Seeing Stars- The Relationship Between Celebrities and Advertising

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Seeing Stars- The Relationship Between Celebrities and Advertising
RMIT UNIVERSITY
SCHOOL OF APPLIED COMMUNICATION
HONOURS THESIS
Submitted for the partial credit in
Bachelor of Communication (Media) (Honours)
BHO55
SEEING STARS:
The Relationship between Celebrities and Advertising
Submitted by: Annalisa Giulia Mastrangelo
BA (Media Studies)
Supervisor: Peter Kemp
17th November 2006
1
CONTENTS
PAGE
ABSTRACT
3
STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
5
INTRODUCTION
6
CHAPTER 1:
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.4
Introduction: Celebrities and Advertising
Celebrity and Advertising: From Theory to Practise……………
Celebrity Expertise………………………………………………
Celebrities as Role Models………………………………………
Celebrity Endorsement: The Implications……………………….
14
15
21
24
27
CHAPTER 2:
Celebrity Scandal: The Kate Moss Controversy
2.1
Media Scandals…………………………………………………….. 31
2.2
Scandal and Social theory…………………………………………. 35
2.3
The Social Function of Gossip and Scandal…………………….......
30
CHAPTER 3: Advertising in India: Shahrukh Khan and Globalisation
3.1
Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood………………………………………
3.2
The Duality and Irony of Indian Advertising………………………...
3.3
Shahrukh Khan: The Controversial Commercial……………………..
45
48
52
57
CHAPTER 4: Western and Indian Advertising: A Comparative Analysis
4.1
Advertising and the Male Gaze………………………………………..
4.2
Moss and the Male Gaze………………………………………………
4.3
Shahrukh Khan and the Male Gaze……………………………………
4.4
Celebrity Transgression………………………………………………..
4.5
Transgressive Shahrukh Khan: Aka Queer Shahrukh………………….
4.6
Transgressive Moss: Aka “Cocaine Kate ”……………………………..
65
67
71
74
78
79
80
CONCLUSION
84
LIST OF WORKS CITED
88
Additional References……………………………………………………………
96
39
2
Abstract
Today’s media landscape is heavily infiltrated by advertising with the pressure of
branding being virtually inescapable within society. It seems as though everywhere we
look we are bombarded with thousands of advertising images and messages per day, all
of which provide insight into culture and society. In the past decade celebrity
endorsement has been the most prevalent and successful form of advertising. Reason for
this is that celebrities are considered to demonstrate a number of dynamic qualities
including; credibility, expertise and physical attractiveness, which can be transferred
through marketing.
This thesis consists of a textual analysis examining the relationship between celebrities
and advertising and its desired effects on consumer behaviour and cultural studies. This
issue is worth attention, given the fact that there is limited academic material specifically
addressing the proven effectiveness of the use of celebrities in advertising. Hence, the
value of celebrity endorsement is recognised but poorly understood in terms of
advertising. The purpose of my thesis will be to identify why celebrity endorsement is
regarded the most effective form of advertising for certain products.
The concept of scandal, social theory, queer theory and transgression in the media and
its effects on advertising will also be discussed with reference to two case studies British
supermodel Kate Moss and Bollywood film star Shahrukh Khan.
The outcome of this thesis will be to identify why consumers are so heavily influenced
by the use of celebrity endorsement and what impact this has on cultural studies. This
thesis will serve as a collection of academic material specifically addressing the
relationship between celebrities and advertising, and is intended for an advertising and
cultural studies audience.
3
STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
I declare that this thesis contains no material that has been accepted for the award of any
other degree or diploma in any tertiary institution.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, this thesis contains no material previously
published or written by another person, except where due reference is made in the text of
the thesis.
Signed 17th November, 2006
……………………………………
Annalisa Giulia Mastrangelo
4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to acknowledge the assistance of my supervisor; Peter Kemp who throughout the
course of the year has provided me with endless guidance and support, Thankyou Peter.
I also wish to express my gratitude to Adrian Miles for providing me with the
opportunity to undertake my honours year at RMIT.
In addition would also like to thank my friends and family for keeping me grounded and
sane. And finally, I would like to dedicate ‘Seeing Stars’ to my father Mario
Mastrangelo, who trusted in my ability even at the worst of times, and who’s hard work
and determination throughout life is an inspiration to all.
5
INTRODUCTION
‘Seeing Stars: Celebrities and Advertising’ analyses the relationship between celebrities
and advertising, and the concept of celebrity endorsement which has become one
today’s fastest growing and successful phenomena. The aim throughout this thesis is to
present the relevant academic theory regarding relationship between celebrities and
advertising and to determine whether celebrity scandal and other forms of transgression
such as queer theory have negative implications in advertising. But fundamentally to
determine why consumers regard celebrities so highly, and why we as consumers
express such strong connections with these individuals who we do not possess any
personal relationships with.
All the research in this thesis has been collated from varying sources including academic
references, journal articles and tabloid media. My key arguments have been constructed
from the work of various authors and fields of theory including: Edgar Morin author of
The Stars analyses the star system and stars as a specific institution of capitalism.
Hamish Pringle in Celebrity Sells explores the relationship between celebrities and
advertising from an audience, consumer and practitioner’s perspective and its desired
effects on consumer behaviour. David. P. Marshall, Celebrity and Power, Fame in
Contemporary Culture conducts a cultural analysis on the relationship between the
development of celebrity and making sense of the social world. Zafer Erdogan and
Phillip Kitchen, Reason for Using Celebrity Endorsers and Selecting Celebrity
Endorsers are both professors of marketing at Dumlupinar University Turkey, whom
have conducted a number lectures on the effectiveness of using celebrity endorsers.
James Lull and Stephen Hinerman, Media Scandals, examines the notion of scandal and
the implication media scandal has on post-modern society and Calvin Thomas, Straight
with a Twist looks at queer theory and the subject of heterosexuality in society.
“Stars are believed to be the secret of success in advertising, having the power to
influence millions of consumers with a glance” (Pringle, p. xx). This is partly the
6
reason why millions of companies have jumped on the celebrity-endorsement
bandwagon and are paying millions of dollars for celebrities to endorse their brands.
According to authors of Getting the best out of celebrity endorsers, Erdogan and
Kitchen, companies employ celebrities to endorse their products for various reasons,
some of which include:
-
Celebrities demonstrate a number of dynamic qualities which can be transferred
to products through marketing.
-
Celebrities have the ability to attract and maintain attention by their presence in
advertising.
-
Celebrities are able to achieve a high recall status, due to their popularity in the
media.
-
Celebrities also have the power to influence a company or product image
makeover by re-positioning an old brand or introducing a new one.
“There is no doubt that advertisers everywhere continue to queue for the services of
personalities hoping that some of their magic will tub off on the brand persona”
(Iddiols, p.1).
According to Zafer and Kitchen the advantages of celebrity endorsement are numerous,
yet there are also certain pitfalls the company should be cautious of, when selecting
celebrities to endorse their products. These include scandal and controversy surrounding
the celebrity and additionally over-exposure. “A picture is worth a thousand words. A
celebrity connection is worth a million. When you get it right, it’s really, really valuable.
When you don’t get it right, there’s a risk ” (O’Loughlin, p.8).
Celebrity culture became a growing obsession of the 1990’s and continues to expand
rapidly in the twenty first century. Companies use stars to endorse everything from
food, clothing, cosmetics, automobiles, accessories, alcohol, department stores and
personal products. Celebrity endorsements are commonly referred to as ‘testimonials’
which is a form of persuasion in advertising which creates an emotional connection with
the consumer and the celebrity who features in the ad. Commonly in testimonials the
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“celebrity essentially acts as a salesperson/mouthpiece for the brand ” (Iddiols, p.2).
The fundamental purpose of testimonials is to persuade the audiences’ logic into
believing, that if the celebrity uses the product, then it must be good, so they should
purchase it too. “The logic therefore went like this: associate Brand X with a star and
some of the kudos would rub off because the public wished to emulate the habits of the
rich and famous ” (p.1).
Marshall, through extensive cultural analysis dissects the nature of the relationship
between the development of celebrity and making sense of the social world.
Categorising the concept of celebrity into three areas, these include:
- Celebrity as a form of rationalization.
- Celebrity as a sign /text.
- Celebrity as an expression of audience subjectivity.
Celebrity as a form of rationalization is the way different groups in society use
celebrities to interpret their social surroundings. Marshall suggests this has echoes of
Webers intellectual project regarding rationality.1 Thus prompting the rise of capitalism
and the commodity principle, this in essence is the epitome of the development of the
production of celebrity;
The celebrity articulates the transformation of types of cultural value into the
rationalising system of commodity. The culture industry is re-presenting aspects
of personality, the emotional and affective and hence irrational elements of
human action, in the exchangeable commodity form of celebrity (Marshall,
p.55).
According to Marshall there are two ways by which celebrity as a form of
rationalization is achieved. Firstly by integrating the notion of personality differences
1
Webers intellectual project of rationality was illustrated in the development of modern bureaucracy
which was one of the effects of the Protestant Reformation, whereby society diverted their values away
from the church and clergy redirecting them towards values of rationality. The effect of this was the
break-down of normative power and the opening up of outlets of communication and a variety of new
values and ideals.
8
and individuality into a system of exchange, and secondly, by prompting audiences to
view these representations of personality in the celebrities as legitimate forms of
identification and cultural value.
A celebrity as a sign/ text is defined as celebrities representing something other than
them. Celebrity signs represent personalities of a higher cultural significance within
society. Marshall relates this notion to Michel Foucault’s function of the author stating
that the celebrity function has the power to organise the legitimate and illegitimate
sectors of the personal and individual within the social realm.
As in Foucault’s interpretation of the author, the celebrity is a way in which
meaning can be housed and categorized into something that provides a source
and origin of meaning. The “celebrity-function ” is as important as Foucault’s
“author-function” in its power to organize the legitimate and illegitimate
domains of the personal and individual within the social. This power becomes
activated only through cultural “investment ” in the construction of the celebrity
sign. In semiotic terms, the cultural investment is the play of connotation in the
sign structure of celebrity (Marshall, p.57).
Celebrity as an expression of audience subjectivity is defined as the emergence of
celebrity as a sign directly related to the rise of audiences as a social category and the
development of capitalist consumer culture. Celebrities as a sign construct their audience
through positioning of identification and individuality, essentially all of the celebrity’s
power is derived from their audience. This relationship is a two way street, whereby
there cannot be celebrities without audiences nor audiences without celebrities. “The
celebrity’s power is derived form a collective configuration of its meaning; in other
words, the audience is central in sustaining the power of any celebrity sign ” (p.65). The
types of messages that celebrities provide for their audience revolve around the nature of
individual identification, social status and the universality of personality types.
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Morin supports Marshall’s claim, stating that the star system and the stars themselves
are classified as a specific institution of capitalism on a major scale. Morin argues that
the star system is a total item of merchandise and that “there isn’t an inch of the stars
body, mind or soul which cannot be thrown on the market ” (Morin, p.114). A star is not
only seen to be a subject but an object of advertising, therefore through their
endorsement of products they are multiplying their commercial utility which contributes
to the popularity and the desirability of the star. The star primarily can be seen as
merchandise manufactured for mass consumption.
Furthermore, the star’s merchandise neither wears out nor diminishes upon
consumption; the multiplication of the star’s images makes the worth of the star more
desirable. Typically the products that the stars endorse are associated with the image of
fame and prestige itself, which includes luxury items such as automobiles, jewellery,
cosmetics and couture. “The star is like gold: a material so precious that it is identified
with the very notion of capital, with the very notion of luxury (jewellery), and confers a
value on fiduciary money ” (Morin, p. 115).
The findings of this thesis are formulated from textual, discursive and empirical analysis
of marketing, advertising, celebrity discourse, queer theory, cultural studies and popular
press commentary. The key questions considered include: Why are celebrities so
effective in advertising? Why are consumers so easily influenced by stars? What appeal
lies in the concept of scandal and transgression? Does scandal hinder or help the career
of the endorser? And furthermore how do individuals make sense of their cultural
surroundings through the use of advertising and celebrity endorsement?
The structure of this thesis will take the form of four chapters. Chapter One is an
introductory chapter defining the relationship between celebrities and advertising and
their effectiveness in the market. This will be supported by a range of empirical evidence
from various marketing and advertising organisations such as The Institute of
10
Practitioner Advertising (IPA). Within Chapter One various forms of popular celebrity
endorsement including celebrity expertise and celebrity as a role model will be discussed
as well as the implications of celebrity endorsements.
Chapter Two will consist of a case study of British supermodel Kate Moss and the
relationship she holds with advertising and the media. Within this chapter, the concept of
scandal and social theory will be examined, focussing on the ways in which the media
polarises scandal. This will be discussed in reference to the allegations of Moss’ illicit
drug use which featured on the front page of London’s leading newspaper ‘The Daily
Mirror’ on September 15, 2005, and whether the implication of scandal has hindered
Moss’ career .
Chapter Three will comprise of a second case study on Bollywood film star Shahrukh
Khan examining his relationship with advertising and celebrity endorsement. The focus
of this chapter will be an analysis on Shahrukh Kahn endorsement for Lux soap which
generated an outcry among his Indian fans and within the Indian media. The reason for
controversy being that within its representation the commercial was criticised for
possessing camp qualities and essentially transgressed against mainstream Indian
cultural and political values and norms.
