Loyalty and love — or something like that.

Remember that time we talked about Express's ridiculous promos for their perfume, Love? Well, I was back in the store Monday, and lo and behold, they've done it again. For men this time. I mean, if they're going to throw skewed portrayals of love at women, they better do something comparable for men, right?

Their new cologne for men is called — wait for it — Loyalty. And check out this ad they're running:

If that picture doesn't convey loyalty, I don't know what does. They look so loyal to each other, what with their wedding rings and all. What with that look of commitment on his face. What with their obvious interest in something more than each other's bathing-suited bod.

Oh, wait, what's that you say? This picture doesn't convey loyalty AT ALL? I guess that's just Express's M.O. — take a worthwhile idea and cheapen it. The name hints of something real, and the image makes you look, so they throw them together and reveal how truly low their standards are.

It's not that I think the images in Express's perfume and cologne ads are any trashier than those in any other fragrance ads. They're actually tamer than some I've seen. It's the pairing of these images with these names that gets to me. Words derive their meaning from their context. That's like Linguistics 101.

So put the word "Loyalty" next to an image of two half-naked models, one of whom is practically groveling and one of whom looks blasé at best, and to those who see it — and view it with an uncritical eye — that's what loyalty comes to mean. Not all at once and not all the way, but somewhat. And that's a shame.

So I've come up with few alternative names for Express's cologne. These words, I believe, fit better with the image they've chosen. (I've included both adjectives and nouns, so take your pick and run with it, Express, and don't worry about compensating me. I do all my linguistic integrity preservation pro bono.)

Self-Worth in a Can

Came across these cute and telling illustrations by Mikey Burton in the January Real Simple.

They were featured in an article about debt, but I think they also serve as a commentary about advertising, marketing and the promises attached to products.

All ads appeal to needs of some sort — emotional needs or physiological needs, etc. And that's not a bad thing. Products can fulfill a lot of our needs. But they'll never provide a lasting or healthy sense of self-worth, happiness or accomplishment.

Sometimes I get surprised looks when I tell people I'm studying advertising. [I'm studying strategic communication officially, but that takes a lot longer to explain (especially because my actual degree is in journalism). It's confusing, so sometimes I just say advertising.] People have this idea that advertisers as a whole are engaged in deception and manipulation. But I think that good advertising, like good writing, is always focused on conveying truth.

I turned on the radio yesterday during a McDonald's commercial. The narrator, waxing poetic about the merits of the Big Mac, ended with the line, "The simple joy of complete fulfillment."

I was reminded of these illustrations. I can imagine a fourth, a paper bag with all-caps sans-serif text proclaiming its contents will provide COMPLETE FULFILLMENT. I'd like to give the writers of that McDonald's commercial the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to believe they simply mixed up the words "fullness" and "fulfillment." A Big Mac can most certainly provide complete fullness, but complete fulfillment doesn't come with special sauce and a side of fries (either way you read it).

If I ever end up working as a copywriter, I hope you never come across one of my pieces and find I've suggested a product will provide what only Jesus can. I wish I could add an asterisk to all my copy: *Everyone who drinks this water [or eats this Big Mac or wears these shoes or owns this phone] will be thirsty again.

"...but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — John 4:13

DKNY 1, Express 0

I was flipping through Marie-Claire's Marie Claire magazine yesterday — I know, right? — and I came across an ad I liked so much that I just kind of sat and stared at it for a minute.

"That's what I want," I actually said out loud as I held up the page for my friends.

The ad reminded me, however, of another perfume ad I saw recently — one I hated so much that I actually snapped a cell phone photo to remind myself to blog about it later.

The kicker for me is that the Express perfume is called "Love." Not "Trashy Romance Novel" or "Visit from the Chippendales" or "Debauchery in a Bottle." No. Love.

And since four years of studying communications has made it nearly impossible for me to look at an advertisement without analyzing it, I began to wonder what each ad's planners were thinking as they came up with these ideas.

Both ads connect their product with the idea of love, but they present it in two very different fashions.

The first ad connotes comfort, intimacy, fidelity, even vulnerability. The second connotes vanity, infidelity, selfishness, and power.

Making an appeal to humans' innate need for love is a classic advertising move, but if advertisers expect it to continue to work in the future, they need to get their definition of love right.

My applause goes to DKNY. Express, not so much.