Have you perhaps noticed and been perplexed by the Gap’s new ad campaign, which begs shoppers to “dress normal” while showing hip actors covered up in clothes colored black, white, and shades of gray? Have you flicked through a magazine, gazed at an artfully composed shot of Elisabeth Moss toss bread over her shoulder at seagulls as she treads down a beach in cropped pants and ballerina flats, and wondered what “dress normal” means?
Or have you watched a sleek black and white ad on TV of a man running upstairs with an armful of clothes, watched by a woman on the upper landing, scored with frenetic jazz saxophone? The head-scratching tagline is, “simple clothes for you to complicate.”
All that black and white angst-y artiness composed to get you to buy pants is directed by Oscar-nominated director David Fincher; the sharply alive print campaign is shot by Glen Luchford. And this Gap campaign will be in every single magazine and advertised during every single show you watch this week.
You know a campaign is good when Ad Age calls it “obtuse” and “perplexing.” If a cheerful version of a Gap campaign would be its now vintage take on West Side Story to sell khakis, this “dress normal” is the darker side of the Gap, and while it is truth in adverting – Gap is the home of the plain white tee, khaki, and jean – as oblique as a Chanel ad. Ad Age unpacks the meaning (if any) in the images.
“There’s always an anxiety in Fincher’s work,” said Gap’s Global CMO Seth Farbman. “What I wanted, because this is Gap, was positive anxiety — that was the brief. We wanted to make it more challenging than what people think of as a Gap commercial. Rather than a beginning, a middle and end of the story, we wanted to tell part of the story and leave a sense of wonder.”
The wonder being, of course, how in the hell does black-and-white images of a wet young woman undressing in the back of a vintage auto, ignored by her friends, translate to an increase of sales at the Gap? Wait, Ad Age has more:
Print ads shot by Glen Luchford, like Gap campaigns of the past, feature celebrities, including Anjelica Huston, Elisabeth Moss, Michael K. Williams, Jena Malone and Zosia Mamet. But unlike previous efforts, which showed stars against clean, stark backdrops, the scenarios are more nuanced — slice-of-life vignettes that capture the celebrities in “relatable moments” yet elevate the idea of “dress normal,” said Mr. Jennings.
Mr. Farbman said Gap had considered using celebrities in the TV spots, but Mr. Fincher, who is represented for commercials out of production company Reset, was opposed to the idea. “He was quite insistent that these films should not have known talent, because you don’t want to take away from the story itself,” Mr. Farbman said. “In print, when you don’t have the complexity and richness of film, known talent brings personality.”
Catch that? Fincher didn’t want to work with stars for his ads – but the actors pop more so on the page for Gap’s bottom line. Ad Age closes with this:
“The whole package creates a decidedly high-end feel for the brand. Which, to some extent, feels at odds with its rampant promotional cadence. “What we need to reinforce is what has always been true, that even at full price, the quality and value and enduring style of Gap product is of high value,” Mr. Farbman said. “If the spots make the clothes look more expensive, great. They’re not.””