September 2nd, 2009 by Joshua Weinberger

So, really now:

I know American Apparel founder Dov Charney‘s in no position to get pissed (let alone struggle to locate the moral high ground) over an apparel company’s ad campaign — just ask Woody Allen — but I think he might actually be justified if he’s got his skimpy knickers in a twist over the style and format of Gap Inc.‘s new “Born to Fit” campaign:

Gap: Born to Fit ad campaign

Gap: Born to Fit ad campaign

Now compare that to a typical American Apparel ad:

American Apparel catalog ad

American Apparel catalog ad

American Apparel: A typical ad

American Apparel: A typical ad

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Now, I know Helvetica is the world’s workhorse when it comes to typefaces, but am I really the only one who thinks this is over the line?

[More after the jump...]

Especially when you consider Gap’s intent, as it contends in this recent New York Times piece on the campaign, is to try to stand out from the competition:

“We need to communicate to people why they should put Gap on their list,” she added. The campaign is meant to achieve that goal with “probably the most fully integrated marketing plan we’ve done in many years.”

A message she hopes the campaign delivers is that “Gap stands the test of time,” Ms. Ross said, “as opposed to fast fashion” — a reference to rival retailers like H&M and Zara, which specialize in trends in lower-price apparel.

Funny, that.

American Apparel specializes in precisely the kind of “lower-price apparel” Gap is trying to elevate itself above — I mean, the AA Web site even sells something it actually calls “Bag-O-Scraps” for $8 — and yet Gap chooses to echo AA’s marketing designs almost to the letter.

Literally.

(By the way, in the interest of full disclosure — though I can’t imagine anyone would really care — I should point out that one of my college classmates is featured in the video portion of Gap’s multimedia armada: Alessandro Nivola, in “Born to Take Risks.” [Facebook video] )

Recent American Apparel ad

Recent American Apparel ad

(Also, before anyone feels the need to point this out, I do know that American Apparel has recently started using a serif typeface in some of its ads — like the one at right. But the company’s logo, its Web site, and the bulk of its marketing still revolves around Helvetica.)

Other Web sources:

Gap Inc. press release announcing launch of the “Born To Fit” campaign

The Business of Fashion

NBC Los Angeles

American Apparel’s own collection of its ads (some of them NSFW) [AmericanApparel.net]

An independent blogpost of 77 American Apparel ads (some of them NSFW) [TheWorld'sBestEver.com]

Gap’s Facebook page – which, by the way, is what the campaign-specific http://borntofit.com URL currently forward you to. I don’t know what happens if you’re not a Facebook user.

Gap’s Twitter channel

Wow.. I don’t think I ever would have noticed the similarity between the campaigns had you not pointed it out, Josh. The ads are indeed very close, but in Gap’s defense, it has always (well, in recent years, at least) done fairly simple posters and print ads with lots of white space. So has AA obviously, but AA’s ads tend to hedge on the risqué side, whereas, Gap’s ads are more wholesome – often featuring fresh-faced celebrities.

Judging from personal experience, The “Born to Fit” campaign seems to be working. I actually bought a pair yesterday and when digging through the piles of jeans, the store clerk told me that she’d be surprised if I could find my size — They are selling out all over the place. Before going into the store, I tried to purchase them online and all of the sizes from 2-10 in my preferred style were out of stock. This, of course, only made me want the jeans more. Don’t worry I snagged a pair — and the only pair in my size — at the 34th Street Store.

I do wonder what American Apparel’s reaction was about the Gap ads… But I hardly think it can lay claim over the black Helvetica type-face. If it was something like the Disney font, then yes, but the simplistic nature of both ads makes it harder to point fingers.

-LM

Comment by Lauren McKay — September 2, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

All ads of this nature look alike to me. I was more offended by the horrendous PhotoShop stretch job on the Gap model’s left leg. Bad work in a practice I’ve always found questionable.

While we’re on the subject of style-mimicry, how about the subway ads for the new Bruce Willis film Surrogates? The font and color scheme is a stone ripoff from the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series.

Comment by Marshall Lager — September 8, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

When I saw them on the street I thought they Gab one had a very different feel because of the difference in art direction on the picture. Never confused the two brands.

Comment by Claus@VerticPortals — — September 14, 2009 @ 11:34 am

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