Social Exchange in Dolce and Gabanna Advertising

Learning & Social Exchange in Dolce & Gabanna Advertising

Observational learning is also called social learning. The theory of observational learning proposes a method of behavior acquisition via observation and imitation of new behaviors. The theory of observational learning occurs without reinforcement or punishment for new behaviors and learning acquisition. It is in this way that observational learning differs from other theories of learning.

Social exchange theory works well within and likely has capitalist roots. Whatever one’s regard for capitalism, one cannot deny the logic and practicality of social exchange theory. Social exchange theory springs from the logic that human relationships are chosen based on a cost-benefit analysis. People weigh the costs and benefits of a person, of a relationship, of a behavior, and make decisions based on those evaluations. It is as if people and relationships are commodities, like stocks, or bonds, or trusts — things that acquire, accumulate, and amass wealth or worth over time. People make evaluations and decide to remain or exit relationships when implementing social exchange theory. Social exchange theory, then, works well in advertising for products such as clothing and in turn the lifestyle clothing propagates.

Dolce & Gabanna is a European fashion label that often makes risque advertisements. D & G. is known for provocative imagery that often is reminiscent of orgiastic and otherwise group sexual activities. In this advertisement for the Fall & Winter 2009 collection, there is a group of models in a boxing ring. It is unclear as to what time of day it is because there are no windows and the lighting is ambiguous, though it gives off an “evening” vibe. On one platform, there are a few male models dressed in red and black suits. On another platform, there is a pair of models pretending to box. The primary action is happening on the floor in front of the platforms in the foreground of the photograph. There are six models. Five of the models are male. One male model is implied nude. The female model is implied topless. The rest of the male models are fully dressed in suits. The models on the floor are set up in pairs. The pair furthest from the camera is two males. One male is upright, holding the arm of another mail that is bent over, implying severe intoxication. The next pair closest to the camera is a male and the female. He holds her up because she is unconscious, also implying intoxication. The pair of men closest to the camera look fully sober. The one who is fully clothed stands behind the other who is sitting or kneeling and is implied nude. It is only these two that make eye contact with the camera.

The models in the background are doing observational learning. They are clearly observing the pairings and it is implied that they will mimic the behavior, or that “they got next.” Sexual activity is another prevalent theme of D & G. advertisements. Models is their ads are often in various stages of having sex: they completed the act, they just had it, they are having it, and they will have it as soon as another body or orifice is available. The people on the floor are not paying attention to the models in the back, so there is no punishment or reinforcement for their observation. There is not punishment or reinforcement among the three couples. The middle and far couples are observationally learning from the primary couple as to what the goal is: one of us is totally naked and one of us is totally clothed and both of us are fairly sober. The couple closest to the camera is the example for the other two couples to imitate, both in posture, position, and activity. The standing model in the front couple is teaching the two standing models how to handle their submissive partners. The front submissive is teaching the other two how to be a good submissive and when one is a good submissive, one gets to be in the front and look at acknowledge the camera, and in turn, the audience. There is power in the gaze. The gaze of the third model is down at his submissive partner. The gaze of the second model is at the first model, looking for guidance. The gaze of the third model is at the camera and at the audience. He has the most power. He has a submissive partner who knows what to do and he is looking right back at us as we look at him.

As far as the social exchange theoretical element in the advertisement, perhaps the front couples chose their partners from the group in the back, looking on. The standing models perhaps chose their partners by attractiveness, submissive qualities, and degree of intoxication. If this is true, we can infer that the front model made the best choice. This situation is similar to a party when people get intoxicated and seek sexual partners. They make evaluations based on what time it is, how attractive they are, who is available and how attractive they are, degrees of intoxication in all parties, and probability of success.

These strategies are extremely effective. Dolce & Gabanna is a global brand and a global success. Their style of advertisement is one that has been used for years as a part of the brand identity, so clearly their ads work. The advertisement is for clothing, lifestyle, and behavior. Within the ad itself, the models are emulating the behaviors that the brand wishes the audience to emulate. Capitalism works with buying products and choosing partners. That is a bottom line of this advertisement and it is communicated directly and effectively to consumers.

Works Cited

Dolce & Gabanna. “Fall and Winter Collection 2009.”

<> Web.

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