It is no secret that, due to colonialism and racism, most early advertisements yielded racist connotations. Commercials often insinuated that white and paler skin should be more appreciated and coveted than darker skin.
As the entertainment and public relations industries have become more modernized, we finally began to see an end to these racist advertisements. But are they truly gone? Are there advertisements created in 2017 that still perpetuate racist ideologies?
Cosmetics brands like Nivea prove that we are not as accepting of a nation as we thought.
Earlier this year, Dove released an advertisement that was perceived to have a racist undertone. The ad features a black woman who “shed her skin” after using Dove Soap and became a white woman. This controversy existed mainly on social media, where everyday consumers were outraged at Dove’s racist ad.
However, the ad presented on social media was only half of the original advertisement. In the spread approved by Dove, the advertisement also features a white woman turning into a Hispanic woman, and so forth. In fact, the African-American woman in the advertisement spoke out and argued that she didn’t feel victimized by the advertisement.
After this discovery, many claimed that this advertisement wasn’t racist. It had simply been taken out of context. But can we give all cosmetic companies this leeway?
Nivea’s Advertising History
Nivea went under fire numerous times for releasing advertisements with negative connotations in regards to race. To refresh your memory, the cosmetics company released ads that state “White is Purity” and a “Re-civilize Yourself” ad, featuring a black man shaving off his afro to become more “civilized”.
After substantial criticism of the aforementioned ads, you would think that the brand learned their lesson. Unfortunately, they continue to walk the line of acceptable advertisement.
The New Commercial
The brand recently released a commercial in African countries that is receiving a lot of backlashes.
Featuring Nigerian beauty pageant winner, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, the ad shows a dark-skinned black woman applying lotion that makes her skin visibly lighter after application. You can watch the original advertisement here.
After significant backlash, Nivea released the following response:
“We have recently noted concerns on social media by some consumers regarding our NIVEA Natural Fairness Body Lotion communication in Ghana. We would like to emphasise that this campaign is in no way meant to demean or glorify any person’s needs or preferences in skin care.”
Unlike the Dove advertisement, this Nivea commercial cannot be taken out of context. The commercial clearly shows a woman’s skin turn pale when she applies this Nivea lotion and insinuates that her pale skin is better than her darker, natural skin.
What Should We Do?
The problem with this ad lies not only in its racist insinuations but also in the company itself. As mentioned before, this is not the first time that Nivea apologized for a racially insensitive advertisement. How many apologies are necessary until a change is made? Are black women still expected to support a brand that gains publicity by criticizing them?
History proves that simple criticism isn’t enough. Brands like Nivea continue to display racially insensitive ads, yet they continue to prosper in the consumer market.
What do you think should be done about such corporations? Let us know in the comments below!