Companies like to push the envelope with their ads. Sometimes the gamble works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes, like in the case of a new advertising campaign from Nivea, the whole thing turns into a fiasco.
Nivea, a company that specializes in skin-care products, recently released a print ad that it has since pulled. How to best describe the ad? It shows an African American man preparing to toss a decapitated head (his own?) with an afro-style haircut. The ad copy reads: "Re-Civilize Yourself." The underlying message seems to be that afros are not civilized.
Almost immediately, the ad met with outrage. The Los Angeles Times reported that Facebook users began "posting photos of themselves with Afros on Nivea's wall, saying things such as: 'I wear my hair natural and I just graduated with my doctorate! So who needs to be re-civilized?? Nivea no longer welcomed in my household.' "
Nivea has since taken down the ad and issued an apology via 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."
While the ad has since been pulled, the massive interest in the controversy it created continues full steam ahead. Over the past 24 hours, Web searches for "Nivea recivilize yourself" surged 629 percent. "Nivea racist ad" spiked 140 percent. The conventional wisdom is that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but the fallout from this ad SNAFU might prove otherwise.