How The Gap's Ads Got So O O CoolRussell Mitchell
Blonde. Beautiful. Boring. That's how Maggie Gross, The Gap Inc.'s senior vice-president for advertising and marketing, reacted to the woman modeling a white Gap turtleneck. The idea for this 1988 Los Angeles-area campaign was to show some L.A. trendies in Gap garb. But this Angelena, album designer Lynn Robb, looked like any other model.
Gross changed that. "Give me a shot of her with her own jacket on," she told photographer Matthew Rolston. Robb donned her well-worn motorcycle jacket, leaving it open to show the shirt. A fashion cliche was transformed into something that communicated, well, an individual sense of style.
That photo launched the Individuals of Style campaign--a series of black-and-white photos of personalities from jazz great Miles Davis to neo-country singer k. d. lang, all mixing Gap threads with other clothes. The message was that Gap's fashions blended with everything from Armani sport coats to Grateful Dead headbands.
A Gap credo is not to overdo anything. So the Individuals of Style campaign went on hiatus last spring, replaced by simple ads of Gap items in striking colors. A new campaign aimed at both big Gap and babyGap customers shows an infant in blue-jean-jacket swaddling. Gross says Individuals of Style will be back "when the time is right"--but with a difference. In the 1990s, she figures, celebrities are out, and social activists could be in. The Dalai Lama in denim, perhaps?