Smirnoff advertisement with DJ rivals Newport cigarette ads for sheer WTFness

Jesse Thorn says: "My friend Oliver Wang (proprietor of Soul Sides and prof at CSULB) wrote this great little thing."

At first glance, this image of a DJ working the turntables, with a cleavage-baring admirer looking on, seems uncomplicated: Smirnoff promises a fun, sexy time. However, a closer examination of the mise en scéne yields some instant problems.

There are no records on the turntables.

There’s not a mat on the turntables.

There’s no visible DJ mixer.

The gesture — hands posed over both turntables — doesn’t make sense.

The DJ in American culture: resonant, misunderstood


    1. In the actual piece, I note there’s no needle. I don’t say “cartridge” since that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to lay folk. But the summary above left that out.

  1. Well seriously, how can you expect the mainstream world to understand something as complicated as being a DJ.

  2. they do win back some points though for casting a chick with a labret piercing. more points if they shopped it in. also, maybe there’s supposed to be a story behind it, like “hey babe, im gonna totally rock the party tonight after i set up these decks, and we will have so much fun drinking smirnoff vodka as well”

  3. “I’m not allowed around actual turntables anymore since my Barry Manalow Ke$ha mashup of 2012. But if I was I’d look like this while I was DJing.”

  4. Great moments in pedantry, continued: The accent in the phrase “mise-en-scène” above is incorrect. He’s using an accute accent (French: “un accent aigu”) when he should be using a grave accent (French: “un accent grave”).

    (I hate fractured French.)

  5. Maybe the attitude is “hey babe this is what those stupid hipsters look like when they have their dj parties here”

  6. It’s a cautionary tale.  For those who can’t make out the full-res text at the bottom, it reads, “Please Drink Responsibly–or you’ll make a complete ass of yourself at Turntable Lab in front of your buddy’s hot sister.”

  7. I have adapted a punchline from an old New Yorker cartoon for this situation; “You are not the jerk this is marketed to.” shortened to; “You are not the jerk . . .”

  8. Hmm; the way the shadows fall it kinda looks like his watch is part of an “Arab Strap” setup on his left social finger.

  9. Photographer decided the records were causing distracting reflections and decided to remedy by removing them from the set.

  10. what I always think around drinkers is, “Man, these people would find anything funny.” Low threshold is the whole idea. 

    Yes, I am a wet blanket.

  11. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but ads, tv shows, movies aren’t real.  Those buildings on the street are fake, no one lives in them. The milk on the cereal is actually glue. Point- I wouldn’t waste a lot of time looking for “reality” in staged pictures.

    To the picture’s defense If it had a caption reading, “Hey babe tomorrow when I dj I’ll be all like *scratch sound* on the decks…”  it would be ok right?

    1. Yeah, we get that ads are fake.  But it’s nice when someone exerts a wee bit of effort to generate some verisimilitude.

      I mean, if you can find a pair of turntables to use as a prop in your photoshoot, would it have been so very hard to include a coupla rekkids and maybe a needle, just to make it look even a little more convincing?

      The joker at Smirnoff who signed off on the ad must have been moonlighting in Quality Assurance at the distillery.  A picture of a guy actually spinning records while an attractive young lady looks on might seem like the kind of fun time a potential Smirnoff drinker would seek.

      This looks like a picture of a goofball who has no idea what to do with that device beneath his flailing hands.

  12. I know it’s probably an artifact of foreshortening by the camera lens, but the left hand looks like it’s not attached to his arm.

  13. ‘The gesture — hands posed over both turntables — doesn’t make sense.”

    Oops, your goof: there IS, in fact, a hip hop DJ battle move that involves both hands on the turntables at almost the same time.  If you notice, this phony-baloney DJ does not actually have his hand on the other platter yet, so (all the other anomalies excluded) he could be about to backspin the other record.  


    1. The un-truncated version in the original article makes note of that stating that beat juggling is something not usually done in a club setting.

      Roc Raida (RIP) was one of the best and would frequently use both hands on the records simultaneously as he worked the cross-fader with his body, which is on a mixer that is missing in the smirnoff add.

  14. Because of her awkward smile I can’t help but read the picture as “OMG this guy is a douche!” You know, it’s funny when ads aren’t designed for your people now that I think of it!

  15. Normal people on their everyday routine don’t look at an ad for more than 3 seconds before their gaze moves away. Ad agencies know that and don’t focus on detail as much as “nerds, geeks and perfectionists” would do. They know the cattle doesn’t pay attention, and the sublime message is sold with the major cognitive image presented. Smirnoff pays, Ad agency delivers, transaction made.

    I’ll have a shot of vodka!

  16. He is not a DJ, he’s a magician with a beautiful assistant for misdirection. Unfortunately, her eyes give away the actual location of the records.

  17. Or its a brilliant piece of guerrilla marketing. I find it hard to believe that photographer art director makeup hair people etc on a photo shoot wouldn’t point out the obvious. get posted on BB then reposted on numerous blogs and facebook has everyone talking about smirnoff

  18. She built a system, using old turntables and a white square on the record as a fiducial for a motion-capture system that simulates record scratching, and now she’s using it to pick up attractive younger men. I see this sort of thing all the time. 

    1. those white squares are the stickers applied to the platters of the industry standard Technics 1200 turntables at the factory (they’re actually mirrory silver.)  makes it that much more obvious to anyone whose ever seen them.  on the other hand, it’s not like they would ever be mistaken for a record label by *anyone*…

  19. Wow, did no one read Wilson Bryan Key’s books while growing up?

    The tone-arm is missing its cartridge so the back-weight causes it to rise up, and towards the female. The turntables have no mats, or records, as they would hide more of the spindles. The record players themselves represent breasts.

    Smirnoff is telling the viewer of the ad (target=males) that drinking their product will ensure the purchaser that they will score with a woman. The tone-arm is the males’ promised state of arousal; the platters, her breasts; the spindles, her erect nipples. Let the fondling ensue.

    There is a great deal of thought and effort in advertising that goes beyond everyday thinking. It’s not a muliti-billion dollar business for nothing. There’s no mistakes or sloppiness going on here at all.

  20. do women still swoon over DJ’s? Is that still a thing???

    I thought it trickled down into the collective consciousness that they aren’t actually doing anything other than pressing play.

  21. That’s DJ Soused, the Human Deejay. He waves his hands over the decks while convincingly uttering “Wicky Wicky Woo.” Takes human beatboxing to the next level.

  22. it was much more interesting when i misread
    “There’s not a mat on the turntables.”
    “There’s not a MAN on the turntables.”

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