Graphic Symbolism – Jaguar Commercial

American media has long utilized the Evil British trope whether it is films, television, literature, etc. British car manufacturer Jaguar realized that it was time to not only poke fun at this, but to embrace it as well. Enlisting the help of the Spark 44 ad agency, the end result is a commercial that seamlessly balances wittiness, product placement, and British culture. Sir Ben Kinglsey’s opening remark “Have you ever noticed how in Hollywood movies, all the villains are played by Brits?” lays the foundation that Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston build off of with reasons why Brits excel in roles of villainy.

Since it is an automobile commercial, the proposed vehicles for sale are featured prominently. However, the Jaguar F-Type coupes take a back seat to the actors and surrounding visuals. Throughout the commercial, the F-Types are accompanied with visuals that suggest wealth such a private helicopter, jet, runway, and car valet. Since Jaguar’s target market is people with “refined taste” and money to spend, the commercial plays up to that. French theorist Jean Baudrillard believed society is organized around consumption and display of commodities through which individuals gain prestige, identity, and standing. Jaguar vehicles are the epitome of just that and the corporation knows it has to market them as such. “In this system the more prestigious’ one’s commodities (houses, cars, clothes, and son on), the higher one’s standing in the realm of sign value”.

In one scene, Tom Hiddleston is on a helicopter following Mark Strong’s F Type. “We’re more focused… more precise” he smugly remarks while sipping tea. It obvious that this is a reference to the storied relationship between the British and tea, but what’s more impressive is that he is sipping it in a helicopter without spilling it. Not only is precision demonstrated through his tea sipping, it also relates to the Jaguar F Type accompanying his helicopter. It soon becomes evident that Strong’s Jaguar is actually competing with Hiddleston’s helicopter on who can reach Kingsley’s high tech mansion first. In true “Evil Brit” form, they exchange icy, blank looks of competition at each other’s modes of transport.

As the commercial progresses, other British visuals are introduced such as the London Eye, Big Ben, and a double-decker bus. At one point the F Type and helicopter pull along side the bus for a few seconds. The inside of the bus depicts the obviously “less wealthy” inhabitants of London, most likely commuting home from their “9-5”. Strong and Hiddleston both appear to slightly grimace the bus, as if they almost pity the passengers. I doubt Jaguar was trying to imply that the working class is lesser than, but it was definitely a subtle dig at the monotonous, drab lifestyle that so are slaves to. Men like Strong and Hiddleston represent those that are not bound by a “9-5” and have much more operational freedom in their lives.

Overall the commercial is the embodiment of sign value, which was the result of various factors such as the transition from competitive market capitalism to monopoly capitalism. “Advertising, packaging, display, fashion, “emancipated” sexuality, mass media and culture, and the proliferation of commodities multiplied the quantity of spectacles, and produced a proliferation of sign value”, argues Baudrillard. He also goes on to state that sign value (the expression and mark of style, prestige, luxury, power, etc) became an increasingly important part of consumption due to the fact that commodities like the Jaguar F Type are bought and displayed as much for their sign-value as their use-value.


What's Really Going On?