Chapter Four comprises of a cross-cultural comparative analysis of both case studies,
Kate Moss and Shahrukh Kahn. The purpose of this chapter will be to identify the
diversity and parallels between the nature of western and non-western (Indian)
advertising. The areas of theory that will form the basis of this analysis include; The
‘Male Gaze’, ‘The Gay Gaze’ and ‘Celebrity Transgression’.
Moss and Shahrukh Khan were selected as suitable candidates for this analysis given
that both celebrities are internationally recognised, and both have contributed
significantly to the phenomena of celebrity endorsement and the process of globalisation
11
in their country of origin. The United Kingdom and India are additionally two countries
where advertising and celebrity endorsement contribute significantly to the media
landscape. By drawing on these two countries in the analysis, it is intended they will
provide further scope to research regarding the nature of cultural studies.
12
CHAPTER 1
Introduction: Celebrities and Advertising
13
CHAPTER 1
1.1 Celebrities and Advertising: From Theory to Practise
For the purpose of this chapter it is necessary to define the term celebrity. According to
Pringle celebrity is someone who has expertise in a particular area other than appearing
in advertisements. This includes expertise in film, the sporting arena, fashion industry or
political arena et al and in order to acquire celebrity status they must be familiar,
respected figures within the public domain.
A genuine celebrity has a clearly defined personality and reputation: he or she is
known to be extremely good at something beyond appearing in advertising and it
is their outstanding skill in their chosen field of endeavour which has brought
them into the public eye and made them an object of veneration and respect
(Pringle, p. xx).
Although there has been much debate recently regarding the concept of celebrity, reality
TV stars and socialites such as Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, otherwise known as ‘It
Girls’, are famous for merely being famous and “can acquire a temporary notoriety
which can be harnessed for a brand in a celebrity campaign if the timing is right ” ( p.
xx). Therefore a ‘celebrity’ is any individual who is seen to be familiar enough to a
target audience that a brand aims to communicate with, in order to add values to that
communication by the association with their brand image and reputation of the celebrity.
“There is a syllogistic logic lurking behind discussions of celebrity: celebrities are
people the public is interested in; if the public is interested in this person; they are a
celebrity; therefore anyone the public is interested in is a celebrity ” (Turner, p.9).
The use of celebrity advertising for companies and products has become a common
trend, and a perceived formula for success for corporate image building and product
marketing. According to market research findings eighty per cent of television
14
commercials which gained the highest recall were those in which celebrities featured.2
“ Regardless of the practitioner’s intention, one thing is for certain: the use of celebrities
is increasing. Around one-quarter of all commercials screened in the US include
celebrity endorsers and one in five campaigns in the UK feature them ” (Erdogan, p.1).
One of the key factors why celebrity endorsements score such high recall rates is partly
due to the fact that it has the ability to cut through the clutter of surrounding
advertisements. Atkin and Block argue that “because of their high profile, celebrities
may help advertisements stand out from surrounding clutter, that improving their
communicative ability ” ( p.1). Survey statistics indicate that campaign managers were
motivated to use celebrities as endorsers on the premise that celebrity campaigns have
more of an impact on the cluttered media environment in contrast to any other form of
advertising.3
Celebrity endorsement acts as a signpost to quality and can significantly enhance
the reputation of a brand. In using products that have a celebrity association,
consumers get a little bit extra in terms of imagery, aspiration and entertainment
and this is often just enough to tip the balance in favour of one brand instead of
its competitors on the supermarket shelf or in an Internet search engine return
(Pringle, p. xxii).
The success rate of celebrity endorsements can be measured on four grounds these
comprise of:
2
The reason behind the popularity of celebrity endorsement is the practitioner’s belief that brand images
built through celebrities achieve a higher degree of attention and recall amongst consumers. This in turn
will eventually result in higher penetration of sales and therefore profit-margins.
3
According to Erdogan since all variables in clutter-cutting have to do with standing out. “Media clutter
is widely acknowledged. Increasing competition for consumer consciousness and new product
proliferation have encouraged marketers to use attention-creating media stars. Moreover, technical
innovations such as remote control televisions, PVR’s and cable and satellite diffusion have served to
increase consumer power over programmed advertisements. This makes advertising more challenging. A
celebrity-endorsement strategy may ease the threat, by helping to create and maintain consumer
attention to ads and therefore make them stand out from surrounding clutter” (p.3-4).
15
-
The Source-Credibility Model; which depends on the perceived level of expertise
and trustworthiness of an endorser (Hovland and Weiss, 1951; Hovland, Janis
and Kelley 1953). 4
-
The Source-Attractive Model; which suggests that the effectiveness of the
message depends on the similarity, familiarity and popularity of an endorser
(McGuire, 1968).5
-
The Product Match-Up Hypothesis; denotes that the messages conveyed by the
celebrity image and the product advertised should be compatible for effective
advertising (Kahle and Homer, 1985; Kamins, 1989, 1990).6
-
The Meaning Transfer Model; is the process whereby celebrities transfer
meanings to the product and to the consumer (McCracken, 1989).7
Erdogan, Michael and Tagg conducted a study on several practitioners of the IPA
which aimed at understanding the practitioner’s mind-set in deciding which celebrity
4
Kelman suggests “Information from a credible source (for example, celebrity) can influence beliefs,
opinions, and/or behaviour through a process called internalization, which occurs when receivers accept
a source influence in terms of their personal attitude and value structures” ( 1961). In addition, “Trust
worthiness refers to honesty, integrity and believability of an endorser as perceived by the target
audience. Although Friedman et al (1978) found trustworthiness is the major determinant is the major
determinant of source credibility, Ohanian’s (1991) findings indicated that trustworthiness of a celebrity
was not significantly related to purchase intentions” (Erdogan, Tagg & Baker, p. 2).
Furthermore “Expertise is defined as the extent to which a communicator is perceived to be a source of
valid assertions. It refers to the perceived level of knowledge, experience, or skills possessed by an
endorser (Hovland et al., 1953). A celebrity that is more of an expert has been found to be more
persuasive (Speck, Schumann and Thompson, 1988) and can generate more intentions to buy the brand
(Ohanian, 1991)” (Erdogan, Tagg & Baker p.2).
5
The Source- Attractive model argues “that the effectiveness of a message depends on the similarity,
familiarity, and liking of an endorser (McGuire, 1968). Similarity is defined as a supposed resemblance
between the source and the receiver and the message, familiarity as knowledge of the source through
exposure, and likeability as affection for the source as a result of the source’s physical appearance and
behaviour” (p.3).
It has been determined that physically attractive endorsers are more effective in altering the audience
perception and changing beliefs (Baker and Churchill, 1977; Chaiken, 1979; Devbec and Kernan, 1984)
and influencing purchase behaviour and consumption (Friedman et al, 1976; Petty and Cacioppo, 1983;
Petroshius and Crocker, 1989) when compared to unattractive endorsers.
6
The factor that determines the match/connection between the celebrity and the brand, depends on to
what extent there is a perceived ‘fit’ between the celebrity and brand image (Misra & Beatty, 1990).
“Advertising a product via a celebrity whose image is slightly congruent with the brands leads to greater
advertiser and celebrity believability compared with a situation in which there is low congruence
(Kamins and Gupta, 1994)” (p.3).
7
McCracken describes the process of Meaning- Transfer as “a conventional path for the movement of
cultural meaning in consumer societies. Meanings begins as something resident in a culturally
constituted world (McCracken 1988, 72-73), in the physical and social world constituted by categories
and principles of prevailing culture. Meaning then moves to the consumer good and finally to the life
of the consumer” (McCracken, p.104).
16
to utilize for advertising. Two methods of testing were employed; the first consisted
of an extended interview process and the second tested the criteria regarding
importance of celebrity characteristics. The standard of measurement was based on a
scale of 1-5 with 5 regarded as extremely important and 1 as significantly
unimportant. The results determined that the four highest factors when selecting a
celebrity endorser were as follows:
-
The cost of acquiring the celebrity: 4.34.
-
Celebrity trustworthiness: 4.28.
-
Celebrity controversy risk: 4.13.
-
Celebrity familiarity prior to the endorsement: 4.07.
The four factors that had the lowest scores according to the scale of measurement
were:
-
Celebrity likeability: 4.02.
-
Risk of celebrity overshadowing brands: 3.91.
-
Celebrity expertise: 3.32.
-
Whether the celebrity is an actual user of the brand in question: 2.63.8
With regard to celebrity endorsement ten key genres are employed in creating
successful celebrity usage in marketing and advertising, these are as follows:
1. Celebrity as a Presenter: the most straightforward and obvious way of using a
celebrity to promote a brand.
2. Celebrity Playing Themselves: this technique is proven to be a very successful
form of celebrity endorsement, because the star is already familiar and popular
8
Erdogan, Baker and Tagg argue: “It is interesting that managers should consider this unimportant,
since campaigns have suffered as a result of celebrities being caught using competitors’ brands or not
using the product/service at all. A British example occurred when Helena Bonham- Carter admitted in
her first brand interview for Yardley that she rarely used make-up (p. 8)”
17
amongst the audience. Therefore they have the ability to boost audience
participation almost instantly.9
3. Celebrity as a Brand Character: it is essential for every brand to have one key
idea as the core of their communication strategy. Once this idea has been
established using a celebrity to support the idea it is most effective in
establishing a long-running, brand-building campaign.10
4. Celebrity Expertise: whereby the celebrity promotes a brand or product they
have a connection with.
5. Celebrity as a Role Model: cosmetics and fashion are the key markets for this
category, as they are both traditionally industries constructed around the image
of famous movie stars and models.
6. Celebrity Cast Against Type: here the celebrity plays a contrast character to their
media persona. These ads are often humorous enhancing entertainment value
and audience involvement.
7. Celebrity Acting a Part: once the company’s brand ideas have been developed,
using a celebrity to act the part has the ability to expand the brand’s popularity
in the market.
8. Celebrity Revelation: where the celebrity reveals something extremely personal
and human about them. This form of endorsement is popular because it
establishes a sense of intimacy between the celebrity, the brand and the audience.
9. Celebrities Interacting: this is where celebrities are cast together in a campaign
for the brand.
10. Celebrity Representation: a creative approach to celebrity endorsement where
instead of using the actual celebrity an animated model of the celebrity is used.
9
According to Pringle “Using celebrities to play themselves in a commercial is a very effective
technique. By definition, the star is well known to the audience and thus able to convey instantly and
enormous depth of imagery and association. In effect, the famous person is a form of communication
shorthand that accelerates understanding and enhances audience participation” (2004, p. 1).
10
“An excellent example is that of Barclaycard and the comedian Rowan Atkinson, who starred in an
outstanding series of commercials featuring the character that has now reappeared in the Hollywood
movie Johnny English. Atkinson as a bungling secret agent Richard Latham and his hapless sidekick
Bough produced a whole series of commercials that capitalized on the theme of foreign travel originally
built into the heritage by the Alan Whicker campaign, but which sought to communicate other benefits
of the card such as insurances on purchases made on it” (Pringle 2004, p. 213).
18
This form of celebrity endorsement appeals to younger markets including
teenagers and children.
In addition to these ten genres, Celebrity Expertise and Celebrity as A Role Model are
generally the most frequently employed celebrity endorsement types within advertising.
Both forms will be discussed in detail below, with reference to celebrity campaigns
which have contributed to their success in the market.
19
1.2 Celebrity Expertise
“ Many celebrities have become famous because they’re very good as something ”
(Pringle 2004, p.218). This often occurs in the sporting arena where stars, are perceived
as role models employed to promote particular brands of sporting wear, equipment and
any other product that has some connection to an area of their expertise. However, this
approach is not only restricted to the sports market, rather it can be extremely effective
when a star performer comes into question, who has a particular skill or area of expertise
that the public admires, seeks to learn from or imitate. A prime example of this was
Jamie Oliver’s involvement in the Sainsbury’s campaign.
The problem that Sainsbury’s was faced with was that they had lost the number one
ranking as Britain’s biggest supermarket to Tesco in 1995. Within five years
Sainsbury’s experienced a steady decline in sales which resulted in them dropping into
negative figures in 1999. During 1999, Sainsbury’s was losing customer spend to
Tesco, Asda and Morrison’s to the tune of 299 million pounds. Chief Executive of
Sainsbury’s Peter Davies returned to the company in March 2000 and sought about
taking action to reinvigorate Sainsbury’s business. The strategy was devised on the
grounds that new advertising should be created to inspire consumers to want to shop at
Sainsbury’s again. The effect of the advertising would be that it would stop any more
consumers from leaving the brand and encourage existing customers to shop differently.
The advertising idea had to effectively communicate Sainsbury’s core strength and
brand values of good quality food and innovation. It was decided that the campaign
would use a chef as an advocate for the brand and this would be someone who naturally
demanded high standards from their supermarket of choice.
It was determined that ‘Naked Chef’ Jamie Oliver, was the perfect choice for the
campaign. “He was a living embodiment of the personality and brand values
Sainsbury’s was looking for ” (Pringle 2004, p.220). Oliver was previously well known
for his television series ‘The Naked Chef’, his mantra of using only the highest quality
20
foods and his desire to get everyone enjoying better food. He was perceived as being
down to earth, youthful, accessible, energetic, and innovative.
The casting of Oliver also works really well for Sainsbury’s, which has always
been perceived as somewhat middle class and perhaps a little aloof. Jamie
Oliver’s enthusiasm, directness and common touch, plus his altruism and
suffering in TV show ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’, diffuses all that makes Sainsbury’s
much more contemporary and approachable” (Pringle, p. 218).
