March 14, 2014

Photo Op-date: Obama at the GAP

Obama shops at GAP 500x541

I’m all for the minimum wage increase, but that Gap photo op — rewarding the company for unilaterally raising the rate — was too easy. I mean, where were the photos from the immediate next two destinations, the (up to) $32,400 a ticket fundraiser at venture capitalist Alan Patricof’s place or the the (up to) $32,400 a ticket fundraiser at Blackstone Group President Tony James’s place after that?

Right after Obama shot the Two Ferns segment to encourage young people to sign up for the Affordable Health Care act, which was wildly successful in driving traffic to the not-broken AHC website, the Gap visit, which circulated far and wide, was wildly successful too. How good was it? Besides the positive reinforcement for corporate citizenship, the brand is known for taste, economy and practicality through the miracle of pastel.

Obama Gap pastels

Hello, middle class and hello First Family. Then, shopping for the First Lady and the two first daughters (hold up the pink one again!), this hit the perfect chords of Father-in-Chief (let’s skip the V-necks) and support for woman in the workforce.

As far as I know, although everybody included it in the pool reports, there was no image of Obama turning down the hoodie the saleswoman suggested for Michelle. As a reference to racial politics when economic justice was the order of the day, how awkward would that have been? Still, despite all the preening and the kissing, and the reprise of the 9/11 mantra — patriotism equals shopping…

Obama GAP Loeb

AP’s Pablo Martinez Monsivais still managed to capture this one:

Obama GAP Monsivais AP

If White House has been nothing but masterful, consistent and highly disciplined in its photo ops — showing the President as self-effacing, as your next door neighbor, as minimizing the great economic divide — Monsivais’s shot down the checkout counter pulls back the curtain on the stage set. Finally we see some boys, at least six of them — the Secret Service barrier. And there is Valerie Jarrett, with a look that says she’s seen this show a thousand times, and now let’s scoot. But most interesting perhaps is Obama’s alignment with those arty GAP photos on the far wall. Proposing themselves as just portraits, an ad team somewhere carefully spun the qualities of natural and simple, soft, light and airy together into a visual strategy to convey the practical, modest, democratically stylish and pragmatic aura of the brand.

If a lot of the same precepts apply to Obama and his own salesmanship, it’s no surprise. What Monsivais so slightly disrupts, however, juxtaposing the President with these posters, and also the not-soft-and-pink security posse, is the illusion of the marketing.

(photo 1, 2 & 4: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP caption: President Barack Obama pays for his items after shopping at a GAP clothing store in Manhattan during his unannounced visit, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Obama used the visit to talk about raising the minimum hourly wage standards and applauded the GAP, who earlier in the year announced it was raising minimum wage for its employees. With Obama are GAP employees Sonia Del Gatto, left, and Susan 3: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images caption: US President Barack Obama pays for his purchases after shopping for clothing for his family during a visit to a Gap clothing store in New York City, March 11, 2014, to highlight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage.)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus