After copping no shortage of criticism from outraged consumers, US clothing label Gap have apologised for an ad deemed racially insensitive. The image in question featured four girls from a travelling circus company where the tallest child was resting her arm on the head of the only black girl pictured.
Many argued the young acrobat was essentially being used as a prop, and it certainly didn’t help that her facial expression seemed unimpressed to say the least. In a statement, GapKids spokesperson Debbie Felix said, “As a brand with a proud 46 year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended.”
Sadly this isn’t the first time big name corporations have made jaw-droppingly insensitive (not to mention costly) ads. Here are a few from really not that long ago.
In 2007 Intel released an ad that saw half a dozen black men bowing down to a white guy in a suit. The men (who were in fact just copy paste jobs of one man dressed in athletics gear) were supposed to be sprinters demonstrating that Intel’s product would maximise the work speed of office employees. They didn’t seem to understand that not all black people are sprinters.
Two years later the spotlight turned to fellow tech giant Microsoft after they whitewashed their ad before marketing it in Poland. In the image, a black board member’s face had quite literally been removed and replaced with a white man’s one. And to add more embarrassment to the regrettable gaffe, they failed to also photoshop his hand, prompting some witty critics to mock that perhaps the company was trying to reach more people by featuring a white face and black hand.
At the 2008 Super Bowl meanwhile, a Salesgenie.com ad was played that did not go down well with many of the 97 million people watching. It depicted two cartoon pandas who were struggling to get sales for their bamboo business – and spoke with painfully exaggerated Asian accents.
As recently as 2011, skincare brand Dove came under fire for a promotional poster that showed three women positioned between “before” and “after” signs. The issue was that the lady with the darkest skin was standing directly underneath the “before” sign, subtly suggesting that as she used the product, her skin would magically morph into that of the lighter skinned woman to her right before turning completely white like the woman under the “after” banner.
Also in 2011, rival Nivea pictured a tidily shaved black man throwing the head of beaded, man with an impressive afro alongside the words, “Re-civilize yourself”. They later apologised and conceded, “This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry.”
2012 saw Ashton Kutcher don brown face and a faux Indian accent as he assumed the character of Bollywood producer “Raj” for a Popchips commercial. It was swiftly pulled but not before plenty of people were offended.