The result of Sainsbury’s campaign featuring Oliver indicated that there was a drastic
increase in sales of the products featured in the ads. 11 Since 2000, the Oliver campaign
has turned Sainsbury’s market growth around resulting in 1.12 billion pounds
incremental revenue and a ROI (return on investment) of 27.25 pounds for every
advertising pound spent.
In reinvigorating the brand mission of ‘Pioneering better quality everyday food’,
Jamie has given customers new food ideas that have encouraged them to shop,
cook and eat differently. This has helped halt defection and enticed loyalists to
spend more at Sainsbury’s, ultimately helping to improve shareholder valuepotentially to the tune of 1.76 billion pounds (Pringle, p. 220).
In an interview with Peter Souter, Creative Director of advertising agency AMV BBDO
in reference to Oliver’s participation in Sainbury’s campaign and the effectiveness of
using celebrities in advertising, his response was;
So the basic thing with celebrities in ads is its fast, it’s the quickest way of
getting something done. Commercials are very short and they’re very expensive
to run: you don’t want to spend time establishing who the character is, the
characteristics they have and what they’re there for. A celebrity is the quickest
11
“310, 000 Thai prawn curries were made in the six weeks after the launch. 4-weekly sales of ‘Be
Good to Yourself’ balti sauce increased by 1040%. 49,000 packs of ‘Blue Parrot Café Fish Fingers’
were sold in the first week of TV airing” (Pringle Pg. 220).
21
way of saying this person stands for that kind of attitude or this is the obvious
person to use for that product because of X” ( p. 221)
When asked what Jamie Oliver’s appeal to Sainsbury’s brand image was, Souter
replied;
So with Jamie, if you take ‘pioneering everyday quality’, you know he’s
pioneering, he’s an inventive new chef, he’s everyday because he’s cockney
rather than a posh Delia Smith kind of chef quality: he’s interested in good
ingredients. So it was quiet easy to Sainsbury’s, we think we should have one
thing that ties all your ads together ” (p. 221).
22
1.3 Celebrity as Role Models
Cosmetics is one of the major markets which has been created and marketed around the
imagery and iconography of famous movie stars and supermodels. Typically, most of
the leading brands in the cosmetics market use a famous face to represent their brand.
This method of marketing is referred to as “celebrity as a role model ”. According to
Pringle one of the reasons why this form of endorsement is so popular is as “Data from
MRUK suggests that some markets are more amenable to the use of celebrities than
others, and personal products and services are sectors where famous people seem to be
at their most effective in promoting brands ” (Pringle, p. 3). The way that celebrity as a
role model functions in terms of persuading the audience is that it “encourages
customers to project themselves onto the persona of the celebrity and to use fantasy
involved as their own research and development” ( p. 3).
In advertising, celebrity role models are generally those stars that portray an integral
element of versatility within their appearance. These stars are often referred to in the
tabloids as ‘style chameleons’. They include ‘Sex and the City’ star Sarah Jessica
Parker who featured in Lux, L’Oreal and Gap campaigns and Madonna who throughout
her career has appeared in a number of endorsements some of which include Versace,
Gap, Mac and Max Factor. Another recent example of a celebrity role model and a
‘style chameleon’ includes supermodel Kate Moss, who throughout her modelling
career has endorsed several brands such as, Calvin Klein, Versace, Burberry, Prada,
Chanel, Christian Dior and Rimmel.
UK cosmetics company Rimmel signed Kate Moss as the face of Rimmel, in September
2001. Prior to the success of this campaign, the dilemma Rimmel faced was that it was
perceived as a low scale and cheap cosmetic brand. Furthermore, Rimmel experienced a
decline in both its brand image and values, and ultimately it failed to survive in the
enormous, continually expanding and highly competitive cosmetic market.
23
In 1998 29% of Rimmel users were under 25, only one year later this dropped to
20%. At the same time the brand and its products were perceived as cheap and of
low quality. The cosmetics market had grown enormously. There were more
brands more and more product innovation. In this new world Rimmel’s
positioning looked increasingly tired and out of touch (Pringle, p. 228).
In order to make an impact in the cosmetic market it was essential for Rimmel to
reposition and re-energize its brand. A communication strategy was created which aimed
at cutting through advertising clutter and employing three main objectives, these were:
1. Decrease the pricing gap between Rimmel and the mass market average without
loss of volume.
2. To position the brand as the supplier of a pioneering kind of beauty.
3. To re-connect with its target market of young women.
The team at advertising agency, J Walter Thompson determined two significant findings.
The first being; that young women were tired of unattainable beauty and perfection. And
secondly, that marketing of brands is generally the most effective, when recommended
by an experienced and trusted source. “Kate is unique in the model world and she does
her own thing and does it her way and isn’t the ‘perfect beauty’ but she has got a look
that people love” (p. 232). When Account Director of J Walter Thompson, Kenny Hill
was asked how the campaign featuring Moss originated, he claimed that J Walter
Thompson’s strategy was to:
Re-engage a large group of girls who had become cynical about beauty
advertising and its portrayal of unachievable perfection. We wanted to play up
the credibility of Rimmel combined with its experimental side. The ‘Rimmel
London’ campaign featuring Kate Moss was perfect to do that for the brand
(Pringle, p. 230).
The phrase “Rimmel = Beauty Made in London ” conceptualized all the ideas that were
necessary to make Rimmel stand out from its competitors. Kate Moss was an ideal rolemodel for the brand because she personified the re-positioned brand image; she was
24
approachable, attractive, experienced and likeable, furthermore she epitomised cool
London values without defining beauty as impractical perfection.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the success of the campaign is that Kate Moss
has a face that is capable of wearing many different looks, so she appeals to a
very wide spectrum of customers who can identify with her extrapolate from her
case to their own (Pringle, p. 227).
The results of the campaign, which concluded that in March 2002, Rimmel’s net sales
had increased by 21% and profit had increased by 25%. Rimmel was also successful in
re-engaging its young customers as sales at Superdrug (UK cosmetics department
store) which had a young consumer profile had increased by 40%. Therefore, for every
1000 pounds of advertising sold an estimated 1439 pound worth of product was
purchased. Accounting for gross margins on the products, Rimmel actually made 1079
pounds for every 1000 pounds of advertising spent. This proves that the attempt to
reposition the brand from ‘Beauty on a Budget’ to ‘Beauty Made in London’ was a
massive success. Kate Moss helped transform a brand with little street credibility into
one of London’s cool and cutting edge brands.
1.4 Celebrity Endorsement: The Implications
Although the advantages of celebrity endorsement are numerous, there are also various
pitfalls that can result in massive profit loss for the company in question. This typically
occurs when there is a mismatch between the celebrity and the product, or when the
celebrity’s persona is not congruent with the brand image.
When the audience sees that there isn’t any real connection between the two they
naturally, and probably correctly, infer that the celebrity is ‘only doing it for the
money and that the brand is involved in a naïve attempt to gain publicity and
cachet (Pringle, p. 182).
On the rare occasion this will result in the company terminating its contract with the
celebrity endorser. An example of this was when alcoholic beverage company Seagrams
25
withdrew US actor Bruce Willis from further endorsing any of their products, because
his image was no longer congruent with the image that Seagrams wanted to market.
Although Bruce Willis was credited with contributing to the growth of Seagrams
wine coolers, he was dropped by Seagrams because his lifestyle was perceived to
be incompatible with the image Seagrams wanted to project. The implication was
that he no longer was a good “match” for Seagrams products (Walker,
Langmeyer & Langmeyer, p. 1).
Celebrity overexposure is also a significant threat to advertisers, particularly when there
is the risk of using a star that has featured too frequently in advertisements for other
products.
Conversely, there are celebrities who score high with consumers for
“awareness ” but have “a negative influence” on purchasing. Based on NPD’s
findings, then among those who marketers should avoid are: Kobe Bryant,
Donald Trump, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith. And
Martha Stewart won for overkill, with respondents saying, “(She) is in too many
ads (O’Loughlin, p. 2).
Furthermore, celebrity scandal can also significantly jeopardise a brands/company’s
reputation/image. This traditionally occurs where the star undermines the brand by being
disloyal to it, or by becoming involved in media scandal which results in harm to their
reputation, and by extension, to the brand, product or service with which they are
commercially associated. One of the most damaging pitfalls in this context is when a
star declares that they are not really a user of the product or service or even worse,
claims to prefer one of its competitors. Some examples of this include; David Beckham
shaving his head while contracted with Brylcreem grooming products, Britney Spears
who was seen drinking a can of Coke while signed with Pepsi Cola and Jamie Oliver
admitting his restaurants was not supplied by Sainsbury’s.
26
In attempt to counteract the above occurring, advertising agencies can take preliminary
measures to avoid their company’s reputation being tarnished when the celebrity
becomes involved in controversy. These include clauses in the celebrity’s contract
terminating it on the grounds of moral turpitude and purchasing death, disablement and
disgrace insurance.
In addition, as long as celebrities are chosen carefully and correctly for the brand and
campaigns are carefully and intelligently constructed around them. The result of this
action can be significantly beneficial and profitable to the company. “A picture is worth
a thousand words. A celebrity connection is worth a million… When you get it right,
it’s really valuable. When you don’t get it right, there’s the risk ” (O’Loughlin, p. 2).
27
CHAPTER 2
Celebrity Scandal: The Kate Moss Controversy
28
CHAPTER 2
This chapter will identify and critique the implications celebrity scandal has on
advertising and the media. The chapter will comprise of a case study focussing on the
drug scandal of 31 year old British supermodel Kate Moss, who on September 15 2005,
featured on the front page of a London newpaper the Daily Mirror partaking in illicit
drug-use. The photos were taken at the recording studio of Pete Doherty, her partner at
the time and lead singer of the band The Babyshamble’s. 12 This analysis will utilize
certain theories including: scandal and social theory, consumption, and the social
function of gossip.
2.1 Media Scandals
Scandal has become a dominant feature of tabloid journalism, reflecting the
transformation of communication media within modern society, and fundamentally
blurring the lines between the private and public spheres.
The growing significance of scandal is symptomatic of certain broad changes in
the development of modern societies- symptomatic in particular, of the changing
nature of communication media, which have transformed the nature and visibility
and altered the relations between public and private life (Thompson, p.37)
The concept of scandal essentially challenges mainstream values, resulting in the
violation of moral conduct and authority. It appeals to and fascinates audiences whilst at
the same time infuriating and outraging them. A scandal generally takes place within a
media narrative. The media narrative consists of a story that frames the scandal,
populating it with characters, providing it structure and longevity.
A media scandal occurs when private acts that disgrace or offend the idealized,
dominant morality of a social community, are made public and narrativized by
12
Her partner at the time, Pete Doherty, is the bands singer and chief songwriter. It has been alleged by
Doherty that James Mullford, his former manager, sold the photos to the newspaper for more than
150,000 pounds.
29
the media, producing a range of effects from ideological and cultural
retrenchment to disruption and change (Lull & Hinerman, p. 3).
The fundamental feature of mediated scandal is to expose something that was originally
private and personal to the parties involved, into something that is publicly transmitted to
others not present at the time or the place of its occurrence.
What is public, in this sense, is what is visible or observable, what is performed
in front of spectators, what is open for all or many to see or hear about. What is
private, by contrast, is what is hidden from view, what is said or done in privacy
or secrecy or among a restricted circle of people (Thompson, p.123).
Media scandal and celebrity gossip bridge the gap between what we expect of famous
personalities and what we discover about them, defining a distinction between their
reputations and persona, in contrast to their actual behaviour.
The issue in question, and one that is articulated by Liesbet van Zoonen author of The
Ethics of Making Private Life Public is that although the there is burden of being in the
public eye, “private life has also become a commodity for celebrities which needs to be
exploited for the advancement of their career ” (van Zoonen, p.116). The effects of
media scandal contribute to enhancing the star image, generating public relations
leverage and image and brand building for the star. van Zoonen claims that “celebrities
and politicians… should not complain about their life being public property since it is in
their own interest ” (van Zoonen, p. 121).
There are several dimensions to van Zoonen’s argument that; scandal is in the best
interest of the celebrity, because it contributes to the advancement of their career.
Although van Zoonen’s argument is extremely credible and one which has been echoed
by supporting theorists including Levin, Arluke and Cashmore, it completely disregards
the drastic implications that scandal can have on a celebrities career as well their sanity
and right to privacy.
30
An example of media scandal having dire consequences was the scandal that surfaced
after former opposition leader of NSW John Brogden sexually harassed a journalist,
and referred to politician Bob Carr’s wife Helena Carr as a “mail-order bride”.
Brogden's indiscretions occurred on Friday, July 29, 2005 at the Sydney Hilton's
Marble Bar where he was attending the Australian Hotels Association's winter drinks.
As a result, his career as party leader came to an abrupt halt, resigning a couple of days
the incident of an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
John Brogden's future as state Opposition Leader is under a cloud after he was
forced to apologise for an alcohol-fuelled night during which he pinched one
journalist's bottom, propositioned another and referred to Bob Carr's wife as a
"mail-order bride" (Pearlman, p.1).
On the contrary and what has been perceive as becoming common thread in modern
media society is that; “Media indignation only spurs us into taking more notice”
(Cashmore, p.143), of the celebrity. Ellis Cashmore author of Celebrity Culture supports
van Zoonen’s argrument claiming that, “today we credit a celebrity with inadvertent
ingenuity for becoming involved in a moral indescretion that manages outrage and
delight in such proportion than it creates rather than destroys careers ” (Cashmore,
p.143).
