Hard to Believe

Nivea ControversySure you have seen the Nivea print ad encouraging African-American men to “re-civilize” themselves, now appearing in September’s issue of Esquire magazine, the one that has created a firestorm of tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts accusing the brand of racism.

Response: Nivea took to its Facebook Page immediately to issue an apology and thank fans for their concern. Then parent company Beiersdorf AG withdrew the ad from future publication.

So naturally, people are blogging away, with all kinds of comments for and against the ad. “It is racist.” “It isn’t racist.” “It’s inappropriate.”  “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Who is right? Not for me to say here. But the controversy does prove one thing: race is still a sensitive issue with the general public and marketers need to pay attention.

I marvel at how this ad made it through the layers of  conservative corporate management to get a final approval. Marketers today fret over the most insignificant verbiage and spend hours deliberating over a single model’s wardrobe choice,… so you have to ask yourself how this one got through an uptight system of checks and balances.

OR is perhaps the Nivea brand onto something bigger than all of us?… Could it be that new generations coming up the ranks of corporate America  just don’t view race like previous generations did? Could their intentions actually have been more pure than what the blogs say? That White, Black, Indian, Asian—it really doesn’t matter what model you used or what language you inserted. That these marketers and their agency just don’t see these differences anymore…

Well, I’m not so sure I buy that nor that we’re there yet.  But it would certainly be the day that Martin Luther King and many others like him, dreamed of, now wouldn’t it.

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