So one of my graduate electives for this Fall includes the study of communication through visual aids with an emphasis on the delivery, style and interpretation of images to a given audience such as in an advertisement. Pretty cool huh? So why am I including this on my blog, you ask? (I’ll give you a minute to make the connection)……
Visual communication is driven by everything around us especiallyin the industry of fashion as marketers and advertisers try to appeal to our senses to evoke emotions for us to buy a particular product. As apart of the weekly assignment for this class, I have the chance to analyze an aspect of visual communication and share it in a public domain. And since my blog only has one person who edits, contributes, uploads and shares information on this canvas, it looks as though I’ll be painting my ideas on a weekly basis under ‘Envision Visuals’ for my assignments. It’s actually pretty nice that it guarantees me a topic per week to write about- so now I only have 6 other days to worry about (who am I kidding, at the max 3). So for all of you who merely skip to the pictures, you might want to stop reading now. All others who want to be intellectually stimulated, proceed.
After browsing the clothing brand’s lifestyle website, Sisley, I came across an advertisement that was provocative and controversial rolled into one graphic (perfect!) Under the United Colors of Benetton Group, Sisley has been known as the brand that consistently launches men and women’s clothing while staying on target with extremely up-to-date collections with an emphasis on uniqueness and innovation of the fashionable lifestyle. Most notably, their advertisements, geared towards a younger demographic, has continued to stay relative due to their controversial images that represent the company’s promotions. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I came across their “Fashioin Junkie’ advertisement portraying two women as drug addicted models clad in fitted dresses with a fixated haze over their eyes. Connecting the dots I immediately knew what the company was aiming to communicate. The message that their brand was so addictive that even consumers would become obsess as well has ‘hooked’ on the brand. But did the company really think that they could get escape the criticism of this ad? Of course not, they knew it would drum up controversy on their end, but in my opinion it did more damage and harm to the industry as a whole.
My initial impression of this ad wasn’t outrage as some would have felt it should have been. Like you, I am constantly marketed to through the use of overt and subliminal sex images in products from shampoos to fragrances. Because of this, we have become desensitized to everything as if we’ve seen, read and flipped through that ad already. But after viewing the minute details of the ad, I took another look to place the image in context to identify the subtle elements. The understated elements in the advertisement clued me in to the questions such as who was the intended audience and for what purpose. The women are seen here snorting an elegantly crafted white tank top in place of what should have been a drug, with remnants of the white powered substance on the credit card below. At first glance, you may not have noticed the exposed areola of the model to the left, implying that she doesn’t care who’s watching while concentrating on getting her fix. The word fashion is intentionally misspelled- ‘fashioin’- to make it rhyme a bit with heroine. By portraying and endorsing the women as addicted, the advertisement draws on the parallels of fashion-obsessed women with models addicted to cocaine. Furthermore, (yeah I completely not in blogging mode anymore, can you tell?) the age of the young models appeals to younger generation of fashionistas and more importantly an earlier period in the fashion industry when coke was used heavily by models in the 90’s to suppress appetite and to maintain adrenaline during busy modeling schedules. Yet the image Sisley portrayed seems to ‘undo’ the image that the fashion industry has tried to change and reintroduce cocaine on the catwalk once again. The text, language and societal elements within the advertisement conjure a certain lifestyle and set the precedence based on the interests of the intended audience.
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