I really don't understand how it happened. I am always anticipating the next Gap ad, discussing it with my peers, and I stop channel surfing to watch the commercials. As far as I can see, Gap has its demographic (me) right where it wants it.
Gap used to mean upper middle-class white kids. Now Abercrombie & Fitch, by putting its name so obviously on every garment it makes, has taken Gap's place as the way to proclaim wealth if you're 15, while Gap has become fashion for those who don't particularly know what their style is-and that is a lot of kids.
Although Gap has something for everyone, it hasn't become faceless. Gap has the ability to give the audience what it wants: something new, interesting and attractive with every commercial.
Gap gets it, and others don't. There is just so much wrong with most teen-aimed advertising today. The flattery with the big vocabulary fad inspired by Kevin Williamson scripts ["Dawson's Creek" and "Scream"] is just another way to say, "We're on your side"-which is something I can guarantee we don't want to hear. In fact, it's insulting. We don't like advertisers trying to appeal to our rebellious adolescent sensibilities by pretending to go against the grain. These attempts by advertisers to show they understand us are misguided.
Last year, J.C. Penney Co.'s Arizona jeans used an off-the-mark ad showing a bunch of teens of various ethnicities and images walking along the street criticizing TV commercials (one says: "And what about those ones where they just scream at you?").
The obvious point was to show teens that Arizona jeans knows what it's really like to be a kid, and that all those other companies just don't understand. The consensus of the kids in the ad, and the tag line for the spot, was, "Just show us the jeans."
Unfortunately, Arizona didn't take its own advice. Gap did. Gap showed us the jeans, the khakis, the leather, the corduroy or the vests.
In the Gap ads, pleasing visual effects were paired with pleasing music. First to air were Gap khakis on attractive people dancing to several music genres against a white background. Then, Gap vests, corduroy pants, and leather on attractive people sitting on white steps and singing songs we vaguely knew. Then, Gap winter clothes on people dancing to holiday music. It seems that someone would have pinpointed this formula before. If sight plus sound equals TV, then pleasing sight plus pleasing sound equals pleasing television.
These Gap ads, by creating a new niche, didn't have to conform to any set ones. Gap adopted a style that was unique, but didn't alienate anyone.
Clothes can help someone to define who he or she is. If this is true anywhere, it's true in school. Teens don't need ads to tell us that. We can see through advertising, so advertisers should never try to spin the issue. Advertisers trying too hard to impress the teen demographic is just as pathetic as a boy trying to impress a girl. It's simple: Be attractive, and we'll want you really badly.
Gap ads are clearly selling clothing, but they leave something to the imagination with their simplicity. I trust the company will continue to bring us successful ads. Although I can hardly handle the loss of my favorite commercials, I console myself with the hope that Gap has something even better up its sleeve.
Katie Garfield is an 18-year-old high school senior and daughter of Ad Age's Ad Review columnist, Bob Garfield.