• Simon Knudsen
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
The ever-expanding technological developments on the Internet, including social media, force users of these social networking sites to consume and process an extensive amount of information in shorter time periods. This increase in available information produced by participants of the entire online communications environment, including brands, users and news media, has made it challenging for brands to gain awareness. Thus, brands engage in and experiment with a variety of marketing techniques, some of which are controversial or offensive. Existing research generally agrees upon and has highlighted a shift in power from organizations to consumers following the rise of social media, while others have described this as a disruption in the power relations between organizations and their stakeholders. The latter sparked an interest in how social media has disrupted these power relations.

This thesis investigates in what ways children in Balenciaga’s ‘Gift Shop’ campaign are aestheticized, and what effects this aestheticization produces on Twitter. The case represents Ba- lenciaga as users of controversial advertising techniques that are ultimately deemed offensive by Twitter users. As such, this thesis sheds light upon the disruption in power relations between Twitter users and Balenciaga by analyzing Twitter users’ reactions toward the visual choices evident across Balenciaga’s campaign images.

The research design of this thesis is based on a single case study and takes a netnographic approach due to the thesis’ involvement with qualitative research on social media. Two different sets of data have been collected. The first dataset is comprised of three campaign images from Balenciaga’s ‘Gift Shop’ campaign. The second dataset is comprised of 293 tweets collected on the basis of a number of criteria, and function either implicitly or explicitly as responses toward the campaign images. A (social) semiotic analysis of the three campaign images has provided insight into how children in the images are aestheticized, while a thematic analysis approach has encapsulated the most prominent responses in the 293 tweets into three main themes.

The analysis demonstrates that online users shape their ‘own’ understandings of a given ad- vertising message, making brands unable to control whether receivers of the message under- stand it the way it was intended. Brands are, however, able to influence receivers through aes- theticization processes, while receivers gain a sense of ‘personal control’ over their under- standings. As such, it is concluded that online users and brands simultaneously control and are controlled by each other, ultimately disrupting the power relations between them.
Publication date1 Jun 2023
Number of pages80
ID: 532487971