Saturday, 7 February 2015

Why Does She Stand on One Leg?

A Semiological Analysis of the Chambord Flamingo Advert

You can watch the advert here - Best Ads On TV - or read the description below. Please scroll down for the semiological critique itself.

Brief Description of Advert
The Chambord advert opens with the single leg of a women next to that of a flamingo. The next two frames show the face of the flamingo followed by the eyes of the woman. We then see the legs of a flamingo standing on a mirror with the flamingo lifting one leg and the voice-over saying: “Why does she stand on one leg?”. We cut to a scene of someone pouring some champagne and topping it up with Chambord. Then, back to the flamingo standing on one leg, followed by the bending knees of a young woman in a short yellow skirt: “There is no reason. She likes it. She does it. Does she care what the other eyeballs think?” We see the flamingo and young woman standing side by side - “BOF!” - and a close-up of the mouth of the young woman saying the word (and appearing in written form on the screen). We then see the woman walking away from the flamingo in a predominantly blue-coloured room (with occasional pink highlights): “Of course she does not”. The final scene is the single leg of the flamingo next to an up-ended bottle of Chambord with the voice-over also saying the words on the screen: “Because. No reason.”

Semiological Critique
While much could be said about the stylish young woman, the Louis XIV-style packaging (and the French emphasis in general) and also the colour signifiers in the advert, I am going to focus on three elements: the standing-on-one-leg trope, the term ‘bof’ and the aesthetics implied by two filmic references. The first two motifs I will discuss in a broad cultural sense, since they represent the brand directly, the other I would like to include for its connotative reference, because I think it is stylistic but at the same time means the advert could reach an audience other than its main one (female ‘twenty-thirty something’ cocktail drinker).

While it might be obvious to state that the single-leg motif could refer to ‘legless’, this does not reflect the subtle nature of what is implied by standing on one leg. In modern culture we can think of ballerinas, gymnasts and horses in dressage. So standing-on-one-leg refers to skill, beauty, dexterity and achievement. These sports, if you will, are also what could be described as middle- or even upper-class, so this drink could be seen as being ‘aspirational’, despite, and indeed because of, its reasonable price. The drink is presented as ‘classy’, not least because of the history of the drink, although there is some irony contained in this since, if you follow the lineage of Louis XIV, it ended in 1775 with the French Revolution, one of its main aims being to rid France of the aristocracy (the upper classes).

Bof! The term ‘bof’ generally has two meanings, both relevant to the advert. It is urban slang directed at people who want to be different, but it is also French for ‘I do not know’ in the sense of disinterest. The ‘I do not know’ refers to both the question of why the girl/flamingo stands on one leg, but also to a disinterest in why they do, because it is irrelevant – they just do. What is important is Chambord, not the standing-on-one-leg. Of course, this standing-on-one-leg is about being different (quirky). Being different is desirable. Who wants to be like everyone else? Being different = Chambord = being interesting/quirky, but also being desirable because of that, nevertheless.

The last point I would like to bring up are the Kubrick references. The opening music sounds like it is sampled from A Clockwork Orange (if it is not it is characteristic of the style of the track ‘The Funeral of Queen Mary’ from the film). Also, the monochrome room, which we see more of at the end of the advert, is redolent of the ‘bedroom encounter’ scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey (a Louis XIV-style bedroom). While these may just be stylistic affects included in the advert to make it fit a certain aesthetic, they do more than that (while also telling you something about the designers of the advert, too – such as, perhaps, their age, but also their interest in cinema). These Kubrick references add an edginess to the film – especially the music, which, in a way, is at odds with the visuals – they are mostly soft and pastel in colour. But, also, they open up the advert to another group of potential customers: women (and perhaps men) of an age who would be familiar with these films (1968 and 1971), and also film buffs. I appreciate that these additional references may be connotative, but since the aim of advertising is to make it personal to the potential consumer, this advert does that for me. As Roland Barthes explains, the power of the connotative is that it speaks directly to you and appears as if it has been placed there just for you!

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