Project 5.1 (i) Illusion only is sacred, truth profane

  • Look for three examples of current advertising that sells by appeal to to lifestyle rather than virtues of the product itself and make notes to show how
  • Find advertisements for products that have been in production since before the second world war (Coca Cola or Bovril for example), in the modernist period and today, and annotate them to show how, or if there has been a change from product to lifestyle as the selling point
  1. X BoxGoogle ‘lifestyle advertising’ and get taken straight to an X-box campaign which was shot by a photographer described as follows: “Mike Henry is a commercial photographer who specializes in lifestyle, advertising, and fashion photography” (Henry, 2016) I’ll concentrate on an image of two young people in the bath who look like they’re having a brilliant time at a party. Just in case you missed the fact it could be a party, there are what look like the contents of a party popper all over the couple. The male is holding an X Box remote and supposedly playing the game whilst lying in the bath. (we don’t see where the console and screen might be). The girl has her arm in the air and is throwing the popper stuff about or perhaps she’s emulating a dance. You can almost hear her whooping. She has her eyes closed as if caught by the photographer mid-reverie. Her legs are bare and shaven and her skirt is very short so there is a hint of vagina although obviously we don’t see anything actual. It’s connoted. She’s young and conventionally very pretty. The boy looks like he’s a bit shy and one might deduce from his body language and demeanour that he is sweet and unthreatening, and although leaning in towards her, also connected to the game (which she isn’t). The bath is confusing. It’s short and mustard-coloured, so ‘retro’ in a nostalgic 70s way, and looks like it might be in a tatty student flat. But the splash tiles are a bit ‘groovier’ for want of a better term. And the black wooden dodo-rail mid way up the wall is a sign of the room having been decorated. The wall looks to be rendered in some sort of faux, shabby-chic, not quite done style. It might suggest ‘cool’. The image is lit so it’s bright and clear but gives the illusion of being just a normal bathroom light on at nighttime. However, it will have taken lighting equipment to create, suggesting this is this is an illusion at its most basic level, before you even get to the narrative and more definitive signs. The connotations for this advert are if you play X-Box games you will live a life of idealised late teen, early adult fun, on some level of reality. Life will be a party and you’ll get a pretty, super-cool girlfriend to play games in the bath with you. Again, on some level. Transposed over the top of the image is the name of the product. It’s called X Box One, the latest generation of X Box console which promises to update automatically and offers the greatest range of up to date online games. This extra information affects the meaning of the image. On its own it’s a promise of getting the girl and being at cool, fun parties. Because it’s called X Box One, you might read the advert as saying, even if you are possibly not terribly ‘alpha’, like the young man in the advert appears to be, it doesn’t matter – you don’t need that aspect of life anyway. You can have whatever reality you want in the online X Box-game reality. In fact you can have whatever you’re after there. Not only is it OK to be ONE it’s preferable for X Box – you can meet up with other people online in X-Box reality. You are One, and that’s fine because X box likes that about you. You are an X Box One. You don’t need the fantasy in the real world because X Box can give you its reality in its fantasy world.
  2. Sheraton Towers Singapore

