Apparel maker Gap on Tuesday has apologized for an image used in an ad that some critics said was racially insensitive.
The ad in question depicts four young girls that are part of Le Petit Cirque, a traveling circus company that features boys and girls between the ages of 5 to 14. In the image, an African-American girl is posing next to a taller Caucasian girl that is propping her arm on the younger girl’s head.
“As a brand with a proud 46 year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended,” said Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix in a statement to Fortune. Gap says it intends to remove the one image that consumers found offensive. But it isn’t planning to back away from the broader themes of that campaign.
Twitter commenters had been quick to bounce on the image, with many claiming the ad cast the black child as “an armrest.” And an added twist to this story: the two girls in the image are reportedly sisters.
Here’s an example of some of the feedback the image generated on social media.
Big brands are having to increasingly navigate the turbulent nature of social media, where ad campaigns, new products, and tweets can be harshly criticized in a matter of hours. Often times, brands are quick to react to this feedback by pulling the offensive material and issuing a swift apology, as Gap did in this instance.
The GapKids campaign is part of a broader initiative by Gap to promote the empowerment of girls. The campaign, which first launched last year for the company’s fall collection, features girls that are drummers, skateboarders, entrepreneurs and inventors. Although it’s removing that one image, it isn’t planning to back away from the broader themes of that campaign.
“This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment,” Felix said.