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LUCK BE A LADY: CIROC VODKA ADVERTISIMENT
- Stephen Astwood
Luck Be a Lady
Virtually every rapper today is citing British alcohol maker Diageo’s CIROC Ultra-Premium Vodka in their lyrics. The brand seems to have found an interesting niche, more specifically that of the premium liquor market. CIROC’s “Luck Be a Lady” advert, synonymous with the song of the same name made famous by Frank Sinatra, calls upon a all-star cast with public celebrities like hip-hop entrepreneur and investor in CIROC Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, and a assortment of male actors and female models. The men are elegantly dressed in suits with Combs (2011) first statement suggesting the strategy of the campaign, “We have arrived.” He urges them to go out and amass millions of dollars, wanting the practice become a regular habit. Combs (2011) first full statement is, “Fellas, we have arrived…we gone win a couple million, break the bank out here, then we gone do it all over again.” The ads next scene is them disembarking a private jet in Las Vegas, where there are beautiful women to greet them with actual shots of CIROC. (Jernigan, Ostroff & Ross, 2005) says, “In modern alcohol markets, the advertising and promotion of alcohol are central to the product itself. Whereas in earlier eras, alcohol may have been marketed based on the quality, purity, and price of the product, now the identity of the brand is paramount” (p. 314). This campaign strives to tell the story that connects a life of luxury and leisure with the product itself. The commercial successfully fills the objective of the formerly mentioned narrative, and encapsulates the sensation of attainment one can appreciate with having consumed CIROC. However, the representation of this lifestyle associated with a brand can have false consequences when classism and consumption becomes more than the product itself (in this case CIROC), and more about trying to keep up with the exemplified way of life. It is of no surprise that the ad echoes the culture of which Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs is a pioneer; that of hip-hop, which today is full of images purporting classism, consumerism and to put in urban vernacular, swag over substance. The campaign pays homage to Sinatra and his contemporaries the ‘Rat Pack’, with Combs (2011) telling Soul Culture Magazine that, “The Rat Pack defined the art of celebrating in style. I cannot imagine a Spirit more suitable for commemorating life with family and friends than CIROC; a brand that has become synonymous with celebratory occasions.”
Thorstein Veblen (1979) says that, “In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth of power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence” (p. 24). As Combs (2011) declares, “We have arrived”, it not only takes into account the physical arrival at a private jet facility, but the arrival to a height of social status. The depiction of this status in the ad is realized through the collection of luxury products exhibited; from the Escalades, private jet, the many of beautiful women, and of course Las Vegas, which is symbolic for infamous gambling, one of many facets that endorse pleasure as a main motivation for using it as a location to film. Merchandise like this form the basis, or give confirmation to what Veblen (1979) notes as, “putting wealth and power in evidence” (p. 24). It is contrasted with the fact that they are just drinking a brand of vodka; it connects CIROC to these high-end products. Essentially, the ad is making the statement that CIROC is not just one of the many premium liquor brands, it exceeds the others’. Particular focus is given to excess—gambling in the casinos. While the characters mention that they are looking to “rake a couple million” and “break the bank”, inferences are that they are looking to spend a great amount of money. If they are talking about millions, expandable wealth is no object to them. Throughout the advertisement we are bombarded with messages that say if you are not a part of the wealthy class, then you are not worthy. Likewise, if you buy CIROC then you will become just as happy, attractive, and successful as the people portrayed in the commercial. It has been corporate practice that marketers feed—off the uncertainties of individuals who adopt a classist attitude, seeking to elevate themselves up the economic and social ladder. Debra Goldman (2002) states, “New-luxury consumers account for a lot of this recession resistance. They are paying premium prices not just for material things (which the old mass market supplied very efficiently) but for emotional ones: comfort, adventure, identity, and esthetic pleasure.” The commercial advocate that anything less than CIROC means you are missing out on the true emotional significance of successes and all that entails.
Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs in an interview with the publication Adweek (2011) was asked, “What do you think your brand stands for?” Combs (2011) responded by saying:
“I think I stand for aspiration. [That] hard work pays off. People from all walks of life and all over the world look at me and know my humble beginnings and know that everything I’ve done has been through hard work. People respect me as a marketer and brand builder.”
As mentioned beforehand, there are countless references of CIROC in hip-hop culture today, so much so that the brand epitomizes the approach to the music. Such adoration toward alcohol in music, and specifically in hip-hop is not unique to CIROC. For example, MOET and CRISTAL, rightly having been observed as premium brands, have been used in the lyrics of Combs protégé the late Notorious BIG (1994, 1997) in which he says, “The back of the club sipping ‘Moet’ is where you’ll find me” and “Take their spots, take their keys, make my faculty/Live happily ever after in laughter/Hah, never seen ‘Cristal’ pour faster/And to those bastards, knuckleheads squeeze lead.” Miller and Muir (2004) note that, “As a cultural and commercial force, hip-hop’s impact is formidable: Coke, Pepsi, Gucci, Bacardi, Burberry, Mercedes, Nike and McDonald’s are among the brands that have used hip hop to sell themselves” (p. 178). While hip-hop was shaped from much more serious questions than which bottle to ‘pop’ in the club, it is thanks to endorsements from rappers in various lyrics that certain brands have enjoyed a substantial boost in popularity.
