Microsoft Replaces Black Man with White in Polish Ad, Apologizes

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.