If the Department of Health Graded Racial Diversity


Last night, I saw one of these plastered on a Banana Republic advertisement on West Broadway. The sign looked very much like one issued by the Department of Health after one of its complicated, letter-graded inspections. But this B was awarded for “Believable Grouping with Ethnically-Mixed Individuals Present.”

Other posters in the city have been hit with grades too — a Tommy Hilfiger ad received a C for “Caucasians Only Racial Group” while a poster for the movie Sparkle got a D for “Disturbing Targeting of a Single Racial Group.”

The guerrilla grades are the work of Chris Baker, a freelance copywriter. After seeing a Bushmill ad on the Lower East Side with a diverse crew of models, Baker decided to publicly grade ads around the city.

On the phone, Baker explained that while he wants to reward advertisers going out of their way to represent more people, he also found the Bushmill ad’s diversity to be “forced and ridiculous.”

So an A is a pat on the back, a stamp of approval, but a sly one. And Baker understands that inspecting the issue is more complicated than assigning it a letter grade.

Much like with a health inspection, the letter reflects only how many requirements have been met. It leaves no room for nuance, which is exactly what makes the project so interesting (and funny) to me.


Archive Highlights