Adverts, passive racism, cynical advertising ploy?


The Gap fashion chain of shops has come in for some attention in the last week following the publication of the image above. The Gap must spend a serious amount of money on marketing and advertising so I was surprised at what seemed like an obvious faux pas in the release of this image.

Fresh from reading a chapter of Williamson (1978), introduced to me by the opening section of this course , I could not help feel there is something more cynical going on here?

In analysing the image there is the obvious, a group of children striking a range of poses, wearing the merchandise the store is peddling, there are some linking colours in the clothes with the exception of the one black child in the image. Wearing a Pink top, the child is smaller than any of the others. Whilst all of the children have confident looks, the greater stature of one of the children central in the image draws the eye. Not least because she  is resting her elbow on the  black child’s head. It is this  that has casued all the attention and the image has been seen across a range of social media channels with attendant messages about passive racism, exploitation and the inappropriateness of the content of this image.

The Gap’s management team have been quick to apologise and remove the image, but far more people are aware of this campaign because of the inappropriate nature of the content than would have been the case if this supposed error had not be shared. The Gap have also been quick to remind us all that they have done much to promote the cause of equality and many will also recall images of the Queen photoshopped to be black and leading black figures presented as caucasian.

I am left uneasy about this avery and whilst the passive racism is quite unacceptable in my view, I do wonder is this all a deliberate part of a campaign to creat inters and drive traffic. I and many others would not be blogging about this image had it not been so racially and culturally provocative and the Gap has a history for being provocative!


Williamson, J. (1978) Decoding Advertising-Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, Maryon Boyers, New York

Petapixel website – found at: Accessed April 2016)

Metro Website – found at : (accessed April 2016)


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