The Louis Vuitton commercial describes a wide range of visuals from India, China and France (Duncan 2008) that captures the real essence of travel and the journey through life while trying to simultaneously explore the true meaning of the word ‘journey’. The visuals are backed by textual messages aimed at answering “What is a Journey? (Paris 2008)” against a soulful musical score. The commercial in itself seeks to sell the Louis Vuitton brand across 13 nations rather than a particular collection (Duncan 2008). The fact that only the monogram is shown in the advertisement bears testimony to the same. With regard to the target audience, the commercial targets all young lovers of luxury and travel in particular and lovers of life in general. Most of the travelers in the video are young people although the local crowd is made up of people of all ages. The commercial sought to capture beautiful moments that travel with one beyond physical journey. The goal was to connect Louis Vuitton’s brand passion in assisting its clients to achieve true pleasure and luxury during journeys in particular and across life in general in accordance with brand values of luxury and travel. The advertisement is 90 seconds in direction to allow it to convey the “true and rich essence of travel as a process of both discovery and self-discovery” as per the head of communications at Louis Vuitton, Antoine Arnault (Brent 2008). Through a combination of visuals, musical score and subtitles, the video effectively communicates the same and reveals the brand’s passion for providing luxury to its customers as they journey through life.
“The Journey” commercial by Louis Vuitton relies on the use of numerous visual techniques including slow motion, special effects, selective focus through telephoto lenses, blurring, silhouetting, lens flare and superimposition. The commercial is a visual marvel created by Bruno Aveillan (Duncan 2008). According to the Louis Vuitton press release the advertisement captures those quintessential travel moments where “our senses and sense of awe are surpassed by the absolute beauty of a place, of a moment (Duncan 2008).” The same is essentially true of most visuals in the commercial. The visuals endeavor to evoke a sense of awe and a sense of serenity in the viewer through depiction of the “passion and art of travel (Duncan 2008)” using a range of visual tools and techniques. One can see a whole range of close-ups to provide emphasis on the feelings of travelers when witnessing a moment that surpasses expectations and their love for travel. Most of the frames use shallow depth of field or focus on a small area of frame to guide viewer’s attention to the specific object or person of interest (Brown 2012, 61). For instance, in an over the shoulder shot of a traveler dressed in white, the focus is entirely on him with the rest of the frame blurred out. In addition to a foreground, mid-ground and background, some frames rely on the use of glass as one of the planes, which, in turn, allows one to see reflections of objects that are not a part of the frame as a fourth layer. Most of the camera angles are at eye level with little psychological manipulation of the viewer on that front. Selective blurring seems to be enhanced in post production and special effects work. The insertion of certain reflections can seem to be the result of special effects. The camera is positioned in many frames to create lens flare which again curtails proper viewing of some visual content while serving as an aesthetic and pleasing visual technique. Lastly, slow motion towards the end of the commercial is another classic technique used to enhance the beauty of a momemt (Brown 2012, 73). The commercial does not depict many visuals of Louis Vuitton products merely showing the famous logo and the classic LV design. Through the choice of visuals, the brand effectively takes the viewer back to its history establishing itself as a luxury travel brand (Lindstrom 2005, 125). The visuals span three nations namely, India, China and France enabling the advertisement to attain global appeal in consonance with its purpose of serving as an effective global ad campaign. In terms of motif, the commercial uses certain signs and symbols to reinforce its textual content. The first is the use of light, especially sunlight. As a signifier, the light usually connotes wisdom, knowledge and power. The use of sun, the source of all life, foreshadows the answer to the question raised by the commercial. In the beginning, the characters are in darkness, like the viewer deciphering the answer to the query posed by the advertisement. The characters become progressively more lit as the commercial progresses. A second signifier is the use of mist, haze, fog and even blurring, all of which signify a sense of mystery. This can suggest the sense of intrigue one experiences during travel along with the viewer lack of clarity about where the commercial will take him at its onset. A third important sign is water again a sign of sustenance and life and a sign of purity. The first subconscious reader response to water helps to make the answer, that the journey is life, more meaningful. The second response connects to the purity of the moments of awe during travel and the true passion for travel. The characters are themselves dressed and positioned in ways that clearly segregates them from the environment establishing them as outsiders. Moreover, they are more glamorous than others in their environment reinforcing the “luxury” value of the brand. In totality, the choice of visuals helps to establish a sense of beauty attached to travel and a true love for traveling. Visuals capture one’s bliss during moments that surpass awe while journeying, and the need to treat life as one’s most fascinating journey.
