Culture Jam

by Ksenia Stepkina

WILL YOU? by Tiffany & Co.



This Tiffany & Co. engagement ring advertisement is not only problematic in itself, but also representative of a larger process that is extremely troublesome. Here I will analyze the problems that I intend to address with my Culture Jam.

The ad shows a man and a woman holding hands. The woman is wearing Tiffany’s engagement ring. The caption says: “Will you make my world incredible just by being in it? Will you?”. The advertising captures a common practice, regarded by some as a long-standing tradition, of a man proposing to a woman with an eternal symbol of love – a diamond ring. However, let us take a closer look what stands behind this “long-standing tradition”, which is simply a marketing plot, cleverly implemented by the diamond producers to boost sales. Powerful advertising campaign succeeded in convincing the consumers that love can be measured in the carats of the engagement ring. Yet again, the corporations manage to translate human interests into commercial values and big profits.

Thus, the bigger the ring – the bigger the love. “Love” can be bought, and packaged in the iconic blue box. It is not a secret that the engagement rings are expensive, with Tiffany & Co. being at the top price tier. However, the (absurd) price of the engagement ring is not justified by the limited supply of the diamond, nor the craftsmanship of the jeweler. With the supply (and demand!) artificially controlled, the consumer pays for the “exclusiveness”, the image, and the status, which are prudently policed by the public opinion. As everyone striving to demonstrate their “individuality” and status with the Tiffany ring – THE ring, the company celebrates its success in creating a conforming consumer. This has problematic implications for both men and women. If a man is not able to buy a Tiffany ring, he is considered a lesser of a man. Women, on the other hand become obsessed with the idea of being proposed with a ring in a blue box. As Tiffany’s slogan goes: “Blue is the color of the dreams”. Aren’t there other thing worth to be dreaming about for a woman – education, self-development, career ambitions, charitable causes?!). Moreover, the engagement ring is inherently sexist, representing the double standards set for women, as it is only the woman that has to display the symbol of commitment publicly. Whereas the man has no visible indication that he, too has made a promise. The ad further highlights such an unequal position, whereby the man is displayed in a power-suit – covered and protected, while the woman shows bare skin – vulnerable and dependent. It is her, who is holding on to his hand.

However, while the absurdity of the Tiffany’s social message is not a secret to the very consumers buying into it, people keep conforming to the expectations put forward by the corporation and strongly reinforced by the social mechanisms of conformity and opinion.

WILL YOU? by Ksenia


Jamming Philosophy

The alteration is aiming to subvert the absurdity of the Tiffany’s engagement ring ad’s message and the wider practice of proposing with an engagement ring that it represents.

The ad aims to demonstrate that the true, enduring love does not require an expensive ring as a form of guarantee – the woman in this add does not have a ring on her finger, and the Tiffany’s ring is explicitly cut out from the side panel. The jammed version of the ad inspires to invoke the shocking reality-check of what really matters, which is felt sharply at the face of sickness or death. Such a realization should give rise to the feelings of shame of being lured by lies and false values into praising material possessions and status above the pure, intimate human emotions. At the face of old age, sickness, or death, the true human values come into sharp focus. At one’s death bed one is not worried about status or money, but genuinely wanting to have that significant person in his or her life.

The question “Will you?” is reframed from being the one of a man’s proposal to a woman to marry him (again, marriage, which presupposes wedding, as a display of image and status). Instead, at the hospital bed, the question “Will you make my world incredible just by being in it” means just that . It says “Just live! And my life will be incredible. Will you? Will you live?”. Notably, it is not just the man that takes the initiative, and pops the question, but both the woman and the man are on the equal footing. Such relationship is not based on the man “bying” the woman’s commitment, but a mutual feeling of affection towards each other. The image in the ad dramatically highlight such an equal position: both the man and the woman are extending their frail hands to each other, both vulnerable at the face of the sickness, wearing hospital robes.

This intimate image is stripped off the pretense of social image and status, whereas the raw human emotions and true values come to the fore.

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