Cologne Commercials: Realistic or Not?

Looking at this Dolce and Gabana Light Blue commercial from a semiotic standpoint allows one to break down the different messages the advertisers might be trying to convey in individual parts of the video.  The opening image of the advertisement is an overlooking shot of a small boat floating in water next to a land formation.  The scene at a glance is what one would consider very exotic because of the seeming remoteness of the location and the crystal blueness of the water.  Also shown in the ad are a man and a woman, both extremely well-tanned and fit, in bathing  suits.  These signifiers could translate into signifieds of exoticness and wealth, as well as many other possible readings.  The music choice for the ad reinforces this exotic theme because of its Italian sound and feel.  It is clear, then, that Dolce and Gabana want to convey to the viewers of this commercial that their product is exotic.

This commercial for the cologne Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani also uses ocean water signifiers along with depictions of a very toned and tanned man.  Interestingly, both advertisements use depictions of water, seemingly to convey “exoticness”, and extremely fit and well-tanned characters.  In fact the following two ads, one for Dolce and Gabana Sport and one for Dior Homme, also contain depictions of men and women being portrayed  in this light.

It is not uncommon for advertisers to use good-looking people in their advertisements, but these specific videos go well beyond the norm and venture into the realm of being completely unrealistic, which causes problems when looking at them from an ideological perspective.  Often times human beings, whether consciously or subconsciously, will take what they see in ads and try to make sense of it in terms of their own lives.  In this way advertisements can largely impact how people construct their identities and how they see the world (Goldman and Papson 85).  The portrayals of the men in the first three advertisements, being extremely fit, tanned, and good-looking, create a normative view of how men should look.  This view can be harmful for men because, clearly, not all men look like this and many men cannot look like this no matter how hard they try.  Along with misrepresenting men in terms of fitness and tanness, these commercials also greatly misrepresent men in terms of ethnicity.  In fact, not a single minority is depicted in any of these ads whether male or female, which clearly would cause problems for identity construction in short and less fit minority group members.

These ads are all clear examples of how modern day advertising has turned from focusing on the goods themselves (as none of the ads actually depict anyone using their products) to focusing on building brands that will stick out in people’s minds.  Similar to the beer ads discussed in Messner and Montez De Oca’s article “The Male Consumer as Loser”, rather than trying to find ways to differentiate their products from their competitors, these cologne ads all use a sort of “lifestyle branding” that appeals more to the senses and emotions of the viewer (Messner and Montez De Oca 1880).  Specifically these ads portray a certain luxurious and exotic lifestyle that is unrealistic to how most people live and act.  The depiction of the man and woman swimming and then engaging in a sensual make-out session in Dolce and Gabana’s Light Blue commercial is an occurrence that likely never happens in average person’s life.  Similarly, the way that the actor Robert Pattinson and the woman in Dior Homme’s commercial are constantly kissing and romantically touching one another no matter where they go is also a lifestyle depiction that not all people engage in.  The settings that these people are shown in, the way they look, and the way they act are all ridiculous exaggerations that both reflect the logic of capital and promote a normative vision of our world through their luxurious misrepresentations.

To create a video that addresses the issues these commercials bring up I would focus on how unrealistic their representations of men and women are.  Playing off the ideological issues I pointed out earlier I would display how each of these ads, although for different products, uses the same themes in terms of how they represent people.  Each of the ads, especially the Dior Homme commercial, uses unrealistic lifestyle portrayals and even, like in the Dolce and Gabana Sport ad, depict human beings acting and clearly posing for the camera in strange ways.  Another issue I would raise is the seeming need of cologne advertisements to not show anyone actually using the product.

When viewing these commercials one has to wonder, “where is the rest of humanity here?”  Unfortunately for the viewers of these ads, while containing elements meant to make their products appeal consumers, modern day cologne advertisements use unrealistic portrayals of men and women that are ideologically objectionable from the standpoint of the average consumer.  Specifically, these commercials create a false view of real life, represent only a small portion of society, and promote a normative vision of our world and relationships.



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