I usually don’t mind the Peninsula Hotels’ advertisements in luxe-audience pubs like the Economist. They present the staff loving their jobs, reveling in the life of the service class. Not a bad ploy. Some people really do enjoy the art and profession of serving others in a friendly work environment, and the Peninsula chain should be proud that it is consistently rated among the world’s best hotels.
But this bit of art direction stopped me cold. A little rich white girl holding a little white doll about to get into a big black car with the door held open by a smiling black doorman in clean, white gloves. Whoa. Takes me back to 1920. Shades of Driving Miss Daisy.
The ad is not horrendous. The doorman is a real person–don’t know
about the girl–and the scenario is probably accurate to the world they
live in (this one looks like the one in Chicago). In the Obama era, we’re supposed to be beyond wringing our hands about racial stereotypes and caste roles.
I just wonder what kinds of conversations went on before the decision was made to set up this situation, art direct it in this way and choose this photo. Why would you want to underscore with a Sharpie all that history of racial divides just to sell 200-thread count nights? In a quirky coincidence, right next to the ad the Economist ran a profile of former ANC intelligence boss and soon-to-be South African president Jacob Zuma, who spent a decade or more in prison under apartheid.