about

This is an ad from Boost Mobile, a large telecommunications company. A young African American male holding a basketball in one hand is texting on his phone in the other hand. The slogan for the company is “Where you at?” a vernacular phrase originating in African American communities long before it was adopted by Boost. Boost has aggressively targeted urban minorities in the US, using urban slang in its advertising and featuring celebrities such as Fat Joe, Kanye West and Ludacris to endorse its product.

Discussion

Can you think of any other ads that use urban slang? Why do you think large corporations might use such slang in their ad campaigns? What might be the effects of using such slang in ads?

Who do you think this ad targets? What features of the ad help you determine the target audience?

Do you think the Boost corproation is run by the same demographics it targets? Why or why not?

Critique

Like many mainstream corporate entities, Boost appropriates the language and symbols of minority culture for the purposes of commodification, a practice which has a long history in media and cultural practice. When used by corporate entities, appropriation is often exploitative because subcultural markers such as language and style are typically used to build relations within a minority community. To borrow (or steal) the practices of a minority community and repurpose them does not help destigmatize the style or language of that community or fight the oppression of minorities, but is enacted purely for the purpose of profit by the company.