By Elizabeth Denton. Photos: Hannah Choi/Allure.
In today's "what were they thinking" news (see: Tuesday's controversial Pepsi commercial), Nivea is under fire for its latest ad campaign. According to the Washington Post, the photo showed up on Facebook, targeted to Nivea's Middle East fans. (Brands can "target" posts on Facebook so a specific group of people is more likely to see it.) It was intended to promote the brand's "Invisible for Black and White" deodorant, which is supposed to keep marks off dark clothes. But things quickly went terribly wrong.
The campaign shows the back of a woman sitting on a bed wearing what looks like a white robe. Her long, dark hair is down on her white outfit. Text across the photo reads: "White Is Purity." The caption on the Facebook post said: "Keep it clean, keep bright. Don't let anything ruin it, #Invisible."
Okay, so I get that it's all about keeping white clothes clean, but this reads as really, really problematic. It's very strange that no one saw the racial implications here. And it looks like pretty much everyone on social media agrees.
Some — as in some seeming white supremacists — praised the ad. There are tweets like this one, that reads, "Nivea has chosen our side and the most liked comments are glorious," alongside images of Pepe the Frog, a meme that recently became co-opted as a hate symbol.
Because of all the backlash, Nivea quickly pulled the ad. Both the Nivea UK and Nivea USA Twitter accounts have been replying to people apologizing, plus a spokesperson for Nivea’s parent company, Beiersdorf Global AG, issued a statement to the Washington Post.
"That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologize for that and have removed the post,” the statement reads. "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."
This isn't the first time Nivea has accused of being tone-deaf when it comes to race. The brand's 2011 ad is circulating around Twitter, which shows a black man with short hair grabbing a head with afro, and reads: "Re-Civilize Yourself."
This story originally appeared on Allure.
More from Allure: