Skincare brand Nivea’s popular “Look like you give a damn” campaign went very awry this week after they released a new print ad that showed a well-groomed, clean-shaven black man about to toss away a rubber mask of his earlier self with facial hair and an afro.
Over the model, words in giant font read: RE-CIVILIZE YOURSELF.
The public outrage over the ad was immediate, with many calling the ad racist. “The message couldn't be clearer,” wrote Nona Willis Aronowitz at Good, “natural hair on a black man isn't a style preference or a nod to afrocentrism — it's straight-up uncivilized.”
Questlove, a musician who often tweets about race issues, was angered by the ad, tweeting Thursday: “Lotion with a 38-year-old stripper’s name really wants my head off. Uncivilized? #[expletive]Nivea.”
Within hours, Nivea had apologized. On its Facebook page, the company wrote: “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.”
The ad is already printed in the September issue of Esquire, and Nivea still runs other variations of the ad, including one that features a white male model and rubber head, with no text about “re-civilization.”
“The message there seems to be that white men ... [are] already civilized, they just don’t look like it,” writes Justin Fenner at Styleite of the difference between the two ads.
“But black men, according to Nivea’s brand messaging, are inherently uncivilized and can only become civilized if they forsake what comes out of their hair follicles naturally.”
Under the apology on Nivea’s Facebook page, nearly 100 commenters argued Friday over whether the apology had made up for Nivea’s mistake.
A commenter named Cami Frasier wrote: “Wow! What an awesome wall post. Thank you for this ... I am thankful that your company is willing to change when others do NOT agree.”
Others were not convinced. Commenter Maliyka A Muhammad wrote that the fact that the ad was published “means that you meant what you said.” She said she did not accept the company’s apology because “The apology in itself is a marketing ploy. Moving on.”