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Nivea Racism

Nivea Get Civilized

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / 22.08.2011

“Look like you give a damn. Re-civilise yourself. “

A new Nivea print ad has pinpointed the face of the “uncivilised”. It is not entirely unfamiliar from the one Vasco Da Gama and Bartholomew Diaz encountered upon their arrival on the Dark Continent. A permanent scowl engraved deeply on its brown skin. A mop of coarse, curly black hair. Beheaded, of course. Disembodied and about to flung off the top of a building, into unimaginable and irrelevant nothingness.

The angry black man has long been a hampering yoke on the redemptive, illuminating abilities of civilisation. Colonisation didn’t really cleanse them. The barbarism was intrinsic; and in the gaps left behind by the bible and the gun, Nivea has suggested that nonchalant natives baptise themselves in the healing cream contained in a blue tin. There is no mention of whether or not their products contain skin lightning ingredients, but it’s widely accepted that dark skin is an affront to the pure image of progress.

In the white version of the ad, the quintessential GQ man holds the hollowed out mask of his caveman-esque former self, whilst serenely looking out into a promising horizon. He however, has managed to escape being tagged as uncivilised. Beiersdorf, the German owners of Nivea, seem to feel he merely looks a little hellish, like he’s had bad day or a very late night.

Nivea Racism

Thanks to a massive social media backlash Nivea pulled the campaign at the end of last week and offered an unreserved apology on Facebook.

“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.”

But the ad, created by Draftfcb and first appearing on the pages of Esquire magazine, raises some serious questions about the proofreading process at one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, especially considering how much an advertising campaign costs.

All the same, it’s fun to watch the offensive ad’s model B.J. Williams at first trying to defend the ad (and his paycheck) and then slowly going with the public outrage on his twitter feed.

And yet the backlash continues. There have already been several public calls for Rihanna to cancel her lucrative endorsement deal with the company. But that’s not going to happen. She’s making too much money to worry about a little bit of racism. Nivea are currently sponsoring her tour and licensing her song “California King Bed” for their latest TV spot. She’s also got a major section on the Nivea website and posed topless for the launch of the campaign. And unlike B.J. Williams, Rihanna gets paid enough to keep her opinions off the social networks.

Nivea Racism

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  1. TH14 says:

    Ad Agency should have probably known better, but really this is much ado about very little. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a black guy in an ad campaign without immediately grasping at whatever racial connotation we can find…

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  2. Phumlani says:


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  3. hmmm says:

    Please stop reading so much into adverts. For fucksakes.

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  4. Salvie says:

    God, I want to stick my cock between Rihanna’s tits.

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  5. ,^o^, says:

    Oh but wait, the Levi’s banner advert at the top has an image of a white guy swinging upside down. Blatant undertones that whites are more adventurous. This kind of lame, pathetic nit-picking is two steps forward, three steps back.

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  6. lindokushle says:

    Wait, exactly how far would a reasonable person with fully-functional have to look to see to see that this ad is at best distasteful, and overall racist? The black guy is being is being told he’s racist, while the guy just needs a shower. If anything is counter-progressive here,its your attitude of denialism that chooses to ignore issues of racial insensitivity in order to make everyone feel a little more comfortable when their doing their house-slave shuck and jive….

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  7. Gigantic Faggot says:

    Does anyone seriously believe in this era of politically correct hypersensitivity any corporate would intentionally associate themselves with even the most tacit racism?

    You know I bet there was a conversation at some marketing meeting before this thing went out into the world, between some ad execs named Brad and Dumisani, that went something like this:

    Brad: Hey Dumisani, you don’t think some people might find this campaign racist, I mean there is a black guy with the word uncivilised fairly near by?

    Dumisani: Oh don’t be ridiculous Brad, what kind of world do we live in? Surely people in the real world are too busy getting on with their lives to sit and go through every advert with a fine toothed comb, desperately hunting for anything which could be portrayed as racist? I mean it’s pretty obvious the point of the ad is that of a man, irrelevant of race, getting clean – thus re-civilising himself. I’m sure that’ll be obvious to everyone?

    Brad: Yeah, I guess you’re right Dumisani. Hey, wanna go chug some Black Label quarts after work?

    But this is the world we live in, where journalist and the population at large are so desperately fishing for something to be shocked about, we end up with this drivel.

