Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We Want YOU (but not you): How Mall Advertisements Solicit Certain Lifestyles

These are letters sent to City Center Mall of Edmonton, AB in response to their current advertising promotion of “your space”. Read the letters and feel left out by the advertising too!

Dear City Centre Mall Management,

Last Saturday I drove into town from Stettler to do some shopping. I was looking for a place to shop and one of my friends from the city suggested we go to City Centre. I was looking for some new work boots and a pair of new Carhart pants. Upon entering the mall I saw all these advertisements saying ‘Your Space’ with these fancy looking women in awkward poses. How is this my space? I could not even find a place to get work boots in the mall. If this mall were my space, things would be a heck of a lot different.


-Disgruntled Customer from Out of Town

Dear fat cats of the system,

Walking though your mall, I am constantly bombarded with your advertisements telling every Sally shopper to fill their gas guzzling, pollutant vehicles with more material goods wrapped in ribbon to bring to their two-story house in suburbia.

Last week, when your new advertisement campaign of “Your Space” came out it was no different. I do have to applaud your efforts however, of appeasing the masses with your depictions of “different” and “unique” people with slogans attached like “Elegance is putting on a new dress.” However, the smile left on my face from the trickery of your ads was wiped when I came across an empty space with a notice that my beloved Good Earth was coming soon. I will not stand idly and watch as you take an eco-friendly business and turn it into a money-hungry corporation. To add insult to injury, you have the nerve to slap on your ads fake smiling, suit wearing carbon copies.

The masses will no longer be blinded by flashing ads and shiny objects but will unite against you once they are educated by my underground blog videos. You have been warned.


Dear Mall Management,

My name is Jessica Miller. I am six years old and five days. Mommy and I like going shopping for princess clothes and dolls. We were walking through your mall and I saw that there are no stores for kids. There are no signs (mommy calls them advertisements) for kids either! How am I supposed to learn about the newest toys and dolls? I LOVE TOYS AND DOLLS!!! All your advertisements are for old people. When I told my mommy and daddy this, they laughed at me. Maybe it is because they are old too. One sign has a girl looking at her bag. She is in all black. I do not like black. I like pink, purple, and yellow. Princesses wear pink and purple and yellow. Why is she in all those dark colors? Also, she is looking down at her bag. Why is she looking down at her bag? Is there a toy in her bag? Please answer my questions.


(With a little help from Mom)

This is a ‘form letter’ that City Center sends out to anyone who dares comment on their narrow-minded advertising. At least they provide a lesson in sociological theory.

Dear Valued Customer,

I am very sorry that you did not find what you were looking for when you came to City Centre. Our primary clientele at City Centre is Women aged 20-45. They are the category of shoppers that spend the most dollars at our centre and as a result we target them with our advertisements. We do something called ‘interpellating’ to draw these people in. According to Althussar (1970), interpellation is ‘hailing’ or calling of people and having them realize that the message being sent is meant for them and only them. People are always interpellated as subjects (Althussar, 1970). If this is not clear, Pajnik and Lesjak-TuSek (2002) explained interpellation as making people believe that they are the ‘you’ referred to in the advertisement and that they are the subjects. Through interpellation, the advertisements make a promise to the consumer that they can be glamorous and successful while actually hinting towards consumption. In this way advertisements are not selling products, they are selling peoples lifestyles (Pajnik and Lesjak-TuSek, 2002). By instructing that this is ‘your space’ we are allowing you to be interpellated by the lifestyles projected from the image. People who do not feel this is their space are people who do not fit the target lifestyle and therefore are not interpellated by the image.