    I chose these two adverts because of the way they were shot, and I will concentrate on the woman rather than the man. She sits facing inwards with a background view of Singapore in her hotel room. The image gives the appearance of an everyday scene. The model doesn’t look at the camera, (neither does the man).  And as such we are being told, “you and I” (I being the advertiser, maker of advert) “both know she is a model and this is ‘pretend’, but let’s pretend it isn’t for a moment – let’s pretend this is real. Let’s imagine the model has been photographically caught, perhaps candidly in her hotel room mid action.” She has a coy, slightly wry smile on her face and we are invited to concoct a narrative around this. Who is she looking at? A spouse, lover, or a waiter – probably not? It’s an alluring look. She holds an iPad or other such electronic tablet in her hand as if she might have been reading, emailing, surfing the net, perhaps doing some work, perhaps relaxing. She is wearing recognisably very expensive shoes and a dress, which although simple and stylish, looks like a designer cut. Or rather, it doesn’t look like it came from a high street store. The dress might be something she wears for work or simply her everyday smart-wear, because she’s the sort of woman who can afford to have that as an option. We know it’s not like the dress in the previous advert, nor is it a dress-down outfit. There is an equally recognisably expensive handbag at her feet. So she could be a business woman or if staying in the hotel on a ‘leisure’ trip, someone who dresses well even when holidaying. There is a filo-fax type thing on the table next to her, so she’s organised and presumably busy if she needs one of those. The object signifies luxury and might even seem unusual to some in this day and age when many *western people under a certain age are so reliant on digital diaries. It adds to the narrative about who this woman is. She is relatively young although not as young as the late teen/young adult in the advert above. She looks in her late twenties. I’m concentrating on her look rather a lot but her deceptively simple outfit is constructed to give the appearance of a woman who fits very specifically into a non-threatening but still sexually alluring woman, moneyed (the shoes, bag and leather diary). She is dressed in such as way as to be recognisable to other women who identify with her lifestyle.
    The most interesting thing for me is the lighting. In order to achieve the well exposed background scene and have her lit too, there will have been a big ‘beauty dish’ or other such lighting device in the room, perhaps a large reflector and maybe a dark screen too to the left of her, and then plenty of Photoshop manipulation too, not only on her skin but also on the landscape in the background . The background may even have been added on entirely afterwards for all we know although there is no need for that to have been the case. The scene is lit to give the impression of everyday normal daylight, (i.e. it’s not dramatic and so not exciting or threatening) but light doesn’t work that way – she’d be in shadow or even silhouetted without lighting. So we can deduce the scene is entirely a falsehood, even though we have been invited to join in with the illusion that we are looking at a candid shot of a person who happens to be in the advert. *The woman looks like she may hail from Western Europe or America but there is a hint of ambiguity as to her place of origin, i.e. she does not have the appearance of  a stereotypical Singaporean but she may be.
    The strap line says, “A new sense of arrival”, which is a confusing phrase. A new arrival connotes birth, babies. By inserting the words ‘sense of’, that connotation is reduced but it still lingers and so invites us to read ‘excited anticipation’. People also arrive on an aeroplane and travelling is usually quite tiring and even alienating, so perhaps they’re saying when you arrive at our hotel you will feel refreshed and  welcomed and at ease. Whatever you think of business travel which can be a lonely and empty experience, the experience you receive here will be much nicer, better, life affirming even.
  3. Clarks VillageI’ve chosen this campaign because of the very specific and popular camera exposures used. These images are included in a series of images for an outlet store selling Clarks shoes. I am aware that Clarks have been trying to attract new customers and update their image, appealing to a wider range of  people and continue competing in a difficult market. The image of Clarks is perhaps a little staid and stodgy in many people’s minds, although I am aware as I write that I might be alone and even quite judgmental in thinking this. But when I think of Clarks I think of safe, sturdy and well-made, not terribly exciting shoes. I think of decent children’s shoes that are a little less expensive than the other brands that dominate the market. I think of the shopping experience in my local Clarks store which often ends unsuccessfully as they usually don’t have the right size for my own children and only a limited selection of stock. The store is also small and crowded; there is often no-where to sit while we wait and the shop is overfilled with sale stands covered in shoes that haven’t sold so you can’t move around with ease. However, I am also aware that I have seen shoes on friends which prompted me to ask, where did you get those, and I was told Clarks. These shoes looked like they might have come from another less well-known brand that are also known for selling well-made, decent quality shoes, which are good for your feet but with an alternative lifestyle ‘flavour’. Clarks has some of this but not the alternative lifestyle identity. In fact it has the opposite of that. The faux romantic setting would not, I suggest, appeal to the imaginations of the alternative lifestyle shopper. So this campaign is interesting. It should be stressed that this advert is not for the shoes exactly but rather an outlet store, a type of shop known for selling stock at greatly reduced prices. In actuality, the truth of that is variable and dependent on individual stores and possibly also times of year and within the sales cycle.  The style of photography is very distinct and extremely popular. There is the golden light, suggestive of sunset, warm summer evenings. The images are over-exposed as often shot facing or into the sun. This means a lot less black and a lot less contrast than in the images I’ve looked at – suggesting dreamy and ‘fuzzy’ . It’s shot at low aperture i.e. very wide open so that the models are crisp and sharp but the rest of the picture isn’t, or gives the appearance of such, but I suspect Photoshop has been used to increase this illusion. There is lens flare, and I would suggest some of this is added in Photoshop too – the purple hints seem to be. The models in this setting denote a couple having a romantic stroll through fields on a warm summer’s evening. What this has to do with the actuality of shopping in an outlet store is not clear  – thenadvert sells a dream, not the Real. The fantasy could not be more far removed from the reality.  Note the outlet centre is called Clarks Village. It seems outlet stores often utilise this word – village. Perhaps it’s a failing in me but when I think ‘village’ I think of small English places that look historical, pretty, and old-fashioned, where you might go to a lovely pub with a log fire or have afternoon tea, after a walk in the countryside even. A fantasy in so many cases I’m sure.  Bicester Village is the only outlet I’ve been to in the UK and it’s the least villagy place, as imagined by me, I’ve ever visited. Earslfield, where I live, is a grungy, dirty, albeit wealthy area of the great, sprawling, urban metropolis that is London, and is more ‘villagy’ by far in that there is a sense of organic community here which it is hard to imagine exisiting in a retail park – although any long-term employees who form groups and friendships may disagree with me. And so ersatz is the (somewhat snooty, I know, forgive me) word that springs to mind when I look at the images – fake, removed from reality of a shopping, from the idea of ‘village’ (which too may be Imaginary in most cases), overfiltered – and not in a good way. The other thing to say is that outlet stores, it could be argued, are the epitome of an over-commodified world; where in some or many cases stock that isn’t really needed, made by people who are paid very little, in factories far away, are sold to people who are invited to come and spend the day shopping for things, as a leisure activity, at a lower cost than they were originally sold for, because they were overpriced to begin with even though too many items were mass-produced for actual demand. Outlet centres often have luxury brand attached to them which act as the main attraction (although not always). Although it would be quite wrong to stereotype the sort of shopper who heads to an outlet store  – I happen to know a range of people who do and I, a not very wealthy someone, perceived by others as ‘middle class’ has done and may well do again –  it is fair to suggest that the outlet village is perceived as somewhere you can get hold of goods that were once expensive and aimed at wealthy customers, for far less than their original cost. Clarks may not fit the usual idea of store people are heading for when they go to such places but perhaps they do well anyway, as in fact luxury brand names that draw people to such outlets are nevertheless still relatively costly and so some people might find what they can afford (and want to partake in – a purchase) in a less luxurious store. The advert contains couples rather than families. The advert sells a fantasy about strolling through the countryside (related to that word ‘village’) in the romantic, (filtered) warm glow of a setting sun.The reality of shopping at an outlet store for safe, sturdy shoes at a discount is beyond removed. The illusion perpetuated by the advert surely must be shattered the minute anyone arrives in the store.I will post the second section seperately.

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