I passed by a large bus stop ad on my way to work over the course of a couple months. The ad started to bother me. And I started thinking about it.
I thought it would be interesting to dissect this ad (and potentially other ads) in a completely unscientific, haphazard way, and I enlisted Carla for her help and opinion. We want to suss some ads, folks.
Here's the ad.
What the hell is it saying?
The focus of the ad is definitely the woman. She's looking at you/me/the viewer with a "come hither" look. She's holding a Christmas ornament that looks kind of like an apple. It's forbidden fruit! It's kind of naughty! It's sexy! She's showing some of her leg, and her face is tilted in a submissively erotic pose. Sex sells! She's wearing a ring on her index finger. What does that indicate? That she *isn't* married? That she's available? I'm not sure.
Oh, I almost forgot, there's a guy behind her. Who cares about this guy?! I don't! He's not important at all. It's you/me/the viewer that is important! We are what counts! Look at his stupid, impotent belt! Maybe it's because I'm a dude, but I see nothing seductive about the man's pose or expression. His maroon sweater blends in the background, while the woman's shirt pops with a brighter red in the foreground.
So what am I supposed to do, ad? Am I supposed to buy Banana Republic clothes? Why? So I can be like the guy behind the woman that she is blatantly ignoring? Why would I want to do that?
The man is submissive and not pertinent to the ad. I am guessing that generally submissive men aren't seen as meant to be identified with by the average red-blooded male ad-viewer. So what's he there for? Is this an ad geared towards women? Thoughts?
The first thing I though when I saw this was, 'Ha ha! That man told his girlfriend she would be able to hear Santa if she held a Christmas ornament up to her ear, and she believed him. He thinks it's funny, and he doesn't care if she's painfully stupid, because she is blonde and thin and probably tall, and that's all he wants in a girlfriend, because STATUS!' That's what I thought.
Silliness aside, I still think the ad is about status. A hot (by conventional American standards), blonde, thin woman, and a hot (again, by conventional American standards), fit man strewn across a pile of presents--like presents themselves--screams status to me. It is drenched in opulence. He has money--enough money to buy a pile of presents big enough for two model-thin, but very tall people to lay on; enough money to shop at Banana Republic; and enough money to attract a tall, hot, blonde woman who listens to Christmas ornaments. Everybody gets a status symbol! The presents are the couple's status symbol; the woman is the man's status symbol; and the $800 Banana Republic skirt is the woman's status symbol.
Basically this ad says, 'you shop at Banana Republic because you can afford lots of really nice stuff, and if you don't shop at Banana Republic, you wish you did.'
That IS funny about the woman. She does have a dull expression on her face!
Do you think the ad as a signifier of status would repel or attract more people? What about the people who can afford to get a shirt or a pair of pants from BR, but not an entire wardrobe? Does the status suggested by the ad prompt them to buy the product in order to get some of the status to rub off on them?
I find this display of status kind of repulsive, but each person has their own reaction. The whole premise of buy-our-product-and-get-status ads is repulsive to me in general, so I have plenty of negative bias that affects my judgment.
I find status display ridiculous and empty myself. I think in Banana Republic's case, they do not want someone who can afford only one shirt, but not a whole wardrobe, to shop there. They want only wealthy people to shop there. After all, if a scrub like me was seen in a Banana Republic blouse and *shriek* a pair of Old Navy jeans, that would tarnish their brand and the image they are trying to sell.
I don't think the ad is about convincing people to spend more on their clothes; I think it's about convincing people who have more to spend on their clothes to spend it at Banana Republic, and not Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan. They use traditionally attractive people to delude the wealthy into thinking their clothes will make a big ol' honkin' schnoz (assuming they haven't had it fixed, savages) look like a perfect Barbie button nose.
They also want to plant seeds in the minds of those who will one day become rich (maybe by marriage--or even the old fashioned way, by working hard) that Banana Republic is where you want to shop when you get you some money. But don't come around until you have some money, okay?
What do you guys think?