Friday, July 8, 2011

Ad Musings: Louis Vuitton

Angelina Jolie in Cambodia.

My Mom was so cranky when she saw Angelina Jolie's new Louis Vuitton full-page ad in the New York Times. Mommy feels that it's in poor taste to sit in the middle of an impoverished country with a several thousand dollar handbag. I agree.  It is in poor taste, and feels very post-colonial. Especially since it's half-French woman with a bag from a French company in former French Indochina.

However, Jolie,  photographed by Annie Leibovitz, gave her fees to charity. Ironically, the specific bag she is posing with is discontinued.  That doesn't really matter, since they're advertising the brand and an idea, not a particular item.  You can read a bit more about Jolie's photo over at Huff Po.  Apparently this is the most recent in a campaign that I've mostly missed, or just didn't connect to one another. Here's Bono and his wife:

Read about Bono and Ali Hewson's spread in South Africa here.

After the jump, lots more about this campaign, including Sally Ride, Pelé, Gorby and more.

These photos are from what LV calls their "Core Values" campaign. All the proceeds from these celebrity shoots are going to charity, particularly the Climate Project.  I find the other ads in much better taste, since they aren't shot in a rice paddy. Even Bono's photo set in Africa is less shocking. We're used to images of white people dressed on safari,  and an Irishman in South Africa has less obvious post-colonial implications.

The one had that I recall personally from the campaign was that of Mikhail Gorbachev with his Louis Vuitton tote driving by the remains of the Berlin Wall. As I am not a Soviet history scholar, I will not deconstruct this image too much, but isn't it fabulous to have the last leader of the Communist USSR promoting something so obscenely capitalist as high-end luggage? I can see a protester in a t-shirt that reads, "I tore down this wall and all I got was this lousy satchel." And that the protester wouldn't really get one unless he had been a member of the party that seamlessly transitioned into an oligarch in the new Russian ruling class.  Okay, fine, I deconstructed it anyway.  But as I've said in my other Ad Musings posts, just because it's horrible corporate propaganda, it doesn't mean it's not an effective advertisement.

Read more about Gorby's ad and the mini scandal it caused here.

I really like this one, it doesn't really have any political message or imagery,  just astronauts on a journey with Louis.

Astronauts Sally Ride, Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell

In addition to humanitarians and Cold-War Era personages, some sport legends have also posed with their monogrammed best:
Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi
Diego Maradona, Pelé, Zinedine Zidane in Madrid, Spain. Read about the iconic footballers shoot here.

And finally, film legends have gotten into the act as well:

Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sean Connery in the Bahamas.
Catherine Deneuve
This one above with Catherine Deneuve may be my favorite. It combines an iconic French brand with an iconic French actress. It illustrates the point of celebrity advertisements, associating the chicness of a person with an item. It doesn't get too complicated or high concept. It's just luggage. It's not going to save the world.

Even though the proceeds from the celebrities involvement in the campaigns, as well as some of the proceeds from certain products go to charity, my Mom may still be right to be outraged about the Angelina ad. On an fundamental level, is luxury consumption antithetical to charity? I'll let you know once I have enough disposable income to be in this conundrum. In the meantime, as an unemployed soon-to-be grad student, I shall try to keep my $10 per month donation Capital Public Radio going without compromising my handbag collection.


  1. Hello and thanks for the follow over at my blog! Just wanted to stop by and say hi!

  2. I LOVE the footballer one. Also, Khmer people are kind of gaga over Jolie since a lot of people heard about Cambodia for the first time when she bought a kid from here... as far as the postcolonial thing goes, Fillon was just here and there are signs EVERYWHERE celebrating "La Republique Francaise" and "vive" this and "relations" that... kinda eerie. As always, the tricolore hung everywhere, French PM or not.

  3. Thanks for the report on the ground! I always forget that you're randomly there. She's the biggest thing to happen there that's not a war long as the west has been paying attention. But still, it's awkward.

  4. Awesome post, Julia!! I haven't seen this ad campaign yet, and I find it very intriguing. I think the Angelina ad is just stupid. If I was traveling to an impoverished nation to do volunteer work, I do not believe I would be toting around LV.

    I LOVE the astronaut ad though, and like you, my favorite it definitely the Catherine Deneuve one! The train...the steam...gosh it's just so glamorous! Perfect (and appropriate) for LV.

  5. Fabulous blog and VERY interesting post!!

    So glad you are linking up!

  6. Awesome post!
    Visiting from the link up... and a new follower! :)