Gap’s Reaction to Vandalized Ad Spurs Outpour of Support


“Be authentic” is one of Greentarget’s core values. While we focus on all of our values throughout the year, each month we highlight one of those values in an attempt to reinforce its importance. This month, we focus on “be authentic” or the need to exhibit genuine care for one another and our clients. Being good, ethical communicators means we listen first, with empathy, and seek to understand each other, our clients and the world around us. That’s exactly what Gap did last week in its response to a defaced subway ad in New York.

The simple ad features two models: filmmaker Quentin Jones and actor Waris Ahluwalia. Ahluwalia is a Sikh who wears a turban in the ad. The text accompanying the image reads “Make Love.” Robert Gerhardt, a New York City-based photographer, noticed that the ad had been defaced with the words “Make Bombs” and “Please Stop Driving Taxi’s” etched onto the image. Gerhardt’s friend, Arsalan Iftikhar—a writer passionate about raising awareness of peaceful Muslims—shared the image via social media. Gap quickly responded by asking for the location of the defaced ad and immediately changed the company’s Twitter background image to the ad of Jones and Ahluwalia.

The understated, though powerful, reaction from Gap spurred support across the web and in stores. Fans even started a Facebook page called, “GAP, Thank you for featuring a Sikh model in your ‘Make Love’ campaign’” that now has about 5,800 likes. A quick Google search for “Gap Sikh Model” produces more than 5,000 web results. Gap’s strong stance on diversity has quickly proved valuable for the retail store, drawing a positive response from such publications as  The Hollywood ReporterThe Huffington Post and Adweek, among others.

Gap released a statement to HLN stating, “….Gap is a brand that celebrates inclusion and diversity. Our customers and employees are of many different ethnicities, faiths, and lifestyles and we support them all.”

Throughout the #MakeLove campaign Gap has remained steadfast in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. As a result, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So what’s the key takeaway from this incident? Remain authentic to your brand and message and your company will be rewarded. People recognize and celebrate authenticity and get behind brands that demonstrate conviction in the face of adversity.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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