You are also not interpellated by the advertisement if the ‘ideal you’ presented in the advertisements were not meant for you. In a sense, the ‘real you’ is incongruent with our depiction of the ‘ideal you’. By showing beautiful, sophisticated women, we are presenting an ideal the older business women can be interpellated by. They are hailed by this image because there is a sense of congruency. According to a summary of Lacan by Sean Homer (2006), seeing oneself reflected creates a sense of misrecognition. We both identify with the image and feel alienated by the image. This allows us to be constituted as the subject of these images (Homer, 2006). The advertisements we present create a sense of lack in the viewer that allows them to be interpellated by the image. They misrecognise themselves in the image, attempting to close the gap between the real self outside the advertisement and the ideal self within the advertisement. This allows us to hail the viewer and convince them that by shopping at our mall they can finally unite these two selves. This, of course is not possible and we exploit this to maintain customers. Since older and more sophisticated business women are our target market our projection of an ideal self is targeted towards them. This is central to our depiction of people in advertisements.

The goal of our advertisements is to portray women looking glamorous and elegant. We strive to create an image of our centre that depicts upscale living. If we achieve our goal then customers will come to our centre to buy the best and most expensive clothes. When our advertisements refer to “My Space” they are trying to signify that the centre is your place and you may purchase what you like, eat what you like or become whoever you want by shopping at the retailers in our centre. This being said, we target women aged 20-45 and the lifestyle of successful business women. According to Chatterjee (2007), women’s idea of themselves as part of society’s gaze is reflected in the symbols that hail them. These symbols are congruent with their personal identity (Chatterjee, 2007). This means that women look at our images and relate to the symbols in our advertisements as part of their personal identity. This identity is constructed by the gaze they receive from society every day. The reason that you would not respond to the advertisement is that you are not the target audience. The target audience is part of a different social gaze and thus the symbols used to interpolate them will be different. This means that there will be no princesses, no poorly dressed women, and no cahart pants

We at city center mall enforce a specific ideology. That is, we enforce the ideology of our target group, the sophisticated business women. In order to solicit them as consumers we must reinforce their ideology. Ideology is beliefs that guide people’s beliefs and actions in everyday life. They appear natural and unquestionable. Ideology allows us to interpellate our target audience. According to Althussar (1970), ideology does not exist outside of the subjects and It acts to interpolate people (Althussar, 1970). By demonstrating an ideology that praises success, beauty, style, and maturity we at City Center can interpolate people who are already invested in that ideology. As people we do not target, you would not relate to the ideology and are therefore unable to be interpellated by the advertisements. By reinforcing an ideology of our target audience, we can guide their spending habits and where they shop. A women in our target audience will see our advertisement and see that their ideology is reinforced. Thus, they will continue to shop at our stores. From an ideological standpoint, it is clear that our advertisements at City Center are in fact meant to interpolate our target audience and thus solicit their lifestyle.

Everything in our advertisements is made to interpellate a specific audience. Even the color scheme enhances interpellation. Percy and Rossiter (1983) said that black and white images are just as effective as color advertisements in creating these emotions. The black and white advertisement interpellates the viewer who is ‘hailed’ and constituted by the image. This means that a person who looks at the advertisement will see the black and white and will form him or herself within it. Black and white connotes sophistication and class. Business women have these qualities and will be interpellated and see themselves in the image. Percy and Rossiter (1983) discussed how specific colors and shades could influence the observer’s emotions towards the advertisement. The colors allow them to feel further that they are the woman in the image. It reinforces the ideology surrounding their lifestyle and allows them to interpellate further.

Enclosed is a 25-dollar gift certificate to City Centre. We encourage you to return to the Centre and make it “your space”.

Best Regards,

City Centre Management

Works Cited:

Althussar, Louis. 1970. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays.Transcribed by Andy Blundon. Marxist Internet

Archive (accessed March 5, 2010)

Pajnik, Mojca, and Petra Lesjak-Tušek. 2002. "Observing Discourses of Advertising:
Mobitel's Interpellation of Potential Consumers." Journal of Communication Inquiry 26,
no. 3: 277. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 3, 2010).

Homer, Sean, Jacques Lacan (Taylor & Francis, 2004), (March 10, 2010)

Chatterjee, Ipsita. 2007. Packaging of identity and identifiable packages: A study of women-commodity negotiation through product packaging. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 14, (3) (06): 293-316.

Percy, Larry, and John R. Rossiter. Effects of picture size and color on brand attitude responses in print advertising. Advances in Consumer Research 10, (1): 17-20.

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