Like a Drug: when fashion is irresistible

Updated: Jan 18, 2020

Anyone who loves fashion knows that brands often like to push the envelope so that they can stand out. Being controversial, shocking, or using innuendos to evoke a reaction out of consumers who may enjoy the cheeky approach or find it repellent. Allusions to sex, violence or drug use attract attention and for many brands, any attention is better than no attention. To explore this idea further this blog post will discuss shock advertising through the lens of the Sisley ‘Fashion Junkie’ ad. To find out more just keep reading.

The case study

Brand: Sisley Ad descriptive: Fashion Junkie Controversy: Glamorising drug use

Figure 1: Sisley, Fashion Junkie,

Trade Article:

Z, J. 2016, Fashion Junkie, viewed 26 July 2017,

Analytical critique: Snapshot

Criteria Analysis in Brief Objective Attract an audience that gets bored and distracted easily by the range of products on offer Intended Audience Women aged 18-29 years of age Brand Reasoning Their brand is so good, so addictive that consumers cannot help but want to choose their product over the product offering of a rival company Effectiveness The fashion space is crowded so being overt is advantageous as it’s upfront and tells consumers exactly what to expect. Consumers don’t have to guess what the brands' values are. Room for Improvement Likening the product to another legal product or foodstuff (e.g. chocolate). Likening the brand to something that consumers can’t go without and removing any connotations to illegal activity. Effect/Impact on the Brand The ad gives the impression that the brand condones and even promotes consumption and abuse of illegal drugs.

Analytical critique: In full

The glut of products that populate the fashion market has resulted in brands needing to push the boundaries further and further with recognition and memorisation of the brand in mind. Clothes are clothes, we all need them to cover our bodies but why would we choose this brand over another one? The Sisley advertisement attempts to address those who see fashion as more than just something to cover their bodies with. The advertisement addresses an audience that craves newness and can’t forgo purchasing the brands' products. Some might say the consumer is familiar with the need of fashion brands to be controversial so that it may remain memorable. Others may see it as a clear and honest sign of the brands' values. Nothing is hidden, everything is very much overt and unashamed. Maybe it’s this very openness that especially when evoking drug consumption that makes the intended target audience pause for reflection.

Not being able to go without fashion products might seem silly, frivolous, or superficial but it’s hardly illegal. Depicting women who could feasibly be the intended target audience committing an illegal act may be memorable but not in a way that reflects well on the brand. Some have suggested that the brand tried to disavow their involvement in the advertisements creation and others simply say the brand is attempting to distance themselves from a poor choice they knowingly made. It would have done the brand better to associate itself with a legal substance, for example, chocolate. After all, there’s nothing wrong with loving a chocolate bar is there? Being “addicted” to chocolate doesn’t result in serious physical or mental health issues, homelessness, job loss or destruction of relationships. Drugs on the hand often do.

Shock advertising with its desire for notoriety and memorisation is rarely a good thing. It often supports destructive or discriminatory behaviour that at times can be unethical or antithetical to positive consumer choices. Encouraging behaviour that would be to the detriment of the targeted audience just to attract more consumer dollars may not be considered socially responsible. Media, in this case, advertising plays a role in both national and global culture and we must critically evaluate the value of this type of attention seeking. After all, we choose the society and culture we create and leave behind for future generations. Our choices matter.

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