The Cosmopolitan’s “The Wild Card”

At first watch, the television advertisement above may not seem like a commercial at all. The ad for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Resort & Casino features an energetic song (“Original Don” by Major Lazer) with flashes of video and text. It is not until the very end that you realize what the commercial is advertising, when “The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. A Unique Luxury Resort & Casino” appears on the screen with the resort’s logo and website.

This commercial is a great example of contemporary advertising that begins with the creative revolution of the 1960s. Before the creative revolution, ads were more blatantly persuasive through techniques such as research and scientific studies. They were also far less creative, mostly because salesmen ran the agencies. Now, creative people shape the copy and visuals of almost all modern ads. Because many people today are alienated spectators, one approach advertisers take when creating an ad is the cinematic approach. Agencies, like Fallon (who created this ad), use higher quality visuals to appeal to the viewer. Finally, ads after the creative revolution appeal to one’s desire to stand out as an individual instead of blend in with society.

The creative revolution makes advertisements such as the Cosmopolitan commercial possible. The commercial is very creative and edgy and can be described as “anti-advertising” because it steers away from traditional advertising that explains the product, its benefits and its intended use (Frank 5). It actually does not even make reference to the product until the very end. The ad interpellates the viewer as someone who craves to stand out and be noticed with the text that appears in the commercial (phrases such as “misfit right in,” “less is bore,” and “just the right amount of wrong”).

Using the chains of significations, one can pull multiple meanings out of this commercial. This commercial aims to make the viewer link The Cosmopolitan with being cool and, more specifically, youth, nonconformity, sex, and mystery, which then become the signifieds in the advertisement.

The signifiers that relate to youth are the light pink balloons, the young man and woman in the ad, the song, the disco ball, and style and bright colors of the text. The balloons and the disco ball make one think of parties and clubs, which are usually filled with young people. The electronic song is very popular in rave culture, which is also popular among young people. Finally, the video clips look like they have some sort of filter over them to make them look dreamy. This recalls social media, particularly Instagram, which is yet again very popular among youth.

Nonconformity is the most obvious signified in the commercial. Signifiers that contribute to this include the man jumping into the water, the text, the disco ball on fire, and the woman’s stiletto pushing a shovel into the ground. The man jumping into the water, the disco ball, and the shovel all show things that go against the norm. These scenes paired with the text all support freedom, originality, and even rebellion.

The signifiers that recall sex are the woman’s bare legs, the hand squeezing the couch, and the image of the lock. The fact that these only flash on the screen for a very brief moment makes the ad successful in being mysterious (discussed below) and hinting at sex without being too overt.

Finally, the advertisement as a whole encourages the idea of mystery. Signifiers that contribute to this are the man in the suit with his back facing the viewer and the quick flashes of scenes that appear very rapidly (the hand squeezing the leather couch, etc.). The commercial makes it difficult for the viewer to grasp any one moment, which leaves him or her wanting more and leaves much up to the imagination, similar to what happens at the hotel behind closed doors.

There is much intertextuality present in the Cosmopolitan ad. For example, the text and attractive people in the ad look like fashion print advertisements that also use models and large text.  The fast-paced ad also resembles a music video. It makes reference to rave and EDM culture by using a song by Major Lazer. By almost disguising itself as a music video, it appeals to spectators who are cynical of ads in general.

The ad is also ideological. It culturally constructs a world that is loud, young, fashionable, attractive, and reckless. It makes brief reference to gambling with the phrase “wild cards accepted,” but fails to acknowledge the issue of gambling addiction. The commercial promotes a normative vision of our world because it implies that everyone should strive to stand out and do crazy, spontaneous things like jumping into water while wearing a suit. Also, both people in the ad are white. Finally, the ad reflects the logic of capital because it commodifies rebellion and states that if you have the money, you should want to travel to Las Vegas and stay at The Cosmopolitan and be risky with your money. After all, “safe is boring.”

-Alyssa Snyder


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