Gap hires B-M in bid to tackle the critics

Global retailer Gap Inc has brought in Burson Marsteller to provide PR support in the UK and the US on a number of corporate projects as it strives to uphold its reputation.

The work will incorporate the company’s three brands – Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy – with the latter two being sold in the US only.

Senior director of PR in Europe Anita Borzyszkowska said: ‘We have appointed B-M on a project basis to help support the in-house PR function on a number of corporate projects.’

It is understood B-M will tackle criticism of the company’s use of low-cost manufacturing in Asia.

Anti-globalisation activists have shunned the Gap brand in recent years, accusing the company of exploiting developing-world labour and benefiting from the chasm in margins between Western price tags and Asian workers.

The 35-year-old company fiercely denies any accusations of exploitation and claims to send inspectors to its outsourced manufacturing plants.

B-M will be the second agency in Europe to provide external PR support for Gap after Parisian agency KCD, which provides consumer PR in France.

The appointment of B-M is the second major media move since Paul Pressler took over as Gap chief executive last September. B-M will complement Gap’s four-strong comms operation in the UK, working closely with the team’s colleagues in the US.

A two-year slump in share value between 2001 and 2003 saw the exit of top-ranking executives, but Gap’s sales shot up last year, helped by the ad campaign featuring Madonna and hip-hop star Missy Elliott.

The company said the campaign helped boost sales by four per cent.

Gap is well known for using celebrities in its ads, and former campaigns have featured Run DMC and Macy Gray.

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