What an ass! Flying Machine, and aesthetics

We are surrounded by objects which ‘do’ and ‘mean’. Products or objects meant to only ‘do’ in a socio-psycho space may not be the perfect recipe for success in the marketing system. Baudrillard suggested that there are four ways an object can acquire value: the functional value (eye glasses correct sight); exchange value (a slice of cake can be exchanged for a cup of tea); symbolic value (it is meaning assigned by a subject to an object, like chocolate may symbolize love) and sign value (this is value in relation to other objects within in the system, for instance an old time record player may not function but may suggest old money or class). Marketers surely ‘produce’ objects but they also ‘manufacture’ meanings.
A pair of jeans made with denim, added with an innovative fiber like lycra is no big deal. Lycra helps it gives the pair stretch ability, retains shape and softness. This obviously is advantageous for the wearer. No one can deny the functional usefulness of these qualities. The ad does mention these: ‘stretch denim that flatters your body 360 degree stretch retains shape, soft fabric’. But the question is: are these the brand triggers?
Marketing in its present form is about extending an object into the realm of symbolism. Objects are degraded by pervasive sameness and therefore marketers look for other triggers from the world of signs and meanings. Nothing can escape symbolism. There is nothing called single entendre. Melanie once said, ‘a thing is phallic symbol if it’s longer than it’s wide’. Brands negotiate meaning between denotation and connotation.
The words and picture in the ad (with the headline in exclamation, ‘what an ass!’) conveys meaning at two levels. On the surface the ad seeks to convey ideas at the literal level suggestive of the product and its elements. Literally ‘ass’ is here used to signify ‘donkey’ for the people who ‘did not call after the first date’ and ‘who refused to give a ride home’ and ‘the rest’ who misread the wearer’s figure (as not sexy) because of poor fitting jeans. The picture at one level shows somebody in a relaxed position unhindered by the wear. Is this the rallying point for the brand?
At the same time the ad manages to execute subtle transference of meaning which is at much departure and independent of what  seems to have been conveyed. The ‘ass’ and ‘what an’ exclamation conveys meaning through cultural codes of the target market. The ‘ass’ in this interpretational scheme of things signifies  a body part and calls people ‘fools’ and ‘idiots’ who did not call after the first date or refused to offer a ride home. Now the center of attraction is actually the butt. The headline captures the attention and shifts its focus immediately to the visual. Only a few are likely to move from visual headline to verbal body copy. The ad is designed to induce this jump.
Ads speak the language of time. These reflect reality. In the evolving socio-psychological space, the sense and sensibilities are changing. Sexuality and its role in personal and social space have been revisited. The traditional views are challenged and its form and role are given new meanings. The time we are living in is of duality or plurality. Along with  compliments like ‘Hey, gorgeous’ or ‘hi beautiful’ newer ones are ‘added’ like the headline in this ad (‘what an ass!’). The advertisement does bring the butt to the center of attention. It is no longer something to be covered and kept hidden from public gaze rather it is a matter of aesthetics and appeal in equal measure for some.


6 thoughts on “What an ass! Flying Machine, and aesthetics

  1. Cheap copy of Nike’s ad campaign. There is no originality, only they are using the factor that most people don’t know about that Nike campaign and they do

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