An example provided by Cashmore further re-instating and strenghtening the validity of
van Zoonen’s argument is the great grandaughter of hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton
and heiress to the fortune Paris Hilton. Cashnmore suggests that “Paris claimed no
talent apart from possible photogenicity: walk on parts seemed the limit to her dramatic
prowess ” (143). Prior to 2003, the only thing that made Paris Hilton a seemingly
familiar figure in the public eye was her party-going and socialite antics and A-list
connections which kept her in the gossip columns. Generating just enough buzz for Fox
31
to feature her and best friend (at the time and daughter of US singer Lionel Ritchie)
Nicole Ritchie to star in the reality tv series The Simple Life. Only days before the debut
of the series in 2003, US Weekly was provided with extracts from a video which featured
Paris having sex with ex boyfriend Rick Solomon.13
The controvery surrounding the scandal skyrocketed Paris Hilton’s career, making her
an international cover story and transforming Paris Hilton from wealthy socialite into the
first internationally recognised “It-Girl ”. Cynthia Cotts, of the Village Voice wrote:
“ Serious new outlets were scrutinizing a celebrity who had done nothing to merit their
attention…two points emerged: Why do we care, and how exactly has the tape hurt this
girls reputation?” (2003, p. 32). Cashmore suggests that the answer to these two
questions are as follows; “because the media of every variety afforded it coverage: this
helped draw 13 million viewers to their screens for the first episode of The Simple Life.
The second question is invalid because, far from damaging her reputation, it actually
made it” (Cashmore, p.144).
2.2 Scandal and Social Theory
According to Thompson in order for a scandal to arise it must involve one or all of the
following characteristics:
1. Actions or statements that damage an individual’s reputation
2. Actions, events or circumstances which are significantly disreputable
3. Conduct which offends moral sentiment or the sense of public decency
But when “scandal ” was used to describe grossly discreditable actions, events,
or circumstances, or to describe conduct which offended moral sentiments or the
sense of decency, a different kind of relation was implied- a relation between, on
one hand, an individual or humanly created event or circumstance, and on the
other hand, a social collectivity whose moral sentiments were offended
(Thompson, p. 39).
13
“Marvad Corp., a porn company, planned to sell the full version over the net. The New York Times
reported that an anonymous source was offering samples to media outlets” (Cashmore, p. 144).
32
Scandal involves the transgression of moral codes, most commonly modern scandal
involves certain kinds of transgression which become known to others and are
sufficiently serious enough to generate a public response.
The most obvious aspect of scandal is that it involves actions or events which
transgress or contravene certain values, norms or moral codes. Some form and
some degree of transgression are a necessary condition of scandal: there would
be no scandal without them (p.39).
In the case of the Kate Moss the actions that were severely discreditable to her career
and public persona was the consumption of illicit drugs. Prior to the controversy
surrounding her drug use, she was considered a valuable role-model within the fashion
industry and the public eye.
According to authors of Gossip: The Inside Scoop Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke
celebrity gossip facilitates role-modelling. The reason why this is such an intensely
personal relationship between the celebrity and the individual is because many people at
one time or another evaluate themselves by comparing their abilities, achievements,
opinions and circumstances with those they admire. The purpose of the individual
comparing themselves to others is to provide the individual with heroes or role models.
Celebrity gossip has the effect of enhancing the identification of audience
members with their role models. Through gossip about celebrities, the public is
able to visualize the life of a hero and even enjoy it vicariously. Knowing the
intimate details of celebrity lifestyle helps the public feel close to its heroes- to
reduce the anonymity and impersonality which have become associated with life
in a mass society (Levin & Arluke, p. 31).
Moss commenced a lucrative career in modelling in 1988 at the age of fourteen. By the
age of 15 she went on to become the anti- supermodel of the 1990’s due to the fact that
she was significantly shorter than the average 5ft9 heights of supermodels of the era
such as Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell. Throughout her
33
career she has been described an exceptional supermodel who is consistently
professional, hard working and regarded as an international fashion icon, having
contributed to many fashion trends in the past decade. The reason the photos featured in
The Daily Mirror of Moss “snorting” cocaine resulted in such public outcry, was not
because she was partaking in drug use, because unequivocally all the warning signs were
evident.
In 1998, she checked herself into a rehab clinic in London, citing “exhaustion”,
and in a rare interview admitted that she had been drunk for much of the 1990’s.
Last year she won a libel action against London’s Sunday Mirror (the Daily’s
sister paper), which alleged she had suffered a drug induced collapse in Spain
(Women’s Weekly, Nov 2005).
Not to mention the myth that supermodels have been using cocaine for years as an
appetite suppressant in order to stay thin.
It’s an open secret that models dabble in drugs, particularly cocaine. It’s even
sort of understandable: How else to stay as thin as a prepubescent boy? Many
models subsist on a diet of cigarettes, caffeine and cocaine, which doesn’t
exactly make for a person who is healthy, wholesome and sound. Moss has, in
the past admitted to trying drugs because she was worried about getting fat
(Fortini, p. 4).
None of the factors mentioned were as outrageous as the harsh reality of the issue,
which presents the question; that Moss could market any one of her fashion
statement rather effortlessly, thus making it popular in mainstream society; could she
do the same for cocaine and other illicit drugs? “Kate Moss is the ultimate arbiter of
style. If she wears something then it’s guaranteed to be instantly cool ” (Pringle,
p.233).
When assessing the composition of the photo featured on the front page of the
Daily Mirror. Moss makes no attempt to conceal her discreditable behaviour. When
34
analysing the frame of the shot it can in a sense be perceived as Moss advertising
drug-use as a concept. These suggestions are outlined as follows: Moss’ body is
turned to face the camera and her tousled blond locks fall forward messily but
stylishly framing her face. She wears a pair of sexy black biker boots, a micro mini
which reveals her long slender legs and a black leather arm cuff. She is the epitome
of heroin chic, which was the look that boosted her career in 1993 when she featured
in the highly publicised Calvin Klein ads.
In a West London recording studio, though, Kate chats casually with Doherty
and pals as she absent-mindedly crushes and chops out the chunky lines on the
back of a plastic CD cover. With her blonde hair hanging untidily around her
shoulders, the model icon, worth 30 million pounds, prepares up to 20 lines of
coke in just 40 minutes (www.thesuperficial.com).
It is highly unlikely that this was Moss’ intention whatsoever, and perhaps was unaware
of how she looked when the photos were taken. The purpose of this argument is, that for
someone who appears photogenic effortlessly and who has the experience, expertise and
popularity to advertise a new trend by merely getting dressed in the morning, the concept
of advertising an illicit lifestyle is not far from her reach.
Those who look forward to having great power seek models in powerful figures
whose lifestyles may be worthy of imitation. Success-oriented people want to know
about the extravagant lifestyle of billionaire J. Paul Getty. They want to know that he
gave a party for twelve hundred guests who consumed thirty-four bottles of vodka,
thirty nine bottles of gin, fifty four bottles of brandy one hundred and seventy four
bottles of whiskey and several hundred bottles of beer (Levin & Arluke, p. 31)
2.3 The Social Function of Gossip and Scandal
The primary appeal of celebrity gossip and scandal is that it’s entertaining, allowing the
audience to become consumed in the fantasy of an imaginary social life which is lived
vicariously through celebrities. Anthropologist Martin-Barbero argues this stems from
35
the need to comprehend the oral roots of the tradition of melodrama, with popular media
narratives, being primarily melodramatic, emphasizing morality and excess.
Everything must be extravagantly stated, from the staging which exaggerates the
audio and visual contrasts to the dramatic structure which openly exploits the
bathos of quick and sentimental emotional reactions. Cultured people might
consider all this degrading, but it nevertheless represents a victory over
repression, a form of resistance against a particular “economy” of order, saving
and polite restraint. (1993, p. 119)
Hermes supports Barbero’s claim that celebrity discourse outlines the repertoire of
melodrama, creating a community in an extremely different manner, and a community
which is far more uncertain and complex.
The repertoire of melodrama can be recognised in reference to misery, drama
and by its sentimental sensationalism, but also by its moral undertone. Life in the
repertoire of melodrama becomes grotesquely magnified. In the vale of tears that
it is, celebrities play crucial and highly stereotyped roles, reminiscent of folk and
oral culture. (Hermes, 1999, p. 80)
Hermes relates this claim to the examples given by some of his respondents who
suggested that the misfortune of others helped them come to terms with their own
sorrow and frustration and made them feel better about their own circumstances, evoking
notions of schadenfreude, which is the satisfaction or pleasure felt at the expense of
someone else's misfortune. Levin and Arluke argue that even negative gossip can serve
to enhance the process of identification between the audience and the celebrity, it does
this by knocking them down off the pedestal we place them on by revealing their bad
habits, insecurities and unflattering characteristics. “A little “dirt ” makes an
approachable idol into flesh-and-blood human being with frailties just like the rest of us.
We may even like him or her better as a result ” (Levin & Arnold, p. 32).
A response in The Sydney Morning Herald news blog asking for readers reactions in
relation to the Moss scandal, illustrated that some readers were very sympathetic to Kate
36
Moss and the photos featured in the Daily Mirror. Posted by Sarah on September 23,
2005 12:30 PM:
So what if she is doing drugs, what celebrity isn’t? The only difference between her
and the rest is we have photos of her in the act. No one gets bothered if they see pics
of celebs trashed on a night out. It’s as if it is ok to be trashed and everyone knows
how you got trashed but to be shown in the act is a major crime. She has the right to
do what she wants to her own mind and body.
And why is everyone assuming one night of drug use equals addict? Its typical
sensational tabloid stuff- I feel sorry for her (News Blog)
Drawing on van Zoonen arguments whereby he claims that celebrities should not
complain about their private lives being publicised as it is in their best interest.
According to an article in Women’s Weekly magazine titled ‘The Fall of a Supermodel’
when Kate Moss first learned about the scandal she was embroiled in, the media
backlash must have taken her by surprise. “According to a well-placed source, her initial
reaction to the story’s publication was one of indifference. “So what?” she allegedly
told a friend. “This will only make me more famous ” (Women’s Weekly).
However, soon after Moss discovered the implication of the scandal was not in her best
interests. Having always been a celebrity who went to every effort in stay out of the
public eye, “Kate won’t tell us a word. A Greta Garbo, she chooses to be silent: she
never talks to the press ” (Kitlinski, p.3). The drug scandal resulted in Moss being
hounded by the paparazzi and scrutinized by the media on intensely personal issues
such her relationship Peter Doherty,14 a self confessed drug addict, her role as a
responsible mother and the custody of her daughter Lila Grace.
On September 20 2005, Swedish fashion chain H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) dropped the
disgraced supermodel from their advertising campaign. Despite Moss’s public apology
to the company, H&M removed her from her contract of reportedly 4 million pounds
14
“And, over the last nine months, she has fuelled rumours by dating Babyshambles frontman Pete
Doherty, the music worlds current Sid Vicious. Doherty has been jailed for burglary and last month was
arrested in Oslo for possession of heroin and crack” (Fortini, 2005. p. 4 of 7).
37
per year. H&M’s were appalled by the scandal, having actively supported the drugprevention organization Mentor Foundation they decided that Moss’ image was now
incongruent with H&M’s clear disassociation with drugs.
After the feedback from customers and other papers, a H&M spokesperson told
the New York Times, “we decided we should distance ourselves from any kind
of drug abuse. ” Not on principle, mind you, but because feedback indicated that
the company’s pardon would harm business (Fortini, p.3).
On September 21st Chanel announced it would not be renewing Moss’ contract with the
company which was set to expire in October, 2005. Subsequent to these events Burberry
decided to drop Moss from their advertising campaign as well. Moss lost yet another
contract with jewellers H. Stern who was set to feature her in their 60th anniversary
campaign. Moss’ $1.8 million dollar agreement with cosmetic house Rimmel London
was also under review.
In light of the public disgrace that resulted form her indiscretions, Moss made a public
statement of apology taking full responsibility for her actions. She personally
apologized to all the people she had let down as a consequence of her disreputable
actions, and then proceeded to check herself into a rehabilitation clinic.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” she said in a statement released by
Storm Model Management Agency. “I also accept that there are various
personal issues I need to address and have started taking the difficult, yet
necessary, steps to resolve them. ” Moss added: I want to apologise to all of the
people to all of the people I have let down because of my behaviour which has
reflected badly on my family, friends, co-workers, business associates and
others ”. (Celebs Unzipped).
Within a few months following her public apology and the day after she was released
from rehab, Moss was flown directly to Spain the shoot a campaign for Roberto
Cavalli’s spring-summer 2006 collection. Moss proceeded to sign lucrative deals with
38
Calvin Klein for $2.6 million, as well as signing $1.8 million deal for the rights to her
autobiography, which is intended to set the record straight on her turbulent 2005. Moss
was also paid $2.15 million to star in a Virgin campaign for Virgin mobile which mocks
her recent drug scandal. Among the other companies that have fought to get Moss on
board are; Rimmel, Belstaff, Beyen, Dior, Lois Vuitton, Longchamp, Stella McCartney,
Bulgari, Chanel, Nikon, David Yurman, Versace, Mia Shvili, Agent Provocateur and
Burberry. Today, Moss is worth more money than she was before her drug scandal
surfaced with her recent earnings accumulating up to 17 million pounds. “British
newspaper The Independent on Sunday reports these new deals will bring Moss’ total
earnings to $17 million, compared to $10.3 million before the drug allegations ” (
Celebs Unzipped p.3). Although, the drug allegations spurred much criticism from those
in the fashion and media industries, there were also many public figures that were
extremely sympathetic to her situation.
