It will be hard for me, personally, to forget the dumbest advertisement ever released, second only to the one where Kendall Jenner solves police brutality with a can of soda, but Nivea certainly hopes I will.
The skin care brand has pulled an ad that depicted a woman in white in a bright room with the words, “Keep it clean, keep it bright. Don’t let anything ruin it,” and “White is purity,” after people correctly called it out as something that looks like it’d be on the front desk of Hitler’s spa.
“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company apologized in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”
But this is just the next chapter in a history of racist advertising for Nivea. In 2011, the same company ran an ad featuring a black man with buzzed hair about to throw what is ostensibly his own head with an afro and beard like a discus with the word “Look like you give a damn... Re-civilize yourself.” Another version of the ad featured a white man holding his own longhaired head with the text, “Sin City isn’t an excuse to look like hell.”
The New York Times writes of the most recent incident in very staid journalism speak, “Nivea’s decision to remove the ad on Tuesday, which was posted on its [Middle East] Facebook page for two days, and stop the entire campaign is another sign of how sensitive companies have become to negative reactions on social media.”
Perhaps that’s the lesson from this episode of Idiot Ad Execs Who Probably Own a Fleet of Sailboats. Perhaps it’s that today, the KKK isn’t as sexy and aspirational as it once was.