Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Communication and Information



First Advisor

Dr. Adriane Grumbein

Second Advisor

Dr. Beth Barnes


Representation has become a buzzword in the advertising industry. With more consumers asking for brands to represent more diverse people in advertisements, this study examined cases when representation in advertisements received negative feedback. By examining three cases where brands received negative feedback after the release of an ad, the researcher explored perceptions and reactions toward the representation of Black people in advertisements. This study conducted a thematic analysis of popular press and trade publications to look for themes among the three cases. With the use of Critical Race Theory and Image Repair Theory, the researcher aimed to fill a gap in research by investigating the perceived problems and reactions towards negative advertisements.

The perceived problem in the ads explored in this study was that the ads were Racist. The sub-themes Skin Color and Proximity explained how racism manifested in each ad. Themes that were found relating to public reaction were: Questioning, Multiple Mishaps, Denouncing the Brand, and Solutions to the Problem. Knowing your Customers was the singular theme identified regarding the advertising industry. The themes found when examining brand’s reactions were: Apologizing, Unintentional Representation, Pulling the Advertisement, and Examining Internal Processes.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)