The aural technique used in the Louis Vuitton commercial is background score or music. The score for the commercial was composed by the famous music director Gustavo-Santaolalla (Terrazas 2008). Since the commercial was part of a set of advertisements catering to global television marketing for the brand, it can be analyzed on two fronts. First is its connection to the type of musical score the brand has used in the past for its marketing. Second is the subconscious impact it has on the viewer since color and music are two aspects that influence at a deeper subconscious level. Louis Vuitton commercials in the past have commonly relied on specifically composed Louis Vuitton signature music (Lindstrom 2005, 125) and this commercial is no different. As a result, the score does not have any prior emotional connotations attached to it, allowing the makers to influence consumer perceptions from scratch. The music is slow and subtle in congruence with the slowness and serenity of the visuals. The dominant instrument throughout the score is a string instrument with chimes and other wind sounds supplementing it. The commercial begins with a subtle wind instrument immediately evoking a sense of mystery and drawing the viewer into the commercial from its onset. Slow chimes are often associated with feelings of pleasantness (Meyer 2008, 87). The string instrument then strikes an even deeper emotional connect through louder and isolated notes. The same rhythm repeats throughout the advertisement further reinforcing the Conduplicatio ‘journey’ and an attempt to decipher its true meaning throughout the advertisement. Moreover, the repetition helps to remember the advertisement even after viewing, through production of deep memory traces that play a crucial role in consumer decision-making (Wells 1997, 241). In addition to music, the absence of diegetic sounds also draws viewer attention to the commercial. Sounds such as a books pages turning due to the winds, kids shouting as they run, the sound of water splashing are all absent from the commercial though some of the visuals are in close up. This lack of sound also makes one pay attention to what is being shown in the advertisement. In totality, the soothing nature of the musical score coupled with its repetitive rhythm reinforces the nature of visual content and brings the viewer into an introspective mood. The lack of diegetic sounds further make one notice the visuals by not reinforcing their content.
A third dominant facet of the commercial is the use of subtitles that appear across the duration of the commercial. The commercial begins by raising the question, “What is a Journey?” It then begins to add one layer of meaning over another to fully answer the question and terminates with the disclosure that “journey is life itself” (Paris 2008). The advertisement, however, ends with another question “Where will life take you?” (Paris 2008). The word ‘journey’ is used throughout the video as a Conduplicatio or a repeated keyword pulling out important ideas from sentences and reinforcing them in other sentences (Farnsworth 2011, 7). The process of repetition enhances the probability that viewer attention will be centered towards the repeated word at some stage of viewing (Wells 1997, 241). The word ‘life’ again finds a similar usage as it is repeated in the final two phrases of the commercial. The words ‘journey’ and ‘life’ are the prime takeaways of a viewer from the video. These two signifiers are aimed at signifying the Louis Vuitton’s passion for enabling its consumers to discover places and themselves as they traverse the journey of life.
Overall, the advertisement uses emotional transfer to link the brand with emotions one experiences upon viewing the commercial (Kenny 2005, 72). The attempt is to evoke one’s passion in living and traveling and directly transfer it to a passion for making Louis Vuitton brand a lifetime partner along one’s journeys. This transfer is achieved through a combination of subtitles, visuals and musical score. The subtitles immediately encourage the viewer to ponder upon the meaning of a journey. The visuals strive to capture those moments during travel that extend well beyond their physical existence in the minds of the travelers. They depict the blissful state one finds oneself in when witnessing such moments and that such moments are not confined to vacation destinations alone. The musical score reinforces a sense of tranquility and awe experienced during these moments. The emotional transfer attempt becomes most visible through the final two subtitles “Where will life take you?” and “Louis Vuitton” (Paris 2008). The remainder of the commercial evokes feelings of awe and love for life. These can then be transferred to a love for a luxurious and enriched life that Louis Vuitton can help one achieve. The duration of the commercial is just apt for exploring the meaning of a journey. The advertisement effectively communicates the passion of Louis Vuitton for providing its consumers with a luxurious lifestyle along their journey of life