“ Good or bad, the cocaine scandal reinforced her notoriety,'' said Marina Marzotto,
a consultant in Rome at Propaganda GEM, which places luxury products in films,
computer games and music videos. “She's come out the other end of the celebrity
meat grinder stronger than ever just by being herself”.
( Forden, p.1)
In support of van Zoonen’s argument, media scandal in effect, can serve to advance
the stars persona. It achieves this by creating public relations leverage for the
celebrity, and building the stars public images image through the infiltration of
media outlets as was the case for Kate Moss and Paris Hilton. In addition, although
the implication of scandal can contribute to the stars capital, and the stars themselves
being perceived as a commodity, there is no denying that the stars still have to
endure shame and moral disgust within the community, as well as being constantly
scrutinized by the media. This in effect, threatens the celebrity’s quality of life, peace
of mind and right to privacy.
39
Figure 1: Kate Moss ‘Daily Mirror’. September 15, 2005.
Figure 2: Kate Moss- Roberto Cavalli Spring/Summer: 2006
40
CHAPTER 3
Advertising in India: Shahrukh Khan and
Globalisation
41
CHAPTER 3
Celebrity content has become the prominent feature of the South East Asian (Indian)
media landscape over the past decade. The implication of Indian advertising becoming
so increasingly celebrity dominated has resulted in celebrity endorsers featuring in
campaigns, extending beyond their reach of expertise. Hence, the connection between
the endorser and the product is weakened. According to Indian TV journalist and talk
show host Karan Thapar the Indian public has become “blinded by stardom and rather
foolishly at that” (Gahlaut, p. 39).
Psychiatrist Shekar Seshadri supports Thapar’s claim, suggesting that one of reason
why celebrity endorsement in the west is so effective, is due to stars endorsing products
within their area of expertise.15 However, in India the demand for celebrity recall is often
taken to illogical ends. “Celebrity cult is profit-driven by nature …the problem comes
when you distort images to pander to consumerism” (p.45).
According Indian creative monitoring agency; Ad Indux it was recorded that in 2004
Indian cricketers appeared in 108 advertisements, while Indian film stars featured in 259
advertisements, in contrast to 2004 when the corresponding figure was 179 film stars.
This proposes the question; are celebrities are slowly infiltrating every aspect of our
lives? Co- CEO of Equus Red Cell, Suhel Seth identifies celebrity content as “a breed
that has permeated like termite onto every medium… celebrity has replaced craft,
perception has replaced competence and the media is getting into bed with the flakes of
the world ” ( Gahlaut, p.43).
The premise of this chapter will comprise of an analysis on the function and formation
of celebrity endorsement and advertising in India. The focus of the chapter will be
concentrated on Bollywood film star Shahrukh Khan’s audience appeal and his
contribution to Indian media outlets. In addition the chapter will examine Shahrukh
15
An example of this is US actor/model Milla Jovovich endorsing brands such as L’Oreal and Christian
Dior. The endorsement of both these brands on her behalf would generally speaking be effective because
both of the brands are extensions of her status as a model/actor.
42
Khan’s endorsement for Lux soap and the various criticisms that were evoked in
response to the commercial. The chapter will comprise of the three following areas of
discussion:
1. Shahrukh Khan as the embodiment of the Bollywood star system.
2. Criticism on the duality and irony of Indian advertising
3. Why Shahrukh Khan’s endorsement for Lux was criticised on the grounds of
its potentially queer representation?
43
3.1 Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood
Shahrukh Khan is the personification of the Bollywood star system at it best.
Shahrukh Khan has acquired fame of a global magnitude through his involvement in
the production of contemporary urban Indian diaspora cinema, his contribution to
advertising in India and brand endorsement, his production company Dreamz
Unlimited16 and his personal entrepreneurial website.17 All these factors combined
have made Shahrukh Khan an integral player in global and cultural economics,
expanding his star image and furthermore have contributed to the process of
globalisation. Within her study of the global appeal and marketing of the star in
Bollywood cinema, Anne Ciecko (2001) argues that:
Contemporary Bollywood stars, and male stars in particular, are interfacing with
increasing capital possibilities afforded to them through advertising and tie-ins
with global multinationals, and through their appearance at global film shows,
and their circulation as cultural icons on the Internet (Dudrah, p. 87).
SRK audience appeal is due to fact, that he transcends the role of the typical film star
and with himself, becomes a text through converging media for example, cinema,
advertising and the Internet, simultaneously catering for both global and local audiences.
“In this way, Shahrukh Khan, by being cyber present and vocal, is an example of
Bollywood and especially of its commodified male star as being glocal-being local and
global simultaneously ” (Ciecko 2001: 133).
An issue that needs further identification is; what is it about SRK’s performance on
screen that makes him a popular ambassador of Bollywood cinema, attractive to both
urban India and the diaspora, in addition resulting in his appeal in transnational market
sectors?
16
SRK has also “together with actresses Juhi Chalwla and Bollywood film director Aziz Mizra,
ventured into film production with the launch of media production company Dreamz Unlimited”
(Dudrah, p.85)
17
www.SRKworld.com is Shahrukh’s personal website, he engages with his fans asking them for
feedback on matters regarding his films, star image and commercial endorsements.
44
Rajinder Kumar Dudrah author of Bollywood: Sociology goes to the movies suggests
that in order to answer this question, an analysis must be undertaken on the means in
which Shahrukh Khan through the cinematic construction of Bollywood, addresses the
fantasies, desires and concerns of urban and diasporic India as an identity within his
performances. Dudrah identifies two lines of interdisciplinary thought that are necessary
as the basis for developing this kind of analysis.
1. Identity as a performance.
2. Identity represented through a filmic medium.
The concept of identities being constructed through a performance of selfhood implies
there is a “sense of theatricality to everyday life” (Dudrah, p. 87). This process involves
the notion that selfhood, which is executed and within diverse roles and functions in
particular spaces. As a result, it is through this kind of social activity that the audience
arrives at a decision assuming the personas and stereotypes of characters and becoming
involved in social performances.
This kind of enactment asserts an identifiable realism that arises from the
performance of the self in the diegesis and an understanding of the performance
of the selves on the part of the audience as in tandem with, or incongruent to,
each other (p.88).
Goffman draws on the work of identity as a performance in Drama and Theatre studies
as a useful way of identifying and comprehending the construction of selfhood as a
constant performance. The purpose of this theory is to allow the audiences to think
beyond selfhood as existing outside of, or in regards to, an already established ‘real
self’. Thus selfhood exists outside of, or in relation to, an already constituted ‘real self’
(Schechner 1985).
Here identity and performance are understood as articulated through a
reciprocating relationship wherein identities are made sense of through
performance (whether on stage and/ or in actual life), which encompass an
45
affective and tangible understanding of the identities of the identities being
performed. Furthermore, it is often through the use and performance of the body
in its actual symbolic form that constructions of cultural identities are rendered
socially visible (Dudrah, p.88).
In order contextualise this theory it is necessary to extend the understanding of identity
as not only arising in constant relation to cinema, but also a performance occurring in
reality and also reciprocated within various media. However, in order to determine the
understanding of identity it is necessary to acknowledge how a performance of selfhood
is represented on screen through cinematic apparatus.
This incorporates acknowledging that the medium of film is about the
juxtaposition of sounds and images through which the body appears and
reappears in a directed manner and through which an illusion of the everyday
and everyday identities are enacted with the assistance of technology (Chow
1998).
In reference to Shahrukh Khan and his performance perceived as representative of the
urban/diasporic Indian within this framework. Dudrah suggests with regard to Main
Hoon Na (2004) which tells the story of a military major of the India army Shahrukh
Khan, who becomes involved in a series of events in order ensure the release of captives
on each side of the border of India and Pakistan and as a result becomes as a symbol of
trust and peace between the two feuding nations. Durdrah interprets Khan’s role in
Main Hoon Na as a mediator who reconciles the threat that could be imposed on the
nation of India.
“ Shahrukh role in Main Noon Na follows his trajectory as a mediating
signifier, especially one that shifts between the homeland and the
diaspora. In his previous films that have been popular with diaspora
audiences we see him cast as mediating relationships and social disputes
46
of all sorts across nation state boundaries whether in DDLJ, Pardes,
Mohabbatein or Kal Ho Nao Ho ” (p.90).
In relation to Shahrukh Khan’s contribution to globalisation and the Bollywood star
system. This has been achieved as result of his intensely concentrated role in the Indian
media, advertising, product placements and celebrity endorsement, and his role as
spoken person for several international brands, including; Airtel, Lux, Pepsi, Hyundai
Santro, Omega, Tag Heuer, Compaq Presario and ICICI Bank et al. All of these factors
combined represent Shahrukh Khan as a symbol of upward mobility within Indian
culture, providing Indian audiences both urban and diasporic, an outlet for fantasy and
desire, for opportunity and wealth.
“In addition Shahrukh Khan is an important player in the film industry who
through product placement, production deals and the setting up of his own media
company, espouses an ideal towards increased upward mobility and opportunity
for wealth and leisure accumulation as a sign of an aspirational commodified
lifestyle for both urban and diasporic India” ( Dudrah, p.92).
Shahrukh Khan represents the potential and possibilities of Bollywood cinema
presenting audiences with new ideologies, new understandings and new advances. “He
is the epitome of the ‘now’ global Bollywood’s cinematic assemblage” (p.95).
3.2 The Duality and Irony of Indian Advertising
It has become a common trend in India for celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai the face of
L’Oreal, Longines and Nakshatra diamond jewellery and Shahrukh Khan spokesperson
for Lux, Tag Heuer and Omega to extend their popularity within the market and among
audiences by endorsing luxury products and lucrative brands. India experienced an
economic boom during the years of 1980-1990’s. The change in economy brought
about in a dramatic influx of foreign brands being imported in Indian markets post
1991. “Nevertheless, the expansion of the Indian ad business in the period 1980-2000
47
was nothing short of astonishing ” (Mazzarella, p.70). As a result, the media landscape
in India has become dominated with images of consumerism, capitalism, globalization
and westernization. Mentioned previously, all these elements encapsulate a sense of
progress and upward mobility in process within the nation and its cultural practises.
Furthermore, there has been much debate regarding the contradictions of advertising
depicted within India. William Mazzarella author of Critical Publicity/ Public Criticism:
Reflections on Fieldwork in the Bombay Ad World suggests that if citizenship can be
seen as being re-imagined as consumption, then it would be safe to conclude that
advertising is one of the key sites by which normative visions of social life are expressed
and explored.
If the above statement is considered to be accurate, this concludes that Bombay
advertising world contradicts itself within its depictions of mainstream society.
Mazzarella critiques the connection, or lack of, between advertising and anthropology
within Indian culture, suggesting that there are relatively narrow confines between
anthropology and advertising as a professional practice. Within his analysis of the
Indian media, Mazzarella initially assumes that the contradictions of Indian advertising
was the result of the disjunction between the plenitude of advertising images and the
average struggles between inner urban city life. Although throughout Mazzarella’s
experience in the Bombay media scene, it became apparent that advertising itself was
less self-contained, more internally contradictory and in fact predominantly engaged
beyond the decisions of its practitioners and in the politics of everyday life.
Some of it was obvious and empirical, the stuff of countless magazine articles on
the contradictions besetting economic liberalization in India: most of all, the
miserable condition of much basic infrastructure. Microwave ovens were
becoming available to some, but it was almost comically difficult to procure a
reliable supply of cooking gas. Fancy imported cars gleamed in shop windows,
but roads were so poorly maintained and so overcrowded that attempting to drive
was often hardly worth the aggravation
48
(Mazzarella, p. 57).
Mazzarella argues that the Bombay ad world during the 1990’s was not representative
of the harsh reality in India during this period and was too heavily focused on
Americanization and globalizing consumerism, this resulting in the material advertised
and the circumstances of the time acting as two opposing realities.
At first I had predictably enough interpreted the constant spectacle of suffering
and mutilation at Bombay’s road junctions as a kind of opposite to the
integrating language of advertising. My liberal visitor’s inevitable guilt and
revulsion had in some obscure way still been tempered by a (certainly equally
misplaced) social realist ethos of balance and perspective; a categorical
separation between ‘authentic’ suffering and ‘staged’ advertising (Mazzarella,
p.58).
S. R. Joshi author of Is ‘Unity and Diversity’ Supported by the Indian Media?’
confirms Mazzarella’s arguments claiming that the Indian media market operates within
a framework of a contradictory duality between art and life.
Large numbers of people have virtually no exposure to the mass media, yet at the
same time it is the world’s largest film producing company. It has a thriving
television industry and very rich television landscape. It is rightly said that for
everything that is true of India, the opposite is equally true (p.31).
The crucial question that addressing in these circumstances is: If the living conditions of
society are not congruent with the material advertised, then what exactly is purpose of
the advertising? When applying the fundamental principles of advertising which include
drawing attention, arousing an immediate interest, imparting information as efficiently as
possible, and convincing the reader/viewer to induce action, it becomes evident that the
purpose of advertising in India is to induce social and economic reform within society.
There is not universal agreement, but there is certainly a swing in favour of free
commerce, which I believe is going to be crucial to the economic development of
49
the country. Seven or eight years ago, if you had asked the man in the street, he
would probably still have been anti-business. But now people are beginning to
understand (Mazzarella, p. 59).
Advertising in India is essential for the promotion of consumerist dispensation.
