Boiling over on Twitter this afternoon are claims that a print ad for Nivea's "Give a Damn Campaign" is racist. It features a clean-shaven black man getting ready to toss away his scraggly unshaven head and the words "Re-Civilize Yourself." The debate is being helped along by any number of sites, including Clutch, The Root and Huffington Post, all of which have posed a version of the question "Is this ad racist?" along with a photo of the ad (at left).
Nivea Pulls Ad, Apologizes After Racism Accusations
But what few of them are doing is running the other ad in the campaign, which features a clean-shaven white guy getting ready to toss away his scraggly unshaven head and the words, "Sin City isn't an excuse to look like hell."
Some wondered if at any point during approval a red flag was raised by someone on Nivea's marketing team or someone at agency DraftFCB. The entire debate--including demands that Rihanna drop her association with Nivea--could likely have been avoided if the company had simply swapped the ad copy.
One thing I noticed while watching the debate was there was split opinion in the black community as to whether the ad was actually racist. On Facebook, "Tii's Natural Hair Care Fan Page" posted the ads side by side and wrote, "In my opinion, if you look at both ads, you can clearly see that they are referring to cavemen...not afros." And many of Rihanna's fans argued she had no reason to drop the brand. Those folks seemed outnumbered by and countered by people who weren't asking questions and were just plain angry.
One tweet baldly stated that "Nivea claims that black people aren't civilized." Others called the ad "unapologetically racist."
All that said, Nivea wasn't interested in debating its ad, instead, taking to Facebook with the following message:
"Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent 'Re-civilized' NIVEA FOR MEN ad. This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of our company."
In a longer statement Beiersdorf, Nivea's parent company, said, "Beiersdorf, as a company, represents diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity. Direct and indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions and in all areas of the company."