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  8. Phumlani says:

    Is Dumisani an ad exec or a private shareholder in nivea just taking the piss?

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  9. Marx the Spot says:

    it’s not OK for those who just happen to have landed on the right side of history to exclaim that it’s time to kick forward and push beyond all this political sensitivity… Society has been rehashing these racist archetypes for years, so it’s totally justified for Lindokuhle to call it!

    And if you fail to understand just how offensive this ad is… take a look at Nivea’s response. Pulled the ad immediately and offered an unreserved apology. This ad is entirely indefensible.

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  10. JM Koet$ee says:

    Advertising – Spawn of Satan and illiterate copy-writers, account execs. As to Nivea’s execs – ja, that’s what MBAs do, they dumb you down.

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  11. Lindokushle says:

    Dumisani drinking Black Label quarts in America

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  12. Rosa Sparks says:

    Yeah ok, its a little offensive, but I still think us black folk need to take a chill pill and stop being so damn sensitive. Why are you offended if you’re not represented by what the advert implicitly implies. Walk away, just walk away.

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  13. Gigantic Faggot says:

    @Marx the Spot

    >And if you fail to understand just how offensive this ad is… take a look at Nivea’s response. Pulled the ad immediately and offered an unreserved apology.

    My point exactly, this is how terrified corporates with a public identity to maintain are of being associated with racism, as they rightly should be. But you can’t claim in one breath that Nivea is a company having a laugh at the expensive of black folk and in the next breath use their haste to get away from being branded as such, as a defence for your claim of the former.


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  14. arno says:

    I’ve heard they are now going to ban Dispirin. Why ? It’s white and it works.

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  15. huh! says:

    Seems to me a pretty straightforward reference/ripoff to the ee cummings poem ‘ygUduh’. It’s about American racism in Vietnam, but I’m sure it’s the cultural origin of this campaign.

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  16. David Hunter says:

    Arno! Awesome Buddy! Awesome! Im in stitches! Can’t stop laughing!
    JM Koet$ee you sound like you belong to the CRC. Come now man open your mind.

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  17. emmanence says:

    “Ad Agency should have probably known better, but really this is much ado about very little. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a black guy in an ad campaign without immediately grasping at whatever racial connotation we can find…”

    Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where blatant and subtle everyday racism affecting the material lived reality and inner reality of people’s lives, oh right, there is a world like that, it belongs to us white people who get to ignore the impact of race on people’s lives (including our own) cause we have all the power…its called the invisible knapsack of privilege, full of useful tools and knick knacks we don’t even have to think about in order to access.

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  18. Rosa Sparks says:

    @ emmanence, just because its the white status quo, doesn’t mean its right. Go read a book and stop sounding ignorant, you sound like you’re chief spokesperson for a Nazi eugenics programme.

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  19. emmanence says:

    @ Rosa Sparks, obviously my sarcastic tone failed, and that’s my failing. I was trying to point out that white people don’t get why this is offensive because of our structural privilege and that as a criticism of the white people on this thread who are ‘what’s the big deal’. It is a big deal, this kind of advert is an expression of a structural inequality based on race, one which I don’t think is right or fair.

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  20. Rosa Sparks says:

    @ emmanence, ah, my bad. Totally get it. Respect,

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  21. george says:

    Maybe a sliver of reading into it a lot, but How do u make an ad without realistically thinking who u cud offend. Having said that, at what point do we stop linking anything to any sort of race. Stereotyping is wrong but it wasn’t thought up by someone behind a desk, it was a norm. Like hw many builders we see are black, its just a observation. Come on the white guy basically has the same mask, and the text? Maybe the german people hadn’t thought of using it and they got the idea later? Your view on whites implying lighter is better seems a bit presumptious. I’m not even gna use an example from magazines coz then u gna say its controlled by whites and what not. So: look at hip hop- who are the hottest black woman according to black men?: beyonce, alicia keyes, keri hilson, ciara, christina millian…. They are all light skinned……. Asians are even lighter than us so ur point is invalid. Lighter skin allows curves and facial bones to cast shadows to make a face look well formed, so its nicer to look at, its not a race thing. Also if it is the white people making thses rubbish insinuations, why is it that black woman spend fortunes on getting their hair to look more white? Weaves, straitening irons, relax. Its a choice you make, and not to fit into what white society expects because the SABC zulu,xhosa etc news also have woman with weaves

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