Mazzarella clarifies that it is important that society accepts these images as neither
mirrors of society, nor completely disconnected from the social worlds from which they
are present but rather projects of value. “In the world of advertising, information of
goods, such as their meanings and use by consumers, becomes a particular form of
power ” (Malefyt, p. 140). Projects of value can be defined as somewhat successful
attempts made by individuals and institutions in an effort to produce value and
significance out of the elements of public culture-images, discourse and signs.
The practice of advertising is one such a project of value (or rather an
institutional assemblage of many such projects of value. And, I would argue it is
an exceptionally important one. Not because what advertising people do with
images matters more than what other people do with images, but because the
practice of advertising is so deeply implicated in the general contemporary
movement towards both the ‘marketization’ of public life and the ‘imagification’
of the market ” (Mazzarella, p. 63).
The motivation for high scale and prestige advertising within the Indian culture is that
many of the products and images advertised are examples of the ad industry’s power to
mobilize collective aspirations amongst a broad spectrum of Indian audiences. The irony
was that, this aspirational imagery merely grants all Indians the pride to an equal right of
desire, where they would all be free to dream world-class dreams.
I have always believed that it is not the beggar on the road of dreams of being the
most well-off-beggar. He has the right to dream of being a king. So he dreams
of being a king, I dream of being a king. So everyone wants the sun and the
50
moon and the stars. It’s not that people dream in segments- that I will only
dream this much because I am here. Everyone has the right to dream
(p. 64).
So in a sense, although there was an extreme duality of social circumstances present in
India at the time. Advertising was essentially aimed at levelling the playing field between
divergent audiences with the push for upward mobility rather than decline, providing the
audience with a sense of hope rather than despair for the future.
51
3.3 Shahrukh Khan: The Controversial Commercial
In celebration of Lux’s Soap’s 75th anniversary Hindustan Lever (HLL), India’s largest
and most lucrative consumer goods company decided it was necessary to break away
from tradition in order to revitalise the Lux brand name. This was in light of the fact that
in recent years Lux had experienced a decline in the cosmetic market. “Lux itself as a
brand has been struggling to maintain its share in the highly competitive soap segment.
HLL (vice-president) Venkatramani admits Lux itself has been stagnant for the past few
years and the soaps category itself has been under pressure” (Chatterjee, p. 3). In order
to achieve this HLL had to come up with a creative and innovative solution that would
instantly grab the audience’s attention through the utilization of shock tactics. “In its
75th year, Lux wanted to do something really different and an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution
was needed to jolt the brand back to its glory. “We wanted to do something big and
different and make a splash in the market,” states Venkatramani ” (p.2). The result was
Shahrukh Khan immersed in a tub of rose petals along with the Bollywood actresses of
yesteryear which include Hema Malini, Sridevi, Juhi Chawla and Kareena Kapoor who
have all previously featured as Lux models. HLL motivation for using SRK as a brand
ambassador was based upon his already highly- circulated media exposure and extreme
popularity with women of all ages that is Lux’s target audience.
Explaining the reason for choosing the superstar who already had much
exposure endorsing a host of other brands, Ashok Venkatramani, Vice-President
(Skin), HLL, says, ‘Shah Rukh is a big draw and women just love him. Putting
the two together, we thought we could reach our consumers with the new
campaign.’ JWT expresses a similar view. ‘The target audience for Lux is
women. Shah Rukh is a great favourite of women of all ages. So the strategy for
Lux has not really changed. It is just the execution that is very different; instead
of a female star in the tub we have Shah Rukh,’ claims Nandita Chalam,
Associate Vice-President & Senior Creative Director, JWT (p.1).
52
The Lux commercial depicts Shahrukh Khan immersed in a bath of fragrant rose petals,
wherein he’s indulging in a sensuous and delicate experience. The cameras soft focus
accentuates his supple, hairless and flawless complexion. Shahrukh Khan’s gaze and
presence in the commercial can be considered as passive. And although there are three
stunningly desirable women featured in the commercial, Shahrukh Khan does not
actively engage with them. This positions Shahrukh Khan as an unattainable object of
desire.18 The actor’s hair is neatly slicked back with the exception of one shiny black
lock falling gracefully on to his face, which he then proceeds to toss back rather
coquettishly. The intent of the commercial was to cast Shahrukh Khan as sensitive
metrosexual male, who is slightly vulnerable and not afraid to reveal is feminine side.
Evidently, the binary opposite to the macho, heroic, red-blooded Marlboro man he has
been stereotyped as throughout his career. The purpose of the ad was indented to spur a
“ shock-factor and to break through clutter of present day soap advertising ” (Rashid, p.
2).
This was not the first time that a male celebrity had featured in a Lux commercial,
Hollywood actor Paul Newman also previously stood for the face of the brand. This was
one of the reasons why HLL felt so confident, that employing Shahrukh Khan as a male
role-model for the brand would generate successful results within the market.
I believe if Paul Newman, the stud that he is … (and the very antithesis of the
leading lady endorser) can endorse the brand, SRK with his ‘metrosexual’
appeal would be more than appropriate. In this context, SRK has proven to be
more than just a superstar; he is an enduring actor, which is closer to the kind of
stature that a brand like Lux requires, especially in its 75th year (Chatterjee, p. 2).
18
A blog regarding the nature of the Lux commercial on September, 12, 2005 reads “I’m still fixated
on trying to understand his facial expression in the picture above. I think it’s supposed to be a direct
adoption of the female “come-hither” look…I think the one nipple exposed/ one hidden combination is
very “come-hither, though.”
53
The audience response in relation to the commercial was met with mixed reactions and
much debate, while most people agreed it was a brilliant strategy for generating instant
audience awareness and interest. Others criticised Shahrukh Khan’s role in the
advertisement on the grounds that it was highly metrosexual, androgenous and
potentially queer in contrast to previous roles they had seen the actor play. This created
speculation with the Indian audience as they contested the nature of Shahrukh Khan
sexual orientation.19
Queer theory has been critiqued as being an underlying text in Bollywood cinema,
whether this is in fact the case or merely just an audience interpretation of a heteronormative film text is an issue needs that need further exploration.
A special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality (Grossman 2000) first brought
together a number of essays on Queer Asian Cinema. Whilst it was noted in this
collection that East Asian cinemas, in particular Hong Kong and China, have
been able to deal more overtly both in aesthetic and in content with queer themes
and representations, popular Indian cinema was still operating at the level of
implicit queer suggestions in its aesthetic and content, or that it was the queer
audiences’ rereading of the heteronormative film text that allowed for queer
sensibilities to be detected and analysed.
(Dudrah, p. 124).
The narrative conventions in recent Bollywood cinema which suggest that queer
attributes are in fact present include; lesbian counter-currents present within the
cinematic landscape, 20 ambiguous and indigenous male on male homosocial
19
A blog regarding the nature of the Lux commercial on September 11, 2005 reads; “ King Khan has
been a gay icon for awhile now. I’ve also heard someone who is actively involved in the gay rights
movement: SRK and Karan Johar are not just gay, but openly so” (Olinda).
20
Lesbian counter-currents can be defined in contrast to male expression which is either queer or
straight in comparison to female expression which is highly charged and continuously a challenged
problem.
54
iconographies,21 male on male friendship in relation to the role of the sidekick and homo
violence.22 It is obvious that a movement has eventuated in more recent Bollywood films
in which queer themes and representation has become slightly more visible and fluid.
Indian cinema is no doubt similar to commercial entertainment industries that
exist in many “modernizing ” societies of the South, in that queer things are
going on there. In fact Indian cinema has been more than hospitable to same sex
desires (Waugh, p. 280).
This brings me to the question, that is; if queer narrative is not perceived as a recent
phenomenon in Indian popular culture, then why did Shahrukh Khan’s involvement
with the Lux campaign evoke such a controversial response amongst audiences?
The answer to this is identified by Ruth Vanita author of Homoerotic Fiction/
Homoerotic Advertising- The Pleasures and Perils of Twentieth Century Indianness in
relation the attack on Deepa Mehtar’s film Fire (1998) and Pandey Bechan Sharma’s
book Chocolate (1927).23 Both film and text depict the representation and desire for
same sex relationships; Fire (female/female relationship) and Chocolate, (male/male
relationship), going unpunished and in periods of national and political struggle. In both
cases, the texts were attacked on the grounds that they depicted a lifestyle and practises
that were un-Indian and impure.
Framed by this myth, most twentieth-century texts that represent same-sex desire
strive to reinforce an imagined pure Indianness of manhood or womanhood.
They generally do so in one of two ways: first, by relegating same sex desire to
21
Ambiguous male on male iconographies can be classified as one of the most popular attributes of
Indian cinema; they are specifically inserted within the genre of Bollywood cinema as a means of
“globalizing heterosexual/homosexual opposition” (Waugh, p. 283).
22
The role of the male sidekick, also plays particular importance within Bollywood cinema, it suggests
that the discourse of male bonding, mentorship, friendship, violence and sharing women epitomise the
undercurrents of homosocial desire within the film. The axis of same-sex desire is also associated with
the power dynamics of violence/homo violence which is a result of homophobia and anxiety aroused in
heterosexual men.
23
Pandey Bechan Sharma’s book Chocolate (1927) triggered the first major public debate in the Hindi
literary world on homosexuality. “ ‘Chocolate is the name for those innocent, tender and beautiful boys
of the country, who societies demons push into the mouth of ruin to quench their own lusts” (Vanita,
p. 129).
55
the underworld or to same-sex spaces such as college dorms, and, second by
punishing it violently. On the other hand, the few texts that admit, whether
cheerfully or anxiously, that Indian manhood and womanhood are necessarily
hybrid and thus not purely “Indian”, represent homosexuality as present in the
everyday world of average Indians and as frequently going unpunished (Vanita,
p. 127).
Vanita suggests that advertising differs from fiction because it was not produced in a
period of national struggle therefore can get away with being a lot more homosexually
suggestive.
The inscription of the West is not as fraught in Indian advertisements as in
Indian fiction since ads are not didactic in the way the much Indian fiction, with
its genesis in the period of national struggle tends to be. The purpose of an ad is
to sell, not to educate, and these ads sell products that are clearly marked as
Western or Westernized, that being one of their attractions (p.137).
Indian homo-eroticised ads of the twentieth and twenty first century are intended to
represent globalisation in practise, upward mobility and the amalgamation of Indian and
Western culture.
English-language advertisements in Indian newspapers and magazines in the
1980’s and 90’s often have a subtext that represents homoeroticism as a
seamless part of urban middle-class life. In these ads homoeroticism is not
relegated to the underworld of premarital college life; it is integrated with icons
of professional middle-class aspiration (p.138).
The reason why this is hybridisation is necessary, is due to the fact that advertising has
to appeal to internationalism, thus obscuring national and cultural boundaries.
These ads simultaneously refigure Indian manhood and womanhood as not
exclusively heterosexual (or homosexual) and not exclusively Indian (or
Western). The blurring of sexual categories involves a blurring of national or
56
cultural boundaries, and in both cases the claim to a homogenized and unified
purity of identity is given up. These ads like the outcome of the Fire controversy
suggest that the rapidly growing urban, bilingual Indian middle class, with its
many transnational affiliations, has the confidence to partake of such a blurring
and enjoys access to choices, despite temporary outbreaks of moral panics
(p.145).
Some forms of media are obviously more experimental in their queer representation, but
regardless there is always going to be backlash from social conservatists like was the
case of Shahrukh Khan Lux commercial.
Some newspaper articles, some television programs, some films are prepared to
be more adventurous than others, and as such move towards greater levels of
tolerance. But there are always conservative voices that herald a possible
backlash (Creed, p. 157).
Shahrukh Khan’s persona and stage presence depicted in the Lux commercial was
interpreted as potentially queer, because the commercial implies that Shahrukh Khan is
actually concerned with the brand of soap he uses, which is stereotypically a non
normative response for a heterosexual male. The commercial, positions Shahrukh Khan
as sensitive, fussy and sensual which are all stereotypically female characteristics.
Heterosexuality needs its ‘opposite’, homosexuality, against which to define
itself as the norm. Hence gay men are stereotyped as if they were opposite of
men- they are described as if they were women: irrational, feminine and fussy ”
(p.137).
This resulted in controversy because Indian audiences felt that SRK transgressed
beyond his archetypal role as the heroic macho-man, acting disloyal to his screen
persona. Author of Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex, Judith Butler
suggests that “disloyalty against identity ”- a disloyalty as she puts it, “that works the
iterability of the signifier for what remains non-self-identical in any invocation of
identity” (Butler, p. 220).
57
There have been numerous attempts in Western culture in the twentieth and
predominantly the twenty first century showing heterosexual men getting in touch with
their feminine side. These include films such as Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, Junior and the
television series Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. In projecting Shahrukh Khan’s
feminine and metrosexual side to a public audience Lux attempted to reinforce Western
as well as Indian values extending Shahrukh Khan’s ‘glocal’ appeal. The major
problem here as Calvin Thomas author of Straight with a Twist suggests is that there is a
fear inherent in heterosexual individuals of the straight getting in touch with their queer
side. And the outrage caused by the commercial was due to the fact that it aroused fear
of homosexual desire among the audience.
The terror of being mistaken for a queer dominates the straight mind because
this terror constitutes the straight mind: it is precisely that culturally produced
and reinforced horror of/fascination with abjected homosexuality that produces
and maintains “the straight mind ” as such, governing not so much specific
sexual practices between men and woman (after all, these things happen) as the
institution (arguably antisexual) or heteronormativity itself…Homophobia, then,
is on one level the fear of homosexual women and men. On another level, it is
the disavowal of this dependence on homosexuals, of the stucturating necessity
of negotiation. On another level still, homophobia entails not only the fear of
those who are abjectly identified (and depend on) but also the fear of being
abjectly identifiable oneself: the fear, as the word most literally means, of being
“the same as ”. (Thomas, p. 27).
