#retail#advertising#Gap#Arsalan Iftikhar#racism#multi-cultural marketing#Waris Ahluwalia#Robert Gerhardt#Islamic Monthly

Gap promotes Sikh model after racist incident

|Nov 27|magazine8 min read

Leading clothing retailer Gap has taken a stand against racism by promoting its advertising campaign featuring Sikh actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia after it was defaced by vandals.

The photograph taken by Robert Gerhardt was published on billboards in the US, however one poster in the Bronx was defaced. Vandals changed the tag line from ‘Make Love’ to ‘Make Bombs’ and scrawled ‘Please stop driving taxis’ across the advert.

A passer-by took a picture of the advert and posted it to Facebook and Islamic Monthly Senior Editor, Arsalan Iftikhar, picked it up. “When I first saw my Facebook friend's photo of this Gap subway advertisement defaced by vandals with racist messages, I wanted the world to see how millions of brown people are viewed in America today,” he told the Huffington Post.

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Within a few hours of Iftikhar sharing the photograph, Gap contacted him directly to learn more about the incident and to find the location of the offending billboard. Furthermore, the company took a stand and made the image its Twitter and Facebook profile picture.

Gap Facebook.jpg

Gap uses the image defaced by vandals as its Facebook cover photo

So what started as a pathetic attempt by vandals to humiliate the model ended up making him one of the most visible models in America during the busiest shopping season of the year. Gap’s defiant stance and the support is has received from the public goes to show that racism will not be tolerated and can be overcome.

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Gap promoted the targeted Sikh model on its Twitter page

The Sikh community has also spoken out to thank Gap for its response to the incident. But Iftikhar hopes this is only the beginning. “As the year 2014 inches closer to us, I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban who is considered as beautiful as a busty blonde-haired white girl in see-through lingerie,” he said.

Gap’s response was admirable, however this incident also serves to highlight the need for diversity in advertising campaigns. Large retailers need to promote multi-culturalism and take a stance against racism. When brands are fortunate enough to have an influential voice they have a duty to use it responsibly.