Why The Met Gala Is Fashion’s Super Bowl

Why The Met Gala Is Fashion’s Super Bowl

In this guest post, Leah Franco (pictured below), strategy manager at Initiative, casts her adland eye over the compelling sight that is the annual Met Gala and argues there’s lots of lessons for marketers and advertisers in there too…

You may be tempted to overlook the cultural power of the Met Gala. From the outside, it seems like celebrities in funny looking outfits, smugly showcasing how wealthy and famous they are. But the Met Gala is more than just a celebration of fashion… it is a window into culture and history. To paraphrase the iconic Devil Wear’s Prada film, fashion is one of the most powerful forms of art… because we live our life in the clothes that we wear.

Leah Franco

Given fashion culture is something that reaches us all, The Met Gala and all the content around it, is worth the attention of marketers as it can tell us a lot about the state of culture today.

Much like conversations on sport, having a good grasp of the code, unwritten rules and history can make it easier (and even more enjoyable!) to navigate the conversations around it. While I’m reluctant to compare something as historic and high stakes as the Met Gala to sport, I respect we all have different passion points, so here are three key things you need to know about the Met Gala so you can join the culture critique:

The Sport of the Theme

In the same way your favourite team have cultural markers and distinctive brand assets that signify it (think mascots, colours, star players, historic moments) so do certain designers and eras of fashion. Each year, The Costume Institute has an exhibition that showcases the certain cultural markers of fashion – and the Met Gala sets a theme for the opening event to celebrate it on a global stage. Each attendee is strongly encouraged to be the ultimate fan and pay homage to the cultural markers that signify it. Sure, you can rock up in a pretty dress or a well-tailored suit but where is the fun in that? It would be like turning up the finals in a team’s colours who didn’t make the play off (read: cringe). The theme is also a spectating sport for those at home. It is not just about who is wearing who, but who was wearing who and what and why and how? Who wove in interesting references? Who understands the history? Winning the night is not just about having a beautiful gown; it is a strategic play that requires you to understand the history and put an interesting take on it to make history.

One Giant Advertisement

The Super Bowl has become famous for its ads. Brands spend millions to showcase their big, brave 30” creatives to millions of eyeballs. The Met Gala is not much different. Designers invite A-list celebrities (who must be approved by Anna Wintour) to wear their most luxurious and fashion-forward couture. While the Met Gala is technically a charity function, the alleged $50,000 cost for a ticket is more payment for an ad-spot than it is donation. Not only do these luxury designers get the halo of their designed showcased at an exclusive event on the most exclusive of celebrities, they also get serious eyeballs.

In 2021, it was reported that the Met Gala clocked more than 200 million cross-platform views on Vogue alone. This is not counting the Instagram posts, TikToks and endless articles capturing and dissecting every look at the Met Gala. I’m sure Karen Nelson Field would agree that is pretty good attention marketing.

Inside the commentator’s box

They say everyone is a critic and no event does this ring truer than the Met Gala – the #metgala2023 already has 3.2B views on TikTok (and counting)! Before you discount the content as snarky “best dressed and worst dressed”, it is important to note that most posts read like what you would hear in a commentator’s box, including real time analysis of events that pulls on historical knowledge, stats, and analysis of gameplay (In Met Gala world, gameplay refers to adherence to theme). It’s in this commentary that you glean great cultural insights. For example, in the same way you may take interest (read: gossip) about who has been traded between teams after the season or who has been dropped to the bench, the Met Gala has equivalent. The formidable Anna Wintour controls the night, from the guest list to (allegedly) what everyone wears. While this may sound like gossip, it can tell you a lot about who is deemed most powerful in culture, from star players like Rihanna to up-and-coming cultural movers such as Ice Spice (first Met 2023) and democratic politician AOC (first Met 2021). Through the critique of what person or era was chosen as this year’s theme, we unlock powerful insights into our culture today, as spectators navigate the old in the context of the present, reassessing and redefining fashion and cultural norms.

There is a lot to enjoy and a lot to learn from the Met Gala from a cultural perspective, so I hope you have your calendars marked for the first Monday in May in 2024 to spectate one of the most interesting cultural gameplays of the year.




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