Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Listening to Khakis: What America's Most Popular Pants Tell Us about the Way Guys Think"

Raquel Aguilar, Melinda Lopez, Matthew Scherer, Bobby Lewis
Advertising Criticism
July 29, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell, “Listening to Khakis: What America’s Most Popular Pants Tell Us about the Way Guys Think”

Description of Topic: Gladwell presents various examples of successful strategies deployed by advertising agencies that rely heavily on the “selectivity hypothesis.” In a nutshell, the premise of this hypothesis states that men and women process information by a completely different set of criteria. In short, the article represents the notion that “men eliminate” information in an attempt to simplify “the route to a conclusion.” Women on the other hand are said to “integrate” information and in doing so process information comprehensively. These concepts juxtaposed against one another fuels the premise by which certain ad campaigns such as Dockers, Bugle Boy Jeans, and Evian Natural Spring Water are analyzed. Gladwell examines opinions presented by a range of advertising executives as well as findings derived through both academic and psychological studies. Ultimately, this essay credits successful advertising as being contingent upon how information is disseminated to the different genders.

Summary of Key Points: Gladwell provides indisputable facts with regard to the success of certain advertising campaigns and lays the groundwork for dissecting the psychology behind the advertisements. For example, the essay states that “seventy percent of American men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five own a pair of Dockers, and khakis are expected to be as popular as bluejeans by the beginning of the next century.” These statistics are credited with the success of the unconventional Dockers ads that aired in 1987. These ads provided unprecedented success in terms of marketing fashion to the American male, a demographic who, according to a study conducted by two psychologists at studied at York University, lacks an appreciation for details. These ads along with other advertisements have relied heavily on understanding the “emotional underpinnings” and psyche of the American male. Gladwell brings to light the intentional use of subtlety in campaigns such as “Nice Pants” and Bugle Boy Jeans. He also addresses the fine line that the advertising community walks with regard to reaching the male audience. Concerns for alienating and condescending this particular demographic are explored and defended.

Discussion Questions:

1. The essay suggests that men have extreme difficulty differentiating verbal and non-verbal messages simultaneously in advertising. Guys, what is your response to this assertion? Why do you feel advertisers have this mindset when trying to appeal to males?

2. The essay utilizes different ad campaigns as examples and categorizes them as either male or female based off of aesthetics, text, etc. Think of a favorable ad you have recently seen (tv, print, anything) and describe which of the two categories you think it would fall and why?

3. In the Dockers ads of the 80s and 90s the men are consistently portrayed as average in fashion status. This is validated when the essay states guys who dress nice and emit too much self-confidence are no longer perceived as masculine, but more feminine. Do you feel this is a valid assertion? Do you think this ideology hinders the potential of new Dockers consumers? How do you think these kind of ideals have evolved over the past few years?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Selfridge & Co.

Brittany De Clercq, Alex Jimenez, Claudia Flores, & Tara Biberstein

"A New Era of Shopping"

The Promotion of Wome
n's Pleasure in London's West End, 1909-1914
~Erika D. Rappaport~

Love Thyself at Selfridge's & Co.

Description of Topic: Rappaport examines a redefined meaning of shopping and a woman’s place in a prewar urban society. In particular, the opening of Harry Gordon Selfridge’s Oxford Street Department Store which emerged during a “new era” shaped by decades of economic and cultural transformations. She is interested in Selfridge’s role as an American owner and his influences in architectural styles, window displays, and creative marketing strategies, helping him achieve success within an expanding English commerce culture. Prior in the Victorian Era, shopping was considered in negative connotations as being “wasteful”, “indulgent” and even “immoral.” She examines how Selfridge rewrote the meaning of pleasure and what it meant for women to take part in, having their own needs meet in a new, innovative way. Most importantly, marketing strategies used through publicity such as print media to turn notions from the past and make them into legitimate pleasures. She looked closely at how transforming anxieties into profit through paid advertising became the success of Selfridge’s & Co. To do this, she looks at a range of sources, from early advertisements in newspapers, journals, and articles which illustrate a promise of satisfaction, indulgence, and excitement. Modern shopping became pleasurable and respectable, a notion of self-fulfillment and independence for women no longer feeling like a necessity. Underlying the usage of mass retailing and media, she carefully examines how Selfridge created the largest and most publicized department store which became the center of urban society in a time of social and cultural changes.

Store opened and changed shopping in London forever in 1909

Customers in line and waiting to enter the department store

Shoppers were able to get a taste of what was inside by viewing the large window displays that the Selfridge & Co. department store was known for

Shoppers crowding the counters on a busy day at Selfridge's

Summary of Key Points: Rappaport underlines the importance promoting the store emphasizing on women, their pleasures, and the city. Selfridge’s central strategy was challenging the pleasures of pre-existing urban commercial culture in order to showcase shopping from labor to leisure. It now became something sought out for and desired with the press repeatedly featuring consumption as public, sensual entertainment. She describes how featured ads and articles linked shopping to romance, novelty and tradition, sensuality, and consumption. In other words, it became a “home away from home,” shopping part of lifestyle as “a time of profit, recreation, and enjoyment.” One important part of her essay is that Selfridge sought a way to design and publicize the department store as a mixture of both elite and mass culture. While most ads were focused on immediate, forms of consumption, she examines how shopping became newly represented moreover as a unique female, urban pleasure in the West End although limited in areas largely due to political, social, and economic limits placed on women in public life. Selfridge’s was successful because he was able to give women access to both a public and private life through promises of escapism from a women’s place in the home.

To this day, window displays are still seen as shoppers and tourist walk through London's West End

A window display during the holiday season

Selfridge's in 2009 with all the windows lit up pink for a charity campaign

Discussion Questions
  1. Selfridge's was described as an "architectural masterpiece" from interior to exterior and as "A Pleasure-A Pastime- A Recreation." How are today's malls in Corpus Christi or within Texas in general similar to these ideas? How are they different?
  2. The essay describes that Selfridge's & Co. and other shopping experiences cater more toward women than they do men. Is this still the case in malls today? How and why?
  3. The opening of Selfridge's department store was both a largely publicized media event and visual, commercial spectacle that spread the social changes he inspired. What media accomplish this?