the ad. By having the dog bark in excitement over Britney’s video, it exaggerates Britney’s sex appeal to such a powerful position that it transcends the human race. Britney’s position as a sexual object to be consumed is aided by the styling and editing of the video. At the beginning of the video, Britney rips off her Pepsi-branded jumpsuit to reveal her signature stomach-revealing top and tight jeans, both of which feature the Pepsi logo colors. Close-ups of her body, including her trademark belly button ring adorned with a Pepsi logo, assist the viewer in seeing Britney as a sexual object. This type of female representation is commonplace in advertising, by styling her in Pepsi themed clothing she further becomes a product of Pepsi that is available for physical consumption by the public. Britney is not physically capable of being consumed; the closest the public can get to consume her is through her products. Consuming Pepsi thus can equate to consuming a piece of Britney.

Pepsi’s campaign with Britney Spears capitalized on cool youth culture and sexualized representations of women to become one of the brand’s most iconic advertising campaigns. The advertisements allowed Pepsi to gain the abstract associations of Britney Spears’s image: hot, fresh, and popular. This advertising campaign featuring Britney Spears strongly reinforced Pepsi’s brand identity as the young, hip, and progressive cola.

Works Cited

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson ‘Advertising in The Age of Accelerated Meaning’ (1996).” The Consumer Society Reader. Ed. Juliet Schor and Douglas B. Holt. New York, NY: New, 2000. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Alt. Everything.” No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs. New York: Picador, 2002. Print.

Leiss, William, Stephen Kline, Sut Jhally, and Jacqueline Botterill. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Messner, Michael A., and Jeffrey Montez de Oca. “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.” Signs. Spring 2005.  Print.



Ray-Ban initially began with the motive of providing comfort for the eyes of soldiers & generals at war, but gradually, modified its purpose to attract a new set of audience: the younger generation. In 2007, the “Never Hide” campaign was launched to influence its consumers tremendously in various aspects – culturally, ideologically, and universally. With the message, “Never pretend. Never be afraid. Never give up. Never Hide,” Ray-Ban’s Never Hide Campaign aims to utilize several types of multimedia to encourage its consumers to be an active community and accept these products as a social construction and reflection of our lives. By doing so, the campaign turned viral while promoting a sense of natural “authenticity” & appeal to its audience. In this paper, I will begin with semiotic analysis, and then, move onto how those ads affect the ideologies of its consumers. Lastly, I will conclude the paper by exploring the different media formats used, and explain how the concept of “authenticity” has ultimately evolved to become the defining motto of Ray-Ban and an accepted ideology to its consumers today.

Since 2007, Ray-Ban has promoted the themes of naturalness and authenticity through its advertisements. Instead of casting top celebrity figures, Ray-Ban uses average people from the public to advertise a notion of genuineness and realness in their products. Advertisements carry signifiers that “act as the material vehicle of meaning” and the signified that represents its “abstract side” (Leiss, et al., 164). Semiotics allows us to understand how we are not “mere bystanders in the advertising process, but participants in creating a code that unites the designer and the reader” (Leiss, et al., 164). For example, in the “Built to Move” ad, a highly fashionable mom with a little son and daughter struts down the street on her phone while her children do their own things, such as walking the dog and running around. These three characters are in vibrant colors while others around them are in black and white and dressed up like businessmen and businesswomen. The businessmen and businesswomen are all in a rush while the mom is casually on her phone with multiple shopping bags wrapped around her arms. They wear such cheerful expressions while the ones in black and white do not look so stress-free.


