Industry Updates

Zara Withdraws Controversial Ad Campaign Amidst Protests and Calls for Boycott

Published: January 2, 2024
Author: Fashion Value Chain

Zara’s decision to withdraw an ad campaign, featuring statues wrapped in white, comes in response to a wave of backlash, including protests and calls for a boycott by certain pro-Palestinian activists. The controversy led to tens of thousands of complaints on Zara’s Instagram account, with people expressing concern that the images resembled scenes of bodies in white shrouds in Gaza. The hashtag “#BoycottZara” gained traction on messaging platform X.

Zara, acknowledging the outcry, stated on Tuesday that it regretted the “misunderstanding” surrounding the campaign. The images, which also included mannequins with missing limbs, were conceived in July and photographed in September, before the Gaza conflict erupted in October. Zara asserted that the intention was to portray unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio and that the images were used solely to showcase craftmade garments in an artistic context.

Despite this explanation, the brand faced continued criticism, and the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK received 110 complaints citing references to the war in Gaza and offensive imagery. However, since Zara promptly removed the ad, the authority decided not to take further action.

Protests outside Zara stores, such as the one in Tunisia’s capital Tunis, showcased the intensity of public sentiment, with demonstrators chanting and waving Palestinian flags. The situation escalated to the extent that one of the store’s display windows was splattered with red paint.

Zara, part of the Inditex group, took swift action by removing the “Atelier” campaign from all platforms, including its website and app. The collection, consisting of six jackets, remains available for purchase, with prices ranging from $229 for a grey wool blazer to $799 for a studded leather jacket.

The fallout from this incident adds a layer of complexity for global brands navigating sensitivities around conflicts, highlighting the challenges they face in a world where advertising can quickly become entangled with geopolitical issues. Inditex is due to report its results for the first nine months of the fiscal year, and analysts anticipate a slight slowdown in sales growth in the third quarter, partly attributed to an unusually warm October in Europe.

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