Dan Gilbert on ad flop: ‘We immediately killed this dumb campaign slogan’

Bedrock ad catches criticism for showing an image of all white people in a predominately black city. Photo via Facebook.

Billionaire Dan Gilbert responded to mounting criticism about his real estate company’s controversial ad banner in downtown Detroit that depicted a large gathering of predominately white people next to the words, “See Detroit like we do.”

On Sunday evening, Gilbert said he and Bedrock Real Estate Services “killed” the ad campaign, saying the banner was “tone deaf, in poor taste and does not reflect a single value or philosophy that we stand for at Bedrock Development,”

Here is Gilbert’s full response:

We screwed up badly the graphic package that was partially installed on the retail windows of the first floor of the Vinton Building, in downtown Detroit, a structure we have been rebuilding for over two years and is nearing completion.
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We messed up in two major ways:

1. Although not intended to create the kind of feelings it did, the slogan/statement we used on these graphics was tone deaf, in poor taste and does not reflect a single value or philosophy that we stand for at Bedrock Development or in our entire Family of companies. We have killed the “See Detroit As We Do” campaign.

Who cares how “we see Detroit”?!

What is important is that Detroit comes together as a city that is open, diverse, inclusive and is being redeveloped in a way that offers opportunities for all of its people and the expected numerous new residents that will flock to our energized, growing, job-producing town where grit, hard-work and brains meld together to raise the standard of living of all of its people.
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We immediately killed this dumb campaign slogan as soon as it was communicated more widely in our company. You won’t be seeing that tagline anywhere again.

2. The full graphic package that was slated to be installed across all of the retail windows on the Vinton Building was a very inclusive and diverse set of images that reflects the population of the city that we do business in and also reflects the diversity among our own
workforce in Detroit.

We became the City’s largest employer of Detroiters because diversity and inclusion are core fundamental values to our entire mission of helping to grow Detroit’s population, driving job growth, and increasing economic opportunity for all.

This past Friday, the installers of the graphic package put up just a portion of the entire installation. The graphic that was completed Friday was unfortunately, not diverse or inclusive when looked at by itself. The remaining graphics were scheduled to be installed and completed early this upcoming week.

As soon as we realized on Saturday that the partial installation would completely distort our vision for the finished project, we removed it so it would not cause further misinterpretation and confusion.
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I have included an image of the full graphic package that was scheduled to be installed on the Vinton Building.

In other words, this is how it would have looked when it was completed.

As you can see, the full graphic arrangement would have reflected a very diverse and inclusive assembly of pictures consistent with our city, all of our companies’ work force and the strong values that has always been at the very foundation of our businesses.

Even though the above final product would have been in line with our strong beliefs that all of our advertising and marketing reflect the communities where we do business and our work force, we have still tabled this particular campaign and will take the feedback and lessons learned here to even further examine our content, processes and even installation schedules to improve in all that we do.

We’ll be better at this next time.

Dan Gilbert
Rock Ventures

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.