Thursday, October 23, 2008

JC Penny – Get That Look

“The way we distinguish ourselves is by showing our individuality” (Elisa Camahort, author of We Got Naked, Now What) but “groups have their own sense of community” (John Allen, author of A Network Called 'Internet'). Nowadays the one goal all of us want to achieve is fitting in. On the other hand, we all still want to be who we are and be different from one another. Advertising has really been pushing this very subject for many years and the ad I analyzed is no different. The advertisement I chose to examine for this project is a JC Penny commercial for back to school clothes. It is a fairly recent ad that I remember seeing on television and it has stuck in my head ever since then. The ad presents a group of teenagers who all have to go 'back to school' in order to fulfill a weekend detention they all aquired. They are all put into one room together, the library, and are forced to spend the day with one another. Besides the fact that the ad is selling clothes, I believe it is also selling the desire to fit in; be an individual while still being part of the crowd.

The first thing that stands out about the ad is the song playing in the background. It is “Don't You (Forget About Me)” originally sung by Simple Minds and can instantly be recognized as the theme song for the 1985 classic “The Breakfast Club”. Already the viewer can relate to the ad because of the familiarity of the film being personified. When the kids are dropped off at the school, it becomes clear that the “Breakfast Club” scenario is the entire basis for the commercial. The commercial depicts several scenes that were in the movie that show the 'gang' becoming a close knit group of friends. They each have their own individual style but that doesn't stop them from bonding over the similar experience they are all facing together. This very popular movie has become a prime example that kids of different backgrounds can come together and be friends and this is why it was used for the commercial. When people think of “The Breakfast Club”, they think of completely unique people getting past everything that has kept them apart before and truly becoming friends. However not only are they connected because they are all in detention but also because of the clothing they are wearing. They all come from the same store but each person is still their own individual. The kids bond very quickly and soon all become friends. By wearing the clothes from JC Penny, one is an individual yet they are also part of a group. By referencing this popular movie, the commercial enhances the desires of people to be an individual in a group.

The second advertisement I looked at is somewhat different but contains a very similar message. This ad for Khols Department store shows people from different parts of the country in different situations. They are all wearing the Khols brand and the shots are all tied together by the wind blowing through each individual frame. In this ad they don't have a similar situation to bond over but they do have the clothes. The catchphrase for the commercial that crosses the screen at the end is 'find your place in the rhythm of life' and yet the song in the background states 'we're all in this together'. So once again we are all individuals living our own lives but we're all living together in the same world.

Advertisements often send mixed messages to viewers. We're all our own person yet we are just one of many living here on this earth. But to the viewer it doesn't seem mixed at all. It is normal for people to have the desire to fit in with the rest of society while still maintaining the individuality that sets them apart from everyone else. Advertisers draw upon this need to fit in to get people to but their products. They intensify that desire people have inside of them to be like everybody else. Although we are merely one out of billions in the world, we can still fit in but with our own individual style.

Sara Nesbitt

TA: Kate Brandt

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