A Giant Food Store in Washington, D.C. is currently at the center of a firestorm of criticism from Howard University student and alumni over an ad that employs a White model to encourage shopping at a just-renovated store.
In an attempt to give a warm ‘welcome back’ to students returning from their winter break, the company ran a full-page ad in early January telling students at the O Street Giant Market that they were ready for their business.
There was just one problem– the Caucasian woman featured in the front-page print ad did little to entice students at the historically Black university– in fact it did just the opposite.
The Howard community has been blasting the company on social media for the faux pas ever since the ad surfaced late last week.
Thomas Houston, a Howard grad who said he was a brand management specialist, asked the store’s circular team to quickly fix the ad via Twitter.
“HU is a historically Black college. Applauding Giant for reaching out to my alma mater, but this was a marketing fail on their team,” he said before explaining that the region’s ad should have been either changed to reflect local demographics or something “creative” with no images of people.
Even White customers questioned why the store would use a White model to welcome back a predominantly Black population of students.
“Giant Food Stores, you can do better than this,” said London transplant Mikey Franklin, who now lives in D.C.
Still others didn’t get the controversy.
“I can’t see what is the issue?” asked Christine Perkett, a White visitor from Boston.
According to the 2013 Howard University Undergraduate Graduating Student Exit Survey, 0.4 percent of the HBCU’s most recent graduating class was Caucasian.
A little more than 84 percent are African American, 6 percent are African, and Hispanic and Asian students both made up just over one percent.
Although Giant Food spokesman Jamie Miller did not immediately respond to request for comment, a sister company, Giant Food Stores, in Carlisle, Pa. said that their sister company was addressing the situation with the university, and apologizing for the photo that wasn’t “reflective of Howard.”