Who Defines Normal? – Gap’s Fall Campaign

Gap’s fall campaign tells customers to “Dress Normal”. I first came across these ads reading this post on the blog We’re Not Sorry which discussed the cinematic merits of the brand’s commercials. While I agree that the commercials are filmed beautifully, I am confused by the message these advertisements are sending.

One of the commercials shows a girl dancing and tells viewers to “let your actions speak louder than your clothes” which, to me, is a good ad for the line of “normal” clothes Gap is advertising. As a viewer, I watched that commercial and I liked what it was selling. In a time with celebrities like Lady Gaga making crazy fashionable, the idea of wearing something simple and still standing out resonates well and would persuade me to shop at Gap. However, the other three commercials confuse me.

One shows a man running up the stairs to meet a woman at the top and ends by telling viewer Gap sells “simple clothes for you to complicate”. Another shows a rather passionate scene between a man and a woman and tells viewers to “dress like no one is watching”. The last shows a girl shimmying out of her apparently soaking clothes in the back of the car and tells viewers Gap clothes are “the uniform of rebellion and conformity”. Especially in terms of the last two, I am confused by what Gap is trying to tell me. In my opinion, most people who “dress like no one is watching” are in sweats or a birthday suit, neither of which are part of the Gap Fall Line to my knowledge. I understand they are playing off of the dance like no one is watching quote, but the meanings are opposite. Dance like no one is watching means to go crazy and not care what people think. However, Gap is telling viewers to dress normal, the opposite of going crazy. If Gap did want “dress normal” to mean finding what is normal to you and rocking it, why would one of their commercials end with “the uniform… of conformity”? Overall I think Gap missed the mark with these television advertisements.

In terms of their print/non-video advertisements, I think Gap did a much better job. For the most part, the ads show “normal” people doing at least somewhat normal activities (I’m not sure who ever sits in a chair like the ad above) and look well-dressed but not overdressed. These do a much better job of showing what “normal” clothing is and the variations from person to person; they also convey the idea that if you want to find your own normal without stepping over the societal boundaries, you need to shop at Gap.

Overall, I have varied feelings about this campaign. At some points, like after watching the “let your actions speak louder than your clothes” commercial, I am on board with the “dress normal” idea and letting your personality shine through. At the same time, some of the other ads leave me confused as to if I should be trying to fit in or find my own normal. I feel almost attacked by Gap, as if they are telling me I look strange for not already always wearing Gap. This campaign was a good idea in theory, but not executed as well as I think it could have been.

Video Links
Actions speak louder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2Q2L_bmqJo
Complicate Clothes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3oKYGqBsfo
No one is watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8sACbaqXaE
Rebellion and conformity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfAu4L_QuTo

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One Response to Who Defines Normal? – Gap’s Fall Campaign

  1. Drew says:

    Hey there!

    First off I just wanted to say thanks for linking to our blog! I didn’t write the post about the Gap commercials on our site, but I just wanted to share some thoughts on your post!

    As an Advertising Major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I think Wieden and Kennedy (Gap’s lead creative agency) has done a wonderful job by breathing some life into a rather older, tired brand for most of the target consumers in these ads. I don’t know what insights led to these creative executions, but I would assume it was something along the lines that younger people (such as those seen in the spots) think Gap is a boring brand, meant for older people.

    I do agree with your analysis of the first ad, but after looking at all the ads with a more critical mindset, I can see a clear message coming from all of them. It’s not what your clothes say about you, but rather what you say for yourself. With so many brands like Abercrombie and Hollister out there that slap their huge logos on top of everything, younger consumers are starting to stray away from those brands. Instead, they opt for brands like Forever 21 or H&M that don’t put their names directly across the front of their products. Ultimately, the clothes shouldn’t define who you are in anyway and Gap’s products allow for that to happen.

    That being said, Gap acknowledges that its brand stands for a more simplistic clothing line and it would be an extremely foolish idea to try to move away from what the brand truly means. It’s not about trying to “look normal” at all. Instead, its the idea that your clothes shouldn’t define who you are and we at Gap know this. So overall, I think the ads are a nice way to stay true to the Gap brand but also change the way younger consumers view the brand.

    – Drew

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