The campaign suggests another cultural perception, and that is how the women are represented. Amico (1998) says that, “Advertisements promoted the image of women as childlike and sexy” (p. 19). From the onset of the commercial, the women appear in a role that is subservient and playful, regarding them as another expression of the luxurious life. The women have one speaking part; following a trend in advertising that rarely do female characters have a voice in a commercial unless it is for something directly marketed to women. Wood (1999) notes, “To be feminine in the United States is to be attractive, differential, unaggressive, emotional, nurturing, and concerned with people and relationships” (as cited in Turow & McAllister, 2009, p. 193). These concepts are depicted in the commercial and emphasize the historic belief about gender roles that women as the protagonist are expected to serve the male. Although the women are dressed in attire that suggests professionalism, as with many modern women, when they are portrayed this way, women are seen as having to work their “second job” when they arrive home. There is less evidence than usual to suggest this advert is working to undercut any progress made for women’s rights. However, the message sent to the viewers here is that the men is the one with authority—the one in control, and the woman’s role is to serve; and just because the women appear successful and having a good time, it is only on the condition that she still carries out her principal duties as hostess.
The campaign, “Luck Be a Lady” debuted in mid-December 2011 on both US televisions as well as online. Diageo said that the ad will run on various channels that predominantly are dedicated to music and sports. The 30 second version of the ad campaign aired over the holiday season collection of NBA games; however the original format is that of a short film. CIROC (2011) has stated in their campaign marketing that, “Ciroc has taken the stance that their marketing video needed not backstory, narrative arc or a connection to reality. No one in a decision-making capacity on their marketing team thought to ask whether it mattered that, there’s no reason for these people to be hanging out, that nothing remotely interesting goes on outside of the visual, and that it’s just kind of weird.” The reason for this strategy forms the basis of advertising success. The intertextuality with the “Rat Pack” gives fundamental basis to what the commercial is endorsing. Olsen et al. (2003, 1993, 1995, and 2004) notes that:
“Advertisements have become an integrated part of popular culture which they parody, and by drawing upon socially situated codes, myths, cultural discourse, and national ideologies to develop resonant associations for consumer goods, advertisements both constitute prevailing ideologies and construct new mythologies and ideologies for commodities through these dialogical and intertextual relationships.”
(as cited in Turow & McAllister, 2009, p. 134)
The references made to the ‘Rat Pack’ are deliberate because the target market is already familiar with them and what they symbolize as CIROC is used as a form of product placement. It isn’t a blatant use of it, but still generates links that are already drawn by the audience’s knowledge.
Just as actors, musicians, artist and the like come to personify their brand, Sean ‘P. Diddy Combs has come to personify CIROC. There are very few places and very few songs nowadays that don’t associate the two. In ‘Luck Be a Lady’ a variety of roles become closely tied to the message of luxury and success. The image of the ‘Rat Pack’ according to Combs was considered because it sought to emphasize what Strasser (2009) says that, “Through advertising, leisure becomes a goal of modern living, not just an attribute used to sell a product” (as cited in Turow & McAllister, 2009, p. 25). Having the resources to live life the way the campaign projects, is a desire of most western consumers. The commercials statement is made more striking knowing the success Combs has attained personally; that this could actually be a day in the life of Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs. The “match-up hypothesis” is described by Till & Busler (2013) as, “The differential impact that different types of endorsers, often celebrities, have on the endorsed brand” (p. 2). Diageo notes the business has had significant growth since they affiliated Sean “Diddy” Combs. Marketing and Research Company Symphony IRI says that, “Sales (of CIROC) jumped 41% to $6.8 million in the year ended Oct. 3 2007.” Initial brand management before Combs tended to focus on the grape according to MediaCom, CIROC’s media agency until January 2011. When Aegis’ Carat (2011) took over responsibilities they said, “That whole grape story just didn’t work, because nobody really cared. It didn’t carry around enough cachet.” Through the success of advertising campaign; “Lady Be Luck”, CIROC is now positioned as a brand amongst the most successful in the world with The Spirits Business (2012) reporting that, “The sale of 1.5m cases in 2011 has helped Ciroc to become the second largest ultra-premium vodka in the US.” Combs statement to Andrew Hampp (2007) in Ad Age, summed up his relevance to the brand and the brands success in the market. He said, “I’ve branded myself as the king of celebration, and that’s what this alliance is all about.”
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