The “Art of Celebration” Ciroc Vodka ad featuring hip hop mogul Diddy is, at first glance, an homage, not only to the late Frank Sinatra, whose voice we hear crooning one of his classics – “Come Fly Away” – but to the lifestyle that Sinatra represented. Diddy, a.k.a. Sean Combs, was considered an innovator in hip hop, and has also been known throughout his career as P. Diddy, Puffy and Puff Daddy.
The “Come Fly Away” Ciroc commercial, one in a series of commercials for Ciroc, presents an aspirational view of the good life, filled with beautiful people – men in tuxedos, women in sparkling cocktail dresses. The surroundings are elegant and luxurious. It’s the luxe life updated for today.
The use of black and white instead of color images further emphasizes the nostalgic overtone and yet, the presence of a tuxedoed Diddy, tie carefully loosened, at once signals that this is a contemporary nod. If Sinatra was the swinging head of the Rat Pack in yesteryear, it is Diddy who is king now.
As Pettersson noted, “Visual literacy may be applied in almost all areas such as advertising, anatomy, art, biology, business presentations, communication, education, engineering, etc.” (Pettersson, 2009)
But Pettersson also wrote that visuals alone can be deceiving, adding, “It is not enough, however, to study visuals only. We need to consider and study combined messages, not only text, and not only visuals, when we study communication and communication situations.” (Pettersson, 2009).
Of course Pettersson was referring to how universities are studying the issue of visual literacy and message design, but some of what she said certainly applies to the reality of commercial advertising such as what we see in the Ciroc commercial starring Diddy.
Part of what affects the message in the Ciroc commercial is the cultural context. In order to accurately analyze the Ciroc commercial one must consider Diddy’s current place in the social landscape, and how that compares to the heights of his popularity during his heyday.
The fact is that Diddy is considered past his sell date. Yes, he’s rich. Forbes Magazine named Diddy the highest paid hip-hop performer in a 2013 article. But there’s almost universal acknowledgement that he’s no longer considered relevant or a true innovator or musical force to be reckoned with.
Given that context, trying to discern who the intended audience of this video is intended to be is actually a trickier proposition than at first glance. The initial answer would seem to be that this commercial is designed to appeal to those who aspire to appear that they are part of the upper echelon of urban sophisticates. Note that I said those who aspire to appear, not those who are.
Still, there’s still an older, urban aspirant who still sees Diddy as a representation of a certain, high roller type lifestyle they’ve heard about. For them, this commercial hit the mark.