Microsoft Replaces Black Man with White in Polish Ad, Apologizes

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Microsoft is apologizing for having replaced the head of a black man in a marketing photo with that of a white man on its Polish Web site. First spotted by CNet, Microsoft has since apologized for the ethnic editing of its ad, and replaced the edited image with that of the original on the Polish site.

"We are looking into the details of this situation," Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said in a statement. "We apologize and have replaced the image with the original photograph."

Microsoft's Original Image
The original image that is currently hosted on Microsoft's U.S. business Web site.

The edited photo
The edited photo, as
spotted by CNet's Ina Fried

The image is a stock photography image, and the editing was most likely done at the local level. Poland's population is almost entirely Caucasian, according to Wikipedia (Polish 96.7%, Silesian 0.5%, German 0.4%, Byelorussian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, other 0.7%, not declared 2.0% (Census 2002), and a black male might have as much cultural relevance as an all-white group photo would have in most parts of the U.S.

In the U.S., however, such editing smacks of ham-fisted white washing, which is what lead the company to apologize. Whatever the case and however it happened, this is a handy demonstration of the perils of marketing in the global market place when you aren't careful.

Other fun facts with this photo, as noted by PCWorld's Daniel Ionescu, include the white MacBook in front of the edited person -- the Apple logo has been brushed out -- and the fact that the woman's LCD display isn't actually plugged in to anything.

We also enjoyed the unnatural angle and size that the white man's head takes on in the edited photo, and the fact that his hand was not edited to match his new pinkish skin-tone.

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9 Comments Leave Your Own

Shoaf

Maybe racism would finally die if people stopped noticing these things.

But the bad Photoshopping—now that’s fun to pick apart!

Muzoid

This is NOT a story. When you sell your product in different markets you have to adapt to the audience you’re selling too. Plain and simple. It’s not a race thing believe me.

NYORK

If they were so concerned about the all-white Polish audience, why did they not also replace the Asian-American in the picture?

joelgs23

Who said the third person was “Asian-American”, He could just be Asian, or hell, and Asian man living in the UK, or Russia, etc.

Fact is, Muzoid is right. This is all stupid. You HAVE to adapt your ads to the local community. This had nothing to do with race. You would not show an all white ad for McDonald’s in the Congo would you? Or an all Klingon ad on Vulcan? Sheeeesh!!

UpQuark

I think the race issue is a non-issue as the ad is geared for a different cultural mix. 

However, they should have used a different picture - the use of this picture is just being lazy.

Lastly, I find the Mac laptop and unplugged computer monitor to be hilarious.  Yes, it is a stock picture, but still.  Jeesh - again, laziness is no excuse.

Dean Lewis

Bad Photoshop job is right. That white guy still has a black hand. Whoops!

And, to think, some person got paid a good chunk of cash to do that piece of junk graphic work. Why am I broke? I can do crap like that.

Check out more craptastic Photoshop work at http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com/ smile

Constable Odo

I didn’t care if they put a Polish vampire’s head on top of the black guy.  I’m just happy to hear that Microsoft was squirming.

I feel a little bit sorry for the model (or whatever he’s called) when he found out he got “beheaded.”

Everytime I see this article, I think back when I’d seen the movie “The Thing with Two Heads” in the ‘70s starring Rosie Grier and Ray Milland and I start chuckling all over again.  The image is just so weird.  Oh, that Microsoft, they really pull some interesting boners.

farmboy

Muzoid and Joelgs: You think it is not racist? What? Are you telling us that Polish people would be shocked and offended and uncomprehending to see a black man in a business situation? They’re not idiots, you know, and this is not 1955. They get all of our movies, TV shows, newspapers and magazines. Blacks are not a new sight to them.

What does it say about you that you think it’s OK to edit that guy out in the name of “adapting” an ad—by the way, you apparently have never actually been in the advertising business, so don’t promulgate crap for ad stratagems.

I suppose we should edit out the woman in areas where women are restricted to home and mommy-hood.

Ash

TY farmboy, well stated.

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