Typically, for every ad campaign you see in print, tv, and online, there's a lot of effort, energy, and thought that goes into the project. You don't just slap on a stock image of a woman laughing into her salad, attach a catchy hook, and go. Plenty of time is invested, and multiple signatures are required for final sign-off. That's why so many people were surprised to see Pepsi's (recently-pulled) Kendall Jenner ad — and now Nivea's latest campaign promoting the brand's new Invisible For Black & White deodorant.
In the image, a white woman faces a window clad in a white bathrobe while sitting on the bed. The text across the picture reads "White is purity" in bolded cap letters.
Then, things got even worse. Because the phrase "White is purity" has deeply supremacist undertones, many alt-right Twitter users were proud to support it and took it as a sign of Nivea aligning with their values. (Yikes.) The rest of the world flooded Nivea's social media accounts with complaints and cries of racism. Nivea ended up pulling the ad, and released this apology to Refinery29.
"Over the weekend an image and caption was posted to the NIVEA Middle East Facebook page meant to promote "Invisible for Black & White,” a stain-free antiperspirant for use with black and/or white clothing," it reads. "That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologise for that and have removed the post. Diversity and inclusivity are crucial values of NIVEA. We take pride in creating products that promote beauty in all forms. Discrimination of any kind is simply not acceptable to us as a company, as employees, or as individuals."
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the brand has faced similar controversy. In 2011, it produced a print ad of a clean-shaven Black man tossing the head of himself with a beard and Afro, football style. "Look like you give a damn," it read. "Re-civilize yourself." The brand also apologised for that, writing on Facebook, "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."
There's no telling what the conversation was around the drawing board when Nivea came up with both pieces of content. But Twitter user @Travon has a great point about the state of advertisement today: "Between Nivea's 'white is purity' ad and Pepsi's "Black soda matters" ad I think it's time to open my "Ask A Black person" consulting firm."