58
Chapter Four
Western and Indian Advertising: A Comparative
Analysis
59
CHAPTER 4
Abhik Roy author of ‘The Male Gaze’ in Indian Television Commercials: A Rhetorical
Analysis suggests that advertising is a major cultural institution that reflects and shapes
our perception of the social environment we live in (p. 3). The integral function of
advertising is the attempt to maintain cultural hegemony across a global sphere and to
provide consumers with informational cues to assist them in making sense of their
world. This is achieved by projecting millions of images of gender, stereotypes, social
class and values, which combined operate to influence our social learning process.
According to Ewen and Ewen (1992), advertising not only sells us products and
services, but it also indirectly tells us ways to understand the world. Similarly,
Goldman (1992) points out that advertising is a major social and economic
institution that seeks to maintain cultural hegemony by providing us socially
constructed ways of seeing and making sense of our world (Roy, p. 3).
This chapter will compare and contrast the distinction and parallels between Western
and South Asian (Indian) advertising, focussing on both case studies presented earlier
Kate Moss and Shahrukh Khan. The two areas of theory that will be discussed include
the role of the male gaze in advertising and the role of transgression in advertising.
60
4.1 Advertising and the Male Gaze
Women play a crucial role in the process of marketing, making up over half the
consumer population with the majority of advertising geared at attracting the female
audience. By analysing the consumption patterns of women, their habits, lifestyles and
psychological makeup, advertisers attempt to persuade female consumers into
purchasing products for the home, family and for their own personal needs and desires.
While the advertiser’s intention is to encourage women to consume, it also prompts
women into perceiving themselves as commodities.
Femininity is recuperated by the capitalist form: the exchange between the
commodity and ‘woman’ in the ad establishes her as a commodity too…it is the
modes of femininity themselves which are achieved through commodities and
replaced by commodities (Winship, p. 218).
The sexual objectification of women is a common and recurrent theme in advertising
achieved by the exploitation of the female body and their sexuality. The body is
fragmented into eroticized zones these include the legs, face, hair and breast. According
to Sara Mill’s author of Feminist Stylistics the fragmentation of the female body has
two main objectives: “(a) the body becomes depersonalized, objectified and reduced into
its parts” and since the female model in the commercial is not represented as a “unified
conscious living being, the scene cannot be focalized from her perspective” ( p.172).
Therefore the fragmented bodies are in direct association with male focalization and
hence the female is objectified for the male gaze. Typically, in patriarchal society the
female body has always served as the object of the male gaze in advertising and mass
media. Annette Kuhn author of The power of the image: essays on representation and
sexuality argues that “this cultural way of seeing a female body as a sex object as has
deep material and historical roots ”. In addition, “whenever we look at painted, drawn,
sculpted or photographed images of women, it is important for us to remind ourselves
that images of women have traditionally been the province and property of men ” (Kuhn,
p.10-11). The principle of the male gaze asserts that the female body is a vehicle for
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male voyeurism and scopophilia24 and that it is necessary for women to beautify
themselves in order to attract attention and desire from men. This gendered way of
seeing is what many feminist media critics argue; that women’s self consciousness is in
fact constructed through the complexities of the communication process between women
and the media. “In mass media, a woman in Simone de Beauvoir’s (1974) terms, is
often defined by the male gaze, construct and desire” (Roy, p. 5). The male gaze
becomes a source of dominance when the viewer is male and the person being viewed is
female. In addition the male gaze is not only exercised exclusively by men. This notion
is supported by John Berger’s author of Ways of seeing suggests that the patriarchal
systems ensures that the male gaze is also internalised by women.
Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves
being looked at. This determines not only that most relations between men and
women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of women in
herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object- and
most particularly, and object of vision: a sight (p.47).
This concept of the male gaze implied by Berger has foundations in Marxist criticism of
the economic and social organizations that propagate patriarchal society. Challenging
Berger’s theory, Laura Mulvey author of Visual pleasure and narrative cinema (1975),
examines the power of the male gaze from a Lacanian psychoanalytical perspective,
suggesting that:
In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split
between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its
phantasy on the female figure which is styled accordingly. In their traditional
exhibitionist role, women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their
appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to
connote to-be-looked-at-ness (p.11).
24
Scopophilia is defined as “using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight”
(Mulvey, p. 10).
62
Mulvey’s interpretation of the male gaze can be analysed in terms of three distinct
aesthetics these include:
1. The look of the camera when the frame is being shot, which she suggests
depicts voyeurism, presenting a patriarchal perspective to the audience.
2. This particular aesthetic involves the gaze itself or the look of the male
characters portrayed on the screen which positions the woman an object of
desire.
3. The final aesthetic combines the two points mentioned previously and
involves the look or the gaze of the spectator that emulates the first two
looks.
“These three factors combine to replicate the structure of uneven power relations
between men and women ” (Roy, p. 6).
Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze was criticised, because it was characterised as being
exclusively male and failed to explain adequately how the theory affected female
spectators. In defence of this claim Mulvey argued that “the spectator was not
necessarily male but “masculine”, who adopts a masculine subjectivity or subject
position while viewing the film” (Roy, p.6). The male gaze in advertising provides cues
to the spectator to make sense of social behaviour.
According to Fiske (1987), the mass media construction of a masculine reading
position for a woman from which she can make sense of her own body through
masculine eyes is a deliberate economic strategy of the media industry.
Macdonald (1995) also points out that advertising messages consistently present
women in narcissistic poses, enthralled by their own mystery. Selfcontemplation and self-absorption envelop the woman in a shrine of her own
making, and poise the spectator uneasily between the contradictions of
identification and voyeurism that Mulvey sees as the characteristic of the ‘male
gaze” (Roy, p. 7).
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The celebrity endorsements that will be examined according to the aesthetics of the male
gaze in advertising include Moss as the face of Rimmel, and SRK as the brand
ambassador for Lux. Within this analysis, particular emphasis is devoted to the physical
appearance and mannerisms of the celebrities appearing in the two commercials. In
addition, characteristics such as stage technics, the composition of the commercials,
framing, camera angles, lighting, colour, music and costume have also assisted in
deconstructing the two examples on the basis of the male gaze. Television advertising is
an intricate rhetorical form, involving the amalgamation of strategic choices and
direction, in attempt to motivate the consumer into purchase behaviour. A deconstruction
of the symbols of pre-scribed femininity and sexuality, and their effects on the
audience/consumers will also be identified in both examples of Moss and SRK.
Semiotic studies can inform us about how femininity and womanhood are
constructed on television by examining the varied cinematic techniques such as
camera distance/angles, shot composition, lighting, music and voice-overs,
among others. These devices are connotative because they are subjective
decisions on the part of the directors to create an impression of unmediated
reality to the viewers (Roy, p. 5).
4.2 Kate Moss and the Male Gaze
In Moss’s advertisement for Rimmel cosmetics, the product she is endorsing is Rimmel
Full Volume lipstick. This product according to the male voice-over “makes your lips
look fuller, bigger and larger than life”. In the first frame we are presented with a closeup of Moss’ face, front on, and then a profile shot as she coyly turns away from the
camera. The turning away of her face is significant as it represents a “licensed
withdrawal ”. According to Goffman a license withdrawal is “when a woman is shown
turning away from a man it does not suggest flight, it indicates her submission to and
trust in the man” (Roy, p. 11). Moss’ appearance within the commercial is vamp like;
her complexion is milky white, her hair tousled and flowing in an artificial breeze, her
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eyes are piercingly green and heavily made up and her lips are perfectly full and stained
blood-red.
In the next frame we are presented with the image of Moss mounting a television screen
in a short red dress and red stilettos. In this frame, Moss bears a video camera which she
directs at herself, yet her gaze is front-on thus inviting the spectators gaze. In the
background there are several television screens strategically placed, all of which project
the image being recorded by Moss. This frame invites the notion of voyeurism and
scopophilia which is the pleasure of using another person as an object of sexual
stimulation through sight. Mulvey suggests that scopophilia is a “primary driving force
behind the male gaze” (Roy,p.10). The camera angles focus on the contours of Moss’
body which is accentuated by her figure hugging bright red mini-dress, giving particular
emphasis to her slender legs which are slightly spread, thus inviting male desire. Roy
explores the aesthetics of the male gaze in an advertisement for Sir Mouth Freshener
which can be understood in comparison to aesthetics of the male gaze in Moss’
endorsement for Rimmel.
In the advertisement for Sir mouth freshener, a young woman walked into a
college cafeteria where a group of men were ogling her. The camera slowly
panned the legs and hips of the woman, who wore a mini-dress. The music
kicked in on a dramatic note while the camera focused on her face and red lips as
the men ogled her figure with gaping mouths. (p.7)
Although there are no men present in the Rimmel advertisement both examples illustrate
how the female body is constructed as a sexual object for the purpose of males
voyeuristic pleasure.
The next frame cuts to a shot of Moss lightly gripping the lipstick and unsheathing the
lipstick with a quick stroke of her hand. This frame has extreme phallic connotations
and sexual innuendos. The next shot presents an extreme close up of Moss pouting lips
and the male voice over says ‘Pump it up’, whilst a caption on the screen reads ‘feel the
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tingle as lips plump’ in bold writing. The statement is extremely sexually suggestive and
invites the fantasy of fellatio to the male spectator, not to mention notions of sexual
domination and female submission, which in addition symbolizes patriarchal culture.
The audience is next presented with a frame of Moss sprawled across a pedestal of
televisions which all show the profile of her face in soft focus, whilst she seductively
tosses her hair around and spreads her legs slightly. The camera then briefly cuts to a
shot of Moss’ silhouette gyrating provocatively against a backdrop of her bold lips
collaged across several television screens behind her. The spectator is then presented
with five brief frames of:
1) Moss holding a television screen, which projects the image of her lips slightly parted,
half smiling and partially revealing her tongue.
2) Her sitting with her legs crossed upon a television screen with her dress inching
further up her thighs.
3) Dancing against the backdrop of her perfect pout.
4) Moss filming herself with the camera angled facing down.
5) A close-up of Moss’ mouth partially opened mimicking the action of a kiss.
The composition of various frames and the downward focus of the camera used as a
prop within the advertisement are suggestive of male domination and female
subordination. The camera is also used to represent in Moss’ self-absorbed narcissistic
pleasure.
This commercial which was primarily aimed at women, invited them to adopt the
masculine point of view while watching it. The female viewers saw themselves as
men perceived them, they were encouraged in this commercial to “enjoy their
sexuality through the eyes of men: “It [was] narcissism which at the moment of
self-masturbation and scopophilia (looking in this instance at one’s own body)
[was] also exhibitionist, inviting voyeurism for men (Winship, 1980, p.25).
The advertisement focuses on three specific areas of Moss’ body. These include the
lips, face and legs. By focussing on these areas the message conveyed in the commercial
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suggests, these are the areas in need of extra attention in order to look as aesthetically
pleasing as the ones presented in the commercial and to provide visual pleasure for men.
Export (1988) argues that society defines femininity in terms of a woman’s
body parts -lips, breasts, legs- parts that are so interchangeable and, in the
process, becomes depersonalized, dehumanized and objectified. By showing the
fragmented images of women’s bodies “each part becomes eroticised and
sexual, to-be-looked-at and marvelled in. The whole outer surface of the body is
transformed into an exquisite, passive thing ” for the visual pleasure of the male
(Root, p.60).
4.3 Shahrukh and the Male Gaze
Shahrukh Khan’s endorsement for Lux soap does not traditionally align with the
concept of the male gaze, yet there are elements of this theory that are present within the
aesthetics of the commercial. More specifically the gaze Shahrukh Khan projects within
this commercial can be read as the queer gaze, which is interpreted in reading against the
grain of a mainstream text and viewing the commercial through a queer lens.
The popular media is filled with what could be described as unintentionally
‘queer moments’. ‘Queering the media’ can also mean a transformation in
viewing practices so that many of us look at/ interpret the media through a queer
lens: Queer Theory seeks to locate Queerness in places that had previously been
thought of as strictly for the straights’ (Burston & Richardson 1995, p.1).
While the recent tide of media interest in queer stories may have passed its high
point, the legacy has been the creation of a queer look or glance, a practice of
spectatorship, or of ‘reading against the grain’
(Creed, p. 148).
In this commercial the spectator is presented with a softer, more sensitive and feminine
side of Shahrukh Khan in comparison to the persona he projects in endorsements such
as Tag and Omega where his image is strong, masculine, heterosexual, playful, sexy and
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chic. The scene opens with a slow moving close-up of Shahrukh Khan in soft focus,
immersed in a bathtub of rose petals and with the soundtrack of tranquil music and
female vocals accompanying the frame. The soft focus of the camera captures the
sensual and romantic mood, the rose petals are representative of Shahrukh Khan’s
feminine and delicate image. In comparison with a commercial for Breeze soap Bataille
(1985) suggests: “The petals strewn all over the woman’s body and on the ground
symbolized her delicately sensual image. Like the petals, she was soft, fragrant, moist
and inviting ” (Roy, p. 11).
Throughout the commercial it is Shahrukh Khan that predominantly invites the male
gaze and who is the object of desire, not his female counterparts. This is depicted in his
interaction with his female co-stars who admire and caress him and who are positioned
higher in the composition on the frame in comparison to Shahrukh Khan. According to
M. Haripriya author of Women in Advertisements on Television it is common
characteristic to use admiring women in advertising and sexual appeals of men’s
products in order to cut through the clutter of advertising.
