Pine Sol Stumbles Again

In Addressing One Stereotype, It Blunders Into Another

By Published on .

Pepper Miller
Pepper Miller
I'm not one for creating New Year's resolutions. But I do like to reflect on the previous year and make decisions about what my focus will be to positively move forward. So, as I was winding down 2009 and thinking about the new year and a new decade of multicultural marketing, one of the last commercials that I viewed was Pine Sol's "Intensity." I did a Scooby-Do "Huh?" in disbelief.

In earlier campaigns, many Black consumers perceived the Pine Sol Lady, portrayed by Diane Amos, a pretty, full-figured woman, as a "mammy-type servant." Pine Sol began telling Amos' personal story in separate print campaigns and this recent spot was created in part to stifle those criticisms.

But "Intensity," created by DDB, San Francisco, still doesn't work because Black viewers now see that "mammy" has been swapped for "Mandingo," a stereotype that represents the negative sexual and subservient image of Black men.

I don't see how the idea made it past the creative brief, the client concept boards and research (if it was tested). (Pine Sol is a heritage brand among African Americans and was a favorite in our family for years. I personally would have liked to learn about the line extensions and whether or not these products come in spray packaging.)

Several studies in the past year as well as the last decade remind us that Black America feels disconnected from many ads because the ads do not portray them in a way that positively reflects who they are today as citizens and consumers. The Black America Study reveals that the two most powerful advertising persuaders for African-Americans are 1.) ads that show the benefit of a product and 2.) ads that send a positive message to the Black community.

And this past October, Essence Magazine released its findings from a study about "Black men in the Post Obama Era." The Essence findings revealed that 88% of Black men believe they have not been portrayed fairly in the media since the election. Although there are some good ads that really do a nice job of engaging and motivating the Black audience, there are still way too many marketers that delay the progress of multicultural marketing by their actions.

And unfortunately Pine Sol closes out the year and decade with hugely stereotypical images. Black consumers and marketing professionals, who are segment supporters question, yet again, the distance we must travel to bring marketers up to speed with multicultural segments. After years and years of hearing the Black community beg for more positive portrayals of Blacks in the media, this ad is a big, big disappointment.

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