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Intel launched an advertising campaign in 2007 to promote its Core 2 Duo processor chips (Gizmodo) which depicted six African American athletes ready to sprint as well as a white Caucasian manager in the middle. The sprinters in the ad represent the fact that Intel’s new chips are faster than the competition and help businesses (represented by the manager in the middle of the ad) gain speed and efficiency in their computing operations. Intel boasts that its new chips are 40% faster which gives the first impression that Intel’s chips are being compared with the competition. Only a careful look at the barely noticeable footnote reveals the fact that the speed benchmark is Intel’s previous processor. This is a clever strategy by Intel to give the impression that it is faster than the competition and still avoid coming across as misleading due to a footnote which most people will not notice. In short, Intel is emphasizing greater speed as the differentiating characteristic of its new processor chip.
The ad is targeted at the business user. It depicts a manager in an office setting with his subordinates shown as professional sprinters whose work efficiency will greatly improve by using Intel’s latest product. Intel generates a substantial portion of its revenues from the personal computing segment but given the content of the ad, this ad was most probably created to be published in commercial publications. Thus, it is an appropriate ad given the market segment Intel was trying to reach. Intel’s fortunes get a huge boost if businesses update their computing infrastructure and in this ad, Intel touts the 40% speed gain to compel businesses to update their computing technologies.
Intel is a huge corporation and it can afford to create multiple ads to target different customer segments. This ad serves its purpose well, thus, the overall message should be left unchanged. But there are certain elements in the ad that could be changed. The ad was accused of racism and Intel was forced to apologize (Richards, 2007). It’s unbelievable that a major corporation like Intel failed to anticipate the potential criticism the ad might have generated. Ad shows a Caucasian manager in the middle while the sprinters, all of whom are African American, are depicted in a starting position as if they are bowing before the manager. Such an image can be misunderstood by the ethnic minorities especially African Americans who may perceive the ad as a declaration that white man is still the boss and black man the slave. This ad could be perceived by some as an affirmation of dominant white ideology that sees African Americans as inferior (Bristor, Lee, & Hunt, 1995).
America is the most diversified country in the world and at the same time American workplaces have embraced diversity with enthusiasm that is unrivaled in history. This ad may turn off many businesses which are proud of their diversity traditions and would not want to be seen as the customer of a brand with culturally inappropriate marketing. Intel could have taken simple steps that would still have sent the same message while avoiding any potential misunderstanding. Instead of a Caucasian manager, Intel could have chosen a non-Caucasian manager and the sprinters could have been a mixture of different ethnicities in order to represent the cultural diversity at America’s workplaces.
This ad is a reminder that even major corporations can fail to anticipate all the cultural aspects of their marketing activities. The companies should not only focus on the needs of their market segments but also be mindful of the values held by the targeted segments when planning marketing campaigns. The customers are more sensitive to the social aspects of advertising campaigns and do not want to be linked with the culturally insensitive brands.