Microsoft Ad Photoshop Controversy

Microsoft Ad Photoshop Controversy

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Updated Jul 31, 2013 at 06:08PM EDT by amanda b..

Added Aug 26, 2009 at 11:41PM EDT by ajosephisme.

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Microsoft Photoshop FAIL Controversy refers to an incident involving a photoshopped Microsoft advertisement in which a black man’s head was replaced with a white man in the Polish version of the ad. The discrepancy between the images caused many to accuse the multinational corporation of racism and inspired the creation of many photoshopped variations of the image.


On August 25th, 2009, the tech news blog TechCrunch[1] an article titled “Marketing Decapitation in Poland: Asians Ok, Blacks Maybe Not”, which featured a comparison of two user-submitted scans of a Microsoft ad. In the United States version, the ad featured a photo of an Asian man sitting at a desk to the left, a black man at the center and a white woman to the right. In the Polish version of the ad, the black man’s head had been poorly replaced with that of a white man. In the comments section of the article, many users debated whether or not the ad was racist or an acceptable decision to reflect relative absence of black population in Poland.

Notable Developments

Online Reaction

On August 25th, 2009, the blog Photoshop Disasters[2] published a post titled “Microsoft Poland: At Least They Left the Asian Guy In”, which mocked the poor photoshop job and pointed out the presence of a Macbook in the ad. The same day, the ads were submitted in a post to the /r/WTF[3] subreddit titled “Microsoft Poland – spot the difference”, which accumulated over 4,300 up votes and 800 comments prior to being archived. Also on August 25th, the story was reported by the tech news blog Engadget[4] in a post titled “Microsoft Sucks at Photoshop.”

Microsoft Apology

Within hours, the tech news blog Cnet[6] quoted a Microsoft representative claiming that they were “looking into the details of this situation” and that they were in process of removing the image. The same day, an apology for the ad was issued via the official Microsoft Twitter account.

The next day, Redditor digital submitted a post to the /r/technology[12] subreddit titled “Reddit ahead of the curve – Microsoft apologizes for head replacement in ad”, which received 860 up votes and over 220 comments prior to being archived. The same day, the BBC[7] published an article titled “Microsoft in web photo racism row.”

Photoshop Contests

On August 26th, 2009, TechCrunch[8] published a follow-up post titled “It’s a Meme! Get Photoshop Warmed Up And Win a Bing Tshirt”, which urged users to submit their own parodies of the ad. On September 4th, the Internet humor site SomethingAwful[9] published a compilation of notable examples in a post titled “Microsoft’s Emerging Markets.”

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