Here’s a recent ad for Ralph Lauren’s fragrance Polo.
It’s a cultural antique. This is what advertising used to look like when designed to flatter male egos and sell goods that were designed to flatter male egos in a cultural moment designed to flatter male egos. These days, its “Really? Get over yourself.”
Ralph Lauren has not been superbly in touch with the cultural moment. (Not since the 1980s when he helped define the cultural movement.) But this is really egregiously out of touch. I guess he doesn’t have a Chief Culture Officer.
What looks and feels more contemporary? Have a look at this Fitbit ad.
It’s not about one person. It’s about lots and lots of people.
It’s not about young males. It’s about a variety of people. Because some years ago, advertising and branding learned it had to let in everyone, not just the Young and Beautiful…and Male. Who gets the credit here? Sylvia Lagnado and Dove? Who else?
And it’s not about someone with that terrible look of self congratulation, that overweening red speedboat of an ego.
It’s not about speedboats but the diversity of ways people have found to entertain and exert themselves. This is plenitude in action.
Yes, this ad is an exercise in diversity because the Fitbit is designed to capture data generate by any activity. But notice the tone, the reckless, frenetic charm of this spot. It’s not about anyone’s ego. There are no beautiful people here. No celebrities. It’s a “Here Comes Everybody” exercise, to use Shirky’s phrase. There are a variety of deep cultural reasons why diversity is so important when crafting cultural meanings.
We are on the verge of a season that shows a relentless stream of James Bond movies, and with each season, Bond looks a little stranger, a man so besotted with himself that it’s hard to imagine rooting for him. How do we identify with a monster of vanity? Those days have passed. This is where you are, Mr. Lauren, on the wrong side of history.