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Media Bites – JC Penny Back to School

August 10, 2009

In this week’s Media Bites we take a look at a new back to school commercial by JC Penny. The 1-minute spot has students transform a school cafeteria into a fashion show runway. The commercial uses music from a hip band and promotes a line of branded clothing that the company sells. The commercial also plugs its website which features the same models used in the TV ad. This spot is an excellent example of how advertisers target youth, where youth are not just selling products, they are selling style.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. stelle permalink
    August 10, 2009 12:58 pm

    Thanks for another great Media Bite insight! I couldn’t help but notice the extreme high heels worn by the first “model student.” As a mom of a teen girl, I have struggled since elementary school trying to find her “stylish” yet sensible shoes. While we shrink in horror when told about how the ancient Chinese bound their girls’ feet, most shoes our girls and women wear today aren’t much better. At an age when girls are as fast or faster than the boys on the playground, they are slowed down by heels, platforms or backless shoes that fall off. The high heels also send a message that girls are sex objects. And, high heels cause foot, ankle and back problems that can plague women for their entire lives.

  2. August 10, 2009 1:36 pm

    Thanks Stelle, your comments are dead on. The “problem” with this kind of commercial media is that there are so many layers that could be dissected, so I am glad you raised the points you did. There can always be a race, gender and class analysis with these commercials.

  3. Alexis permalink
    August 21, 2009 4:32 am

    I would just like to say that as a teenage female in highschool that I adore this commercial. Honestly, the first male “student model” was one of my favs. <33 I wanted to get his
    name !? Can you spare me? Please and thank you 🙂

  4. Anna permalink
    August 23, 2009 12:33 am

    I stummbled across this site when I did a general search using “JC Penny back to school commercial + racist”. I (and for the record, I’m a white 37 year old woman), felt some negative racial overtones going on in this commercial. While there are the token black or ethnic people featured in the crowd, the ‘stars’ of the commercial are all white. In fact, the first time I watched this, I did not notice that there were any black hispanic or ethno people in the first three quarters as they are largely insignificant, unmemorable and therefor in my opinion just tokens. The edgy girl with the poney tail, the two surfer dudes, the white homey with the pulled down cap – these seem to be the stand out glamour roles. At the end of the commerical, the music dies just when the black chic is walking down the runway – putting a damper on her image which was a little more dowdy than the rest to begin with. After which, it cuts to the party pooper teacher who happens to be a black woman. I dunno – these advertising people know what they’re doing in that the details of race portrayal have been acutely considered and measured. When they selected the cast for this commerical they did so purposefully because that is just part of the business. This was subliminal yet powerful bigotry in my opinion and anyone worth their salt in the advertising world should know better.

  5. Jeff Smith permalink*
    August 23, 2009 6:26 pm

    Anna, I think your observations/analysis is great. I think you can always look at any of these ads through a gender, race and class lens. I chose to focus on the class or hyper-commercial aspect of the ad, but there is clearly a race and gender aspect to it that is worth looking at. So, thank you for your comments and your interest. Are you involved in media education or research work, or was this purely of personal interest?


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