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Political Correctness, Bigtory, and Business

When people look too deep into your advertising.



4:07 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Today I received a rather surprising rash of website feedback today.

My company recently sent out our new catalog. We are advertising the fact our phone lines are now open 24 hours. On the front of the catalog is a stock photo of a pretty girl wearing a telephone headset. (For that ‘phone lines are standing by look’)

The girl in the pic is a swarthy tan… I think she is Hispanic, but she could easily be a swarthy Italian or what-have-you.

<edit> Apparently a lot of people thought the girl was an Indian. (India Indian, not native American) And I received a rash of website feedback forms condemning me for maintaining customer service in India and threatening to cease using me as a resource as long as such practice continues. </edit>

It struck me as being incredibly bigoted to look at a pic of a girl on our catalog and assume that she is not only Indian, but living in India and working at an outsourced call center. (we are based in the US, and our call center is in the room right behind me.)

I understand outsourcing is becoming a hot topic in American and European politics, and its not a topic I want to open up for debate here. Rather I would like to ask, if the pic on the catalog is generating a negative image, should we change it, or should we stick to what is obviously a good stock photo and ignore any upset feedback?

I am curious for your opinions.

[edited by: lawman at 4:20 pm (utc) on Mar. 4, 2004]
[edit reason] No Email Quotes Please [/edit]


5:10 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I guess this is a problem in business, do you do what you think is right and risk losing business, or play safe?

I am actually quite surprised that you got that sort of feedback, although being in the UK myself, I can tell you that outsourcing is a very controversial and talked-about topic here.

What really surprises me though is that people are foolish enough to think a smiley person in a stock photo has anything to do with reality.


5:20 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Too bad you're going thru this as it demonstrates multi-culteralism may not have propegated to the part of the Internet from which your complainers came.

Are your complainers all coming from a certain geographical area?

Can you feed them a different image? Would you want to?

I don't know what to suggest as a solution because as long as bias exists, there will be folks taking exception to anything you do.

Perhaps a nicely worded response conveying your source of the pics and how you believe "...she is actually from _fill in country of origin of complaintant_."


5:25 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lawman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Several years ago I had a retail store. One radio spot was devoted to the Holy Bible on cassette tape. I went to the radio station, recorded the ad and left.

After the ad began its run, someone called and asked for the Bible on cassette with musical background. They said they heard about it on the radio. Since I wrote the copy and read it myself I had no idea what they were talking about.

I called the station and asked them to play the ad for me. Seems the production people at the radio station put some musical background to the ad. From that musical background, one person assumed the tapes also had music.


5:25 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Try adding a comment balloon above her photo:

"I'm just tan!"


7:55 pm on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

in future publications, include a sidenote.

say something like:
'XYZ Company is a proud employer of (your country) citizens'

-or something to that effect.
turn it into a positive.


12:20 am on Mar 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I agree that you should play up the positives. What you REALLY need in the photo is to have a local sports team pennant on the wall behind her. It rips up the stereotype of the fluffy receptionist/customer service rep, and gives a clear signal that you are proud to be located where you are.

To an extent there's not a lot you can do about cretins, beyond politely telling them you take their complaint seriously but they are totally wrong.


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