GAP’s #MakeLove ad campaign features a variety of diverse models, including Sikh actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia, who appears in a simple, beautiful portrait with illustrator Quentin Jones next to the words “Make Love.” The image appeared on billboards and in NYC subway stations, where unfortunately, the sight of Ahluwalia’s turban inspired some dim-witted vandals to deface the photo with racist graffiti. The word “love” was crossed out and replaced with “bombs,” and “Please stop driving taxis!” was scrawled in the white space. The defaced ad was spotted by a friend of Arsalan Iftikhar, a senior editor at The Islamic Monthly, who snapped the photo above. Iftikhar posted it to Twitter to show the world “how millions of brown people are viewed in America today.”
GAP responded the next day, asking Iftikhar to let them know the location of the vandalized ad so they could replace it. And then they did something really cool…
They changed their Twitter background to the photo of Ahluwalia to show solidarity and increase visibility of the Sikh community. The image was instantly visible to the company’s 315,000 Twitter followers, and gained even more exposure as the story went viral. The action inspired a Facebook group called “Thank You, GAP,” where Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike can voice their gratitude to GAP for raising the profile of the community in such a dramatic, positive way. The group drafted an open letter to GAP that they’re encouraging customers to deliver to GAP stores and forward to friends. Here’s an excerpt:
By placing a Sikh model in prominent locations on billboards, direct mail advertising and digital channels, you have raised the profile of Sikhs in ways the community couldn’t have accomplished with its limited resources. The community has tremendously benefitted from the attention it has received through Gap’s marketing campaign.
While, some members of our community have voiced their opposition to the Gap campaign, I can assure you that the vast majority of Sikhs are extremely appreciative of what you have done. Because of this campaign, more Americans will become knowledgeable, and stop considering Sikhs as a threat to our society. Thank you, Gap!
Well played, GAP. Well played.