Gap Holiday Cheer - Happy Whateveryouwannakah!

I have a favorite shirt. It isn't wrinkle-free and yet it doesn't wrinkle. It's seven years old and shows neither wear nor the age of its style. It falls well on me (that's the Spanish translation of "to fit") and works whether tucked or hanging out; with jeans or khakis. It's perfect.

And it's from Gap.

I'm a cheapskate, but my wife has pushed me for years to spend more and buy Gap. After all, it is - in their terms - "the company behind some of the most recognized and respected brands in the apparel industry." I know why it's respected: Anything she's talked me into owning from this company has outlasted similar items from competitors.

But what am I supposed to do with a commercial like this?

Here are my two chief complaints:

1. If this is merely a controversy-pushing, promotional stunt to garner earned media (free public attention)- then it's monkey-trick advertising which I can't respect. Any copy-writer can predict a pot-stirring message, but manipulation of an audience for disingenuous reasons fails in the end.

You make quality clothing, Gap. You've been around since 1969. Show us your wisdom, not childish antics.

2. If this is not a stunt, but rather a corporate statement of belief, then like the teenager who pleases everyone to avoid rejection from anyone, this commercial reveals a cowardly, insecure response to human diversity. We don't have to agree with our neighbors' religious views, but pulling out a generic diversity eraser leads to a cheapened version of reality and a sense of being lost.

Furthermore, a statement of belief like this - in its clumsy pc execution - actually dismantles community. The song lyric, "Do what just feels right" selfishly contradicts the pluralism and diversity Gap is promoting. We can't be selfish and pluralistic simultaneously.

To Gap; to agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky; to Michael Gracey, the spot's director who is Catholic and seemingly a nice guy; and to musician, Pharrell Williams, whose lyrics - according to Anthony Henriques of PopMatters - "are typically inconsequential in a 'saying sh*t just to sound cool' sort of way," and who helped write the Holiday Cheer lyrics:

You can do more respectable work than this. You wish me a "Happy Whateveryouwannakah." Well, I wannabuy your clothes, but I'll refrain until you take a higher road.


David@Red Letter Believers November 19, 2009 at 4:04 PM  

I blogged about GAP over at my other life, "The Society for a Merry Christmas"

Gap is on the American Family Assocation banned list for good reason.

Why must they mock our Lord, our holy day?

Sam Van Eman November 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

David, In my research today, I came across this interesting commentary on the subject in the LA Times.

Do you think there's any ground to his paragraph on boycotting (e.g. Disney)?

David @ Red Letter Belivers November 20, 2009 at 12:17 AM  


i guess I'm not a big fan of boycotts. I'm not sure they work, but really, I do like to put my money where my mouth is. And GAP won't get any of it.

I don't buy my fuel from Valero either (Hugo Chavez) And for long time i didnt buy Chinese goods...but eventually gave up. Nothing left to buy!

Marcus Goodyear November 20, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

Sam, for some reason I took the commercial as a joke. Not that they are saying our religious holidays are a joke, but that the "war on Christmas" is a joke.

The LA Times article (especially the quote from Buddy Smith) just emphasized the point to me:

Smith says, "I interpret Gap's decision as a warning sign to Christians to get out there and tell people about Jesus Christ."

Dan Neil makes a pretty good point when he says, 'Why, for example, is the phrase "Happy holidays" so insufferable to Christian fundamentalists, but not the vulgar, surfeiting exploitation of Christ's name to sell smokeless ashtrays, dessert toppings, Droid phones and trampolines?'

As for The Gap. We don't have one in Kerrville. So I shop at resale stores.

Sam Van Eman November 20, 2009 at 5:32 PM  

I hear you, David. You have to pick and choose because everything - when inspected closely enough - has its faults.

Marcus, I also liked Neil's point. I don't know if my issue is with Happy Holidays as much as it is with the two points I raised. In the first, joking or not, it gets some groups stirred up and Gap (et al) knows it. In the second, I don't expect this sort of weakness from a strong company.

I've always been bothered (in a compassionate but can you please stop sort of way) by people who bow to whatever crowd happens to be standing nearby. It isn't true hospitality.

Every Square Inch November 21, 2009 at 11:53 AM  

I think the email is a somewhat juvenile but it's meant to perhaps get us all to lighten up. It's not a great ad but to be honest, I'm not sure how boycotts and a christian backlash helps advance "what Christmas is all about".

I will take a page out of Andy Crouch's Culture Making book - you can't change culture by condemning it (or boycotting it), you change culture by making culture. We need to find creative ways of getting the real message about Christmas out to the masses. Thankfully, through social media outlets, this is a lot easier or accessible than even 5-6 years ago

Every Square Inch November 21, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

sorry, I meant "I think the commercial (not email) is a somewhat juvenile"...

Sam Van Eman November 24, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

ESI, I hear Crouch's call, but I don't believe that we should stop the critiques or the boycotts. We need to create and critique, build and boycott. (How do you like my alliteration?)

And, ironically, though "Christmas" is at the center of the ad, I wasn't actually thinking much about holidays when I wrote this review. I was more concerned with how messages are used to reach viewers. Ah well, thanks [to all] for the Christmas comments.

Have a great holiday this Thursday, November 26. :)

nAncY November 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM  

all that colour against the white is very effective...especially having the colour moving around to music.

are they trying to make a change from the tan and black?

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