In this ad, by depicting a tremendous difference in happiness level between the two groups of people, Ray-Ban portrays the idea that we must “never hide” if we want to live happily. By comparing busy workers to a carefree family, Ray-Ban attempts to show how we are usually restricted from living the way we want to because of societal demands like money; however, we cannot live happily if we adhere to such restrictions. In this ad, the characters featured are average looking people that you can see walking down Broadway any day, which makes this advertisement even more realistic and believable for its audience. The color distinction also plays a role in presenting a message. The main characters are in bright colors while the others are in dull black & white, which symbolizes a difference in their ways of living. Black and white illustrates a traditional or “older” generation while color represents modernity. These advertisers attempt to influence its audience by showing how important it is to live young and hip with a high sense of individualism. Because advertisements do not explicitly share an obvious message with the viewers, the viewers become active participants in the process by “interpret[ing] and reintegrat[ing] the available information” with their own knowledge (Leiss, et al,. 166).

But, why do the semiotics of these ads matter to our daily lives and values? As active participants that respond to the meanings of these ads, we learn that “ads ask us to choose and construct our identities out of our consumption choices” (Goldman and Papson, 85). By seeking our identities through advertisements, ads socially construct and reflect our worlds because of the influential messages embedded within them. We learn to accept many types of ideologies, such as those of consumerism because these ads teach us about important values of our lives. For example, since the beginnings of the “Never Hide” campaign, Ray-Ban promoted the necessity to express creativity and freedom in our lives. The “Colorize” ads use special colorizing effects to emphasize the need to be bold and brave. In 2007, this advertisement introduced a new style, which interested many consumers who admit that when they wear their Ray-Bans, they always feel like they stand out. Through its vibrant color usage, Ray-Ban aims to socially construct the idea that one should be brave and assertive, like these bright color effects. “It is also true that commodity signs provide people with real social indicators of identity – after all, consumers do use signs to construct identities and to make invidious distinctions between themselves and others” (Goldman and Papson, 92). The blogger above admits that he or she feels like standing out when wearing a pair of Ray-Bans, which is exactly what the company was aiming for with this campaign – one must live differently and stand out to acquire a sense of individualism in one’s life. We find our identities through these messages that come from advertisers, which we accept as a “normative vision of our world and our relationships” (Goldman and Papson, 96).  Image

Ray-Ban utilizes another method of advertising that proves to be highly effective to create an ideology of consumerism: video advertisements. Ray-Ban has a series of video ads online that present the audience with an ideology of consumerism. More specifically, in the “Never Hide- Sneakers” advertisement, a boyfriend tries to woo his girlfriend with a pair of sneakers that she will like. He consumes so many sneakers that he has a wall full of them; however, he continuously fails to find the perfect pair, which disappoints his girlfriend. At the end, he brings out a pair of pink high-heeled sneakers. The clip ends with her being satisfied and throwing him to the ground.

In this ad, there are various ideas and themes represented. First of all, this ad hints at the importance of perseverance, which in this case, means consuming until one is satisfied. It also depicts the idea of courage by showing how one should not be afraid to win over someone’s heart, which complements the campaign’s “Never Hide” slogan. However, the most blatant ideology exists in the gender ideology presented here. The portrayals of pink high-heeled sneakers as the final winner or the girlfriend’s last action of throwing her boyfriend down with approval for a pair of shoes suggest that women now have the power to control men. This man is highly controlled by his girlfriend because he will do anything to get her what she wants; however, at the same time, the woman also seems submissive because she ultimately does surrender to him and goes to him.

Advertisers are aware of the influence of gender roles in the lives of their consumers. In this campaign, Ray-Ban attempts to show a gender hierarchy with obvious feminine gender stereotypes, but ultimately fails to do so because of the other social meanings of masculine submissiveness that is played in the video. If Ray-Ban had used this gender ideology technique like it did in the “Anti-Glare” ad, this advertisement would have been highly more effective in getting its message across. In the “Anti-Glare” ad, a woman bicyclist rides in the air while male bicyclists all stare up at her in awe. All the men are wearing neutral colors while the woman has a bright pink T-shirt on. She also has tattoos all over her arms, which represent bravery and toughness that are usually associated with men. There are symbols of personal freedom and bravery, which goes against feminine stereotypes, but is more effective in portraying Ray-Ban’s “Never Hide” message to become more individualistic and not adhere to societal restrictions.Image

