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...struggle with diversity in advertising

This is a post from 2009 by an incredible blogger named Macon D, His blog is called: "stuff white people do" His writing is always amazing and well researched. Macon always tries to present a balanced view of race in America. Although Macon is not from the advertising world, he has an interesting take on what he sees.  Please visit Macon here.

I know very little about what goes on behind the scenes of advertising campaigns. I also don't know how diverse American advertising firms and departments have become these days.

However, it seem to me that if a product is not marketed to a specific non-white audience, then the advertisers still consistently place middle-class, heterosexual white people in the middle of things. Non-white characters still occupy the margins, occasionally entering center-stage to interact with the white characters, usually in order to spice up things a bit.

Sometimes, in these ads that are not overtly targeted to a specific racial demographic, the non-white characters do spend a lot of time on center-stage, fully interacting on a seemingly equal level with the white characters. These forced, ostensibly colorblind scenarios can easily become racially overloaded train wrecks, like the following Old Navy ad, which is part of their current "Supermodelquins" campaign.

Do you suppose the makers of this ad thought much at all about sexism and racism in advertising? Or about the history of hypersexualized representations of "aggressive" black women? Or about the "white male gaze," and the abusive, sexually charged power that white men long wielded, over white women, black women, and black men?



I imagine that at some point, someone working on this campaign may have said something like, "Okay, this is risky, kinda risqué, right? Attention getting! But, one thing we cannot do is have the white woman naked with the black guy looking at her!" That would have been different; but would it have been any worse?

For more clues about what was on the minds of the makers of this ad, and of the other ads in the Supermodelquin campaign, here's a sort of featurette that provides some backstory for each character:




What do you think? Is this enlightened, multiculturally aware marketing? Or more of the same old clueless recirculation of hoary racist and sexist stereotypes? Or something else?






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