Microsoft: Evil Racists?

image of swapped people

So in my last post , I mentioned the fact that Microsoft switched out a picture of a black guy for one with a white guy in its Polish print ad.

I think the question is whether that’s ok or not. The article I quoted at the time seems to assume that it isn’t. Microsoft seems to assume the same thing.

I don’t really get the big deal. Poland’s black population is vanishingly small. “Black” doesn’t even get listed as one of the items in “Ethnic Groups” on the CIA Factbook page for Poland. (The US has 12.85%.)

So why not take out the black guy?

To put this a different way, let’s say the original picture was of a bunch of white guys in Finland. Then they decided to sell it to a US market, so they popped in people of differing descents to mix it up a bit. Is that bad?

The issue is one of taste, maybe. I mean, take a new picture just to avoid looking amateurish. But I don’t see any racism here.

Am I wrong?

Note: Some people say that they left in the Asian guy ’cause Asians are supposed to be smart. I don’t know. Seems more likely that they just took out the least white person. Plus, he’s right in the middle of the pic.

9 Responses to Microsoft: Evil Racists?

  1. BruceS August 27, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    The whole thing smacks of pandering, not racism. The IT market in the U.S. is overwhelmingly male, and has very few blacks. A typical group of three IT workers would be more likely to have three white guys than the mix they show. The original has *no* white guys! If you see a dark face in an IT shop, odds are that he’s Indian, not black. To be fair, there’s a reasonable chance of one of a group of three being female, but the mix really looks like they’re just trying to appeal to an audience more diverse than their actual customer base. And that’s OK. Anyone who looks closely enough to notice the white guy’s hand is dark is just trying too hard.
    Most Intelligent Customers Realize Our Software Only Fools Teenagers.

  2. BruceS August 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Oh, I forgot to say, “Yes, Microsoft is evil. Their evil does not appear to involve racism, however.”

  3. weeklyrob August 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    I’m not sure this is supposed to be the IT department, anyway. I mean, even marketing liars need IT tools, right?

  4. BruceS August 28, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    That’s true. It says “IT tools”, but not “IT people”. So maybe the original ad isn’t even as much pandering as I thought. In any case, advertisement is not required to depict reality.

  5. Kevin September 2, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    Who you calling a tool?

  6. Caryn September 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    Maybe I work in a sad sorry place, but I’ve never seen three people in suits smiling that big (says the girl for whom microsoft pays her mortgage).

  7. Caryn September 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    …but who herself works for the government.

  8. weeklyrob September 4, 2009 at 6:56 am #

    Maybe someone just told a hilarious joke about EPA and they’re all cracking up.

  9. BruceS September 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    My last client was the single most dismal working place I’ve ever been. The employees tended to be hopeless, depressed, and working harder to find a new job than to solve any sanctioned problems. One said he thought Dilbert was funny until he started there, at which point he decided it was a documentary. Workers there had more sympathy with Office Space than I’d seen before. Among the mottos there was “Failure Is Not Optional”. Even so, at times people would get together and smile, and laugh. It was the humor of desperation, prompted by the clear understanding that everything they did would be thrown away and that we had no prayer of achieving anything, but it was still laughter and smiles! So maybe, just maybe, the people in the ad are smiling so big because they just heard the new project schedule, or had just returned from a bigger meeting run by a buzzword-compliant clown who told them they were all “rock stars” but that their previously “critical” project was being “put on the shelf (not canceled!)”. It’s all funny if you don’t need to succeed.

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