Men’s products like deo-sprays (Axe), suiting and shirtings (Chiraag Din),
Razors (Gillette), undergarments (Rivolta), motorbikes invariably use admiring
women by the side of men. The intensity of sexual appeals and the increasing
number and variety of products being marketed with sexual overtones can be
seen in today’s advertising. Because of the increasing clutter in advertising
environment, advertisers use sexual appeals to catch the attention of consumers ”
(p.132).
This is where Shahrukh Khan’s involvement with Lux essentially differs because Lux
has typically and traditionally been viewed as a feminine product, used by a
predominantly female market.
One of the images marketed throughout the running of the campaign as pictured herein,
was the image of Shahrukh Khan lathering up with a rather distant, eroticised look on
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his face. This can be linked to a previous campaign for Lux International Soap, featuring
famous Indian model Tabu, where the model appeared to be caught up in a moment of
auto-eroticism on screen.
The Indian model enjoyed a private moment, taking a bath in a narcissistic pose.
The camera focussed on her that looked away from the direct gaze of the
viewers, appearing ecstatic and almost orgasmic… The woman appeared to have
been caught by the camera in a moment of autoeroticism. She was enjoying her
own body behind the soap suds and mistiness- the soft, silky smoothness of her
own skin, her own touch; an apparent erotic fantasy. She was transported by her
own pleasure (Roy, p. 13).
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Figure 3: Shahrukh Khan- Tag Heuer
Figure 4: Shahrukh Khan- Lux, Hindustan Lever (HLL): 2005
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4.4 Celebrity Transgression
Transgression is a common characteristic of a celebrity’s life. This involves the violating
of social and moral codes, and can be projected in terms of violence against oneself or
society due to feeling of rejection or invalidation. “Social deviance involved going
beyond the role boundaries that govern ordinary social interaction. Often it involves
breaking the law and causing mental and physical harm to the self and others ” (Rojek,
172). This violent behaviour can manifest in many forms from sexual objectification,
addiction, rape, murder and suicide. Author of Celebrity Chris Rojek suggests that:
The normal pattern of achieved celebrity involves public acclaim and the
ritualization of bonds of recognition and belonging. If the desire to ‘be
someone’ is not achieved by ‘normal’ means, some individuals will have a
compelling propensity to use violence as a means of acquiring fame through
notoriety. The use of violence may be interpreted as an act of revenge on society
for not recognizing the extraordinary qualities of the individual. After all,
democratic culture encourages us to think that all are important, and all are
special. When the course of life does not fulfil these expectations, an individual
may experience powerful feelings of frustration, rejection and invalidation
(p.146).
Transgression is also mimicked in advertising and other forms of mass media. As
mentioned previously this can take the form of scandal, explicit and offensive sexual
representation and stereotyping in advertising, and the representation of illicit habits
such as drug addiction. Within this analysis I will now locate the aspects of
transgression within the following advertisements and forms of mass media which
include Shahrukh Khan (Lux) and Kate Moss (Cover of Daily Mirror), (Rimmel) and
(Virgin Mobile)
4.5 Transgressive Shahrukh Khan aka Queer Shahrukh
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The aspects of transgression that are portrayed by Shahrukh Khan in the Lux
endorsement include notions of queer theory. Although there is no direct suggestion that
Shahrukh Khan is depicted as a homosexual male in the commercial. The fact that his
gaze is not actively engaged with his female co-stars but rather invites the male gay gaze
is confronting to the highly conservative mass Indian audience, who have traditionally
regarded homosexuality as a foreign western phenomenon and a move away from the
traditional idea of Indianess, and essentially an act that should be punished.
Queer theory represents a sexual politics sensitive to our new era of
transnational capital, globalized technology and post-modern culture. The social
and historical forces influencing the shift from identity to queer politics are
located in the fragmentation of social identities and political alignments
associated with globalization. Queer politics is pluralistic, multidimensional and
open-ended, especially at the level of addressing experience of the self and
sexuality (Elliot, p. 124).
The aesthetics in the commercial that can be read as having transgressive queer
connotations are as follows: The fact that Shahrukh Khan is shown with a clean-shaven
chest defies the notion of manhood and masculinity, it is also quite obvious to see that
Shahrukh Khan has been cast against his typical macho-male persona which can be
interpreted by the audience as an act of him challenging his own gender. One of the
possible reasons the Indian audience may have found this so confronting is because it
serves to reinforce the notion of how closely linked homosexuality and heterosexuality
are with one another.
Heterosexuality and homo-sexuality are intimately, hysterically intertwined;
homosexual identifications, for Sedgwick as for Butler, are contained within
heterosexual relationships, just as heterosexuality is gathered up and
transfigured in gay and lesbian relationships (Elliot, p.125).
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Perhaps the reason as to why the Indian audience feel so threatened with the notion of
queer representation infiltrating the media, and why it can be considered as transgressive
is due to the fact that it confronts conventional Indian society.
4.6 Transgressive Moss aka “Cocaine Kate”
Moss is notorious for her transgressive behaviour whether it is announcing her bisexuality, drunken binges which consist of group sex and woman-on-woman sexual
experiences. Most recently, Moss has been scrutinized by the media and antagonised by
the paparazzi following the photos which showed her partaking in illicit drug use spread
across the front page on ‘The Daily Mirror’ with the headline ‘Cocaine Kate’. Within
this analysis the possible reasons why Moss transgressed will be explained. In addition,
Moss’ transgressions that were echoed and made light of in her endorsements for
Rimmel and Virgin Mobile will also be identified.
Freud suggests the relationship between transgression and celebrity is one that is well
known and is essentially correlated. What is meant by this observation is that celebrities
are individuals that live outside of normative life and convention, and that the idea of
transgression refers to the breaking of conventionality and moral codes of conduct.
Thus both concepts in essence have the same meaning. “To some degree the desire for
celebrity is a refutation of social convention. Transgression, one might postulate, is
intrinsic to celebrity, since celebrity is to live outside conventional, ordinary life” (Rojek,
p. 148). With reference to Moss, some possible explanations for her transgressing
include that she was under an increasing amount of pressure from the media, at the time
which exposed every aspect of her private life, from the custody of her daughter Lila
Grace to her relationship with Bambyshamble’s rocker Pete Doherty. In addition, Moss
may have felt helpless in the face of the media and turned to drugs as a refuge and form
of escapism.
In the midst of their wealth, political access and sexual possibilities, celebrities
doubtless reflect on the burdens attended upon celebrity status. Being stalked by
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the paparazzi, pestered by autograph hunters and taunted by strange figures
prominently in the litany of complaints made by celebrities in respect of their
fame. The incidence of marital tension, divorce and family discord are higher
among the celebritariat than the average. The same goes for rates of mental
illness and mortality (p. 148).
Rojek also writes about the appeal and charm of notoriety as a means of achieving
transgression.
The capacity to go beyond yourself, to be taken out of your routine constraints
and responsibilities that govern role performance in ordinary life, is immensely
seductive. Alcohol and drugs are a common means of achieving transgression.
The addicted genius, who experiments with alcohol and drugs as a way of
escaping from the constraining boundaries of ordinary social interaction, is a
powerful motif in Romantic culture. But the figure of the cultural transgressor,
who rejects ordinary social values as over-limiting in the cultivation of social
form and experiments in altered states of drink and drugs, is both celebrated and
reviled in ordinary social life (p.172).
This was demonstrated in the case of Moss whereby her transgressions contributed to
the rise of her financial and public status. Ervin Goffman suggests that “deviation can
be developed as a positive life strategy geared at the acquisition of status ” (p.172). The
advertisements that echoed her transgression making light of them and hence
contributing to Moss public status are as follows: In an advertisement for Rimmel’s
Recover Anti-Fatigue Foundation, the spectator is presented with the image of Moss
stepping into a limo at the end of night where she applies the anti-fatigue foundation,
removes her outfit and changes into a new set of clothes. In the next frame Moss
emerges from the limo in the morning, radiant, fresh and ready to start the day. The
voice in the commercial says ‘Look radiant all day when you’ve stayed out all night’.
This commercial subtly makes humour of Moss’ transgression having suggestion to
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drug use in terms of certain phrases employed in the commercial such as ‘now party for
longer’ and use of the term ‘recover’.
The second advertisement which was depicted as a satire of Moss’ transgression, and
which humours the fact that she lost many lucrative contracts as a result of her drug
scandal, is her endorsement for Virgin Mobile. In this advertisement we see Moss on the
phone with presumably her publicity agent, who claims he has found her ‘the mother of
all contracts’. He then continues to tell her that he can’t talk because ‘there are spies
everywhere’, which evidently makes humour of her involvement with the paparazzi and
tabloid media. The irony behind the commercial is in fact that her agent has merely
walked into a Virgin mobile store and found her a new contract for her phone. This is
depicted by the young salesman asking her agent if she would like a case with her
purchase. The frame cuts to a shot of the phone and the contract saying ‘Virgin Mobile
one contract worth keeping’.
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CONCLUSION
Celebrities are the epitome of capitalism in practice in the sense that they are global and
local commodities in their own right. Within their relationship with the media and
advertising, celebrities provide informational cues to consumers such as class, values,
stereotypes and culture all of which contribute to an audience understanding of the
social world in which they live.
The popularity of celebrity endorsement is largely reliant on the fact that celebrities
themselves possess a number of dynamic qualities. These qualities comprise of
expertise, experience, credibility, and physical attractiveness, all of which are
communicated through the means of advertising and marketing then transferred to
consumers who seek to emulate them through the process of consumption.
There is no denying that celebrity endorsement can contribute to lucrative business for
the brand in question.
In addition, there are also various implications of celebrity endorsement that the
practitioner must take into account before running a celebrity endorsed campaign. This
includes the prospect of the celebrity becoming embroiled in scandal, which can
completely tarnish the company/brands reputation. It is highly recommended before a
practitioner even contemplates running a celebrity campaign that they think rationally
and intelligently about the connection that exists between the celebrity and the brand, as
celebrity endorsement if not executed to the highest degree can make for extremely high
risk business and massive profit loss.
Media scandal is symptomatic of the broad changes in communication media in post
modern times. The result of media scandal is that is has altered the nature and visibility
of the relationship between private and public lives of the individuals involved in the
scandal. This is due to the fact that in today’s society private lives have become a
commodity of which we see celebrities exploited for the enhancement of their career, as
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was the case with both Paris Hilton and Kate Moss. The appeal of scandal lies within
audience fascination hence, facilitating notions of melodrama schadenfreude and rolemodelling. The results of this is that is creates intimacy between the audience/consumers
and celebrity in question, because it proverbially knocks them off their pedestal,
exposing their flaws and making them look more human, thus easier to identify with.
Celebrity content has become the prominent feature of the South Asian media landscape,
with Shahrukh Khan contributing immensely to this process, playing a major role in
globalisation through his involvement in the production of Indian urban diasporic films
and brand endorsement. His popularity is largely dependent on his ability to cross over
to transnationals markets, becoming both a local and global icon. Shahrukh Khan
projects a notion of selfhood which is executed and understood in terms of both
Bollywood cinema and advertising thus contributing to cultural identification amongst
Indian audiences/consumers. SRK and many other icons of his calibre such as
Aishwarya Rai symbolise a process of upward mobility in India as well as western
convergence.
South Asian (Indian) advertising aims to reflect a sense of westernization with its
imagery and marketing of luxury consumer goods. Although, it is evident there are still
certain western representations that outrage conservatists and are considered foreign and
impure, of which include the prospect of queer representation and queer politics
infiltrating the dominant society, as was the case with SRK endorsement for Lux.
The male gaze in advertising helps consumers/audiences to determine the dominant
discourse in patriarchal society, providing cues to the spectator in order to understand
social behaviour. The objectification of women is a common and recurrent theme in
modern advertising; the male gaze essentially projects the female as passive and an
object of the male’s desire. The fragmentation of the body is one of the fundamental
characteristics of the male gaze. In the case of Moss endorsement for Rimmel’s Full
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Volume lipstick particular attention is drawn to certain areas of her body, which suggests
to consumers that these are the areas that need attention if you wish to emulate Moss
who is the object of desire of male’s voyeuristic pleasure. In contrast SRK queer gaze in
the Lux endorsement which is essentially the male gaze read against the grain, positions
SRK as evoking the male gaze through his adoption of female mannerisms and feminine
aesthetics.
In addition the notion of transgression and celebrity are correlated, as transgression
implies the breaking of normative codes of behaviour, which is linked to the fact that
celebrities essentially live out of normative life. The charm of notoriety is extremely
seductive; hence transgression often becomes a theme which is mimicked in advertising,
often causing mixed responses among audiences. Moss transgression was
commoditized and satirized in her endorsements for Rimmel Anti-Fatigue Recover
foundation and Virgin Mobile. Although, in relation to Shahrukh Khan Lux
endorsement the response was not so positive as he was perceived as contesting the self
and defying gender, which immensely confronted the Indian consumers/audiences.
It is evident within the research presented that celebrity scandal and transgression makes
for lucrative business opportunities in regards to advertising. Additionally, even the most
severe and outrageous circumstances can be transformed into a marketable commodity.
This is due to the fact celebrity scandal and transgression contributes to the product
standing out amidst advertising clutter as a result of the controversy already generated
by the star’s transgressions. This in turn instantly fascinates the audience/consumer and
motivates them to purchase the product.
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