Ray-Ban is also reputable for using various media texts in its campaign. The “Never Hide” campaign includes efforts to encourage guerilla marketing, outdoor marketing and consumer interactivity. First of all, the campaign embraces the “Express Yourself” slogan, which generally targets ages 18 to 25. The purpose of this campaign is to “assert their individuality by revealing their sense of personal style.”    In order to promote this idea, in 2011, the Ray-Ban team printed out paper shades and stuck them on random posters, statues and public artifacts. This guerilla marketing tactic raises brand awareness to the public, which is highly imperative to get consumers interested in buying the product. Also, a “person’s retention of the ideas associated with the visual is significantly higher than it is if the verbal information is presented alone,” which is why this type of marketing usually helps the public to remember the product better (Leiss, et al,. 231).

Outdoor marketing also plays an important role in this campaign. The Ray-Ban team also went out to take pictures of random people wearing Ray-Bans and these photos were shown on outdoor locations like on the Nasdaq and Reuters buildings in Times Square. Outdoor advertising is a successful method in reaching those who may not be glued to the computer or TV: advertisers can “cut through the clutter of electronic and print media” and reach those who are “spending more time out of home” (Leiss, et al,. 366). This strategy worked well because Times Square is one of the most populated areas in the nation, so some people from all over the world would see this ad. ImageAlso, not only did Ray-Ban use outdoor marketing as a tool, but also utilized consumer interactivity by taking pictures of the consumers to share a more “authentic” experience. This method ultimately demonstrates a realistic ambiance by portraying the main characters as average people.

Consumer interactivity is one of the company’s highest valued assets. Ray-Ban has devised several ways to keep this going, such as by designing the Ambermatic iPhone application and promoting the “Never Hide” stories. The Ambermatic iPhone application enables people to send pictures to it to receive a picture seen in the color of the Ray-Ban lens. It’s not just a photo filter because a potential customer basically gets a preview of their product. Consumers can now take an active role in the advertising process by marketing to others unconsciously as well. They can talk about this new application and encourage their friends to download it on their phones. This causes viral marketing, which contributed to the success of Ray-Ban’s advertising. This form of word-of-mouth communication proves to help the campaign because people are usually connected through external networks that can reach out to others, and so on (Andrejevic, 71).

The “Never Hide” stories also play a huge role in summoning consumers to participate. In this aspect of the campaign, consumers are invited to share their experiences of finding their purpose in life after buying a pair of Ray-Bans. This strategy promotes the idea of “staying true to your vision.”  By participating in this, people all over the world are actively promoting the product. This form of pull-marketing requires people to tune into the project themselves and become active participants of the campaign. This global project interpellates people, not only the participants but also the bystanders, of seeing the world in a positive light and identifying themselves with it (Goldman and Papson, 97).

Ultimately, all of Ray-Ban’s advertising efforts come down to the emphasis of its products as “goods [that] offer opportunities for self-expression,” which convinces its consumers that this is the authentic and genuine way to live (Leiss, et al,. 520). Ray-Ban persuades its customers to accept authenticity as an important ideology of their lives. By emphasizing the ideas of individuality, courage, difference and uniqueness, Ray-Ban shapes an identity for its consumers and advocates for the need to be “real.” With its various efforts to motivate its consumers to be different and genuine, Ray-Ban has been successful in carrying out its message for the past six years.

Works Cited Page

Andrejevic, Mark. “Productive Play 2.0: The Logic of In-Game Advertising.” (2009): 66-76. Web.

Bridget. “Ray Ban Does Realworld Instagram.” Adverblog. N.p., 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 14 May 2013.

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson “Advertising in The Age of Accelerated Meaning” (1996).” The Consumer Society Reader. Ed. Juliet Schor and Douglas B. Holt. New York, NY: New, 2000. Print.

Leiss, William, and Jackie Botterill. “Media in the Mediated Marketplace.” Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

“Ray-Ban Official Web Site – USA.” Ray-Ban.com. Ray-Ban, n.d. Web. 14 May 2013.