This is very awkward.
In parts of Africa, Nivea has created “Natural Fairness”, a body care line that uses “natural berry extracts” and promises to “restore and enhance fair skin,” reports Quartz.
To advertise the product, the campaign focuses on attaining fairer skin and features Nigerian beauty queen Omowunmi Akinnifesi. She applies the lotion to her skin which not only visibly lightens her skin, as if “lighter skin were a mark of health, youth and prosperity”, but which attracts the attention of a man.
If you aren’t too sure what exactly is wrong with that message (the skin-whitening part), here’s the thing:
The advert is just the latest in decades of mass-media messaging to people of color [sic] that their darker skin tones are unacceptable, and what they should be aspiring to is a superior white skin. This form of racism has so been internalized that even when most big brands have tried to embrace ethnic diversity, consumers in Africa and Asia spend billions of dollars on harmful skin bleaching products.
Take a look:
Watch. The first Face of Nivea in West Africa. Have you seen the new Nivea ads, billboards and all around Africa?? . I’m shy. It comes on when I’m watching my favorite show ‘Blackish’ on mnet or when I’m watching CNN’s breaking news. Then I get startled when I see the massive billboards. You will think I’m use to this. #Brandambasador #NiveaAfrica #Nivea #skincare #Africa #BeautyQueen #Beauty #Beiersdorf #NaturalFairness #Billboards #TVad #radio
Do you now understand how problematic that is? I hope so…
Akinnifesi, who was happy to see the advert pop up in-between her favorite show Black-ish (a US sitcom that deals with contemporary race issues), is also being blasted for participating in the campaign. Nivea also erected billboards where the product is sold.
The brand is owned by German manufacturer Beiersdorf AG, which is based in Hamburg and has a market cap of around €23 billion (R370 billion).
The advert aired in West Africa in June, but was dragged into the spotlight once again after Dove’s whitewashing advert (here) was torn apart.
As in Dove’s case, people pulled previous Nivea ads that had been given grief for whitewashing:
Nivea issued a statement on Facebook on October 18, saying:
…the “campaign is in no way meant to demean or glorify any person’s needs or preferences in skin care.” The Natural Fairness line’s “natural ingredients and UV filters” were aimed at “reducing the sun-induced production of melanin,” they went on to say. While reminding consumers that their product ranges embrace diversity, the Facebook post showed no real acknowledgement of the racial insensitivity of the ad.
At the end of the day, Nivea has a history of producing campaigns that are wonderfully inclusive. It just seems that they need to work on their wording.
Like, they could have said it gives you ‘clearer skin’, or ‘an even skin tone’, or just plain ‘healthier skin’.
But fairer skin? Eish.
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