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21st Century Advertising: Racist On Purpose?

By Chidera Muoka 15 October 2017   |   9:00 am

Recently, we have had a lot of outrage as regards advertising campaigns that imply racist connotations. From the Pepsi advert with Kendall Jenner to the Dove advert, which shook social media this week, people have been questioning the review strategy of said campaigns as well as the intention behind releasing them. The perspective not thought of much is, “Is this a case of any PR being good PR?”

The issues as regards these ads range from racial stereotyping to insensitivity when it comes to a certain race. The Dove ad which was a three-second GIF, saw a black woman remove her shirt and transformed into a white woman who then removed her shirt and turned to an Indian woman. The agency can claim that the ad was supposed to show the diversity of the product for women of all colours but those two seconds cemented the ad which has now been removed by the company after the outcry on social media as well as tending an apology to the public.

Dove advert

This is not the first advert by the company to insinuate that women of colour should be lighter. In May 2011, they released an ad titled “Visibly more beautiful skin”, which showed three women standing side by side, each of them with lighter skin than the woman beside her. The background read “before” and “after” and the “before” placed behind the black woman showed cracked skin and the “after” placed behind the white woman showed smooth skin.

Dove advert

When it comes to beauty companies, Dove isn’t the only offender; Nivea also comes up as a frequent offender. In April this year, the latter released an ad which featured the phrase “White is purity”. The ad, which was done to promote its Invisible for Black & White deodorant, put the company on blast to which they apologised and took down.

Nivea “White is purity” advert

The beauty companies are not the only offenders with racial insensitivity. Tech giants Intel published an ad to promote their Core Duo processor, which featured a white man in the middle and black sprinters on each side. Their aim was to show the speed of their processor, but the public couldn’t help but point out that the depiction of the processor (black men) and the employee (white man) couldn’t have been more racist.

Intel advert

The same thing goes to the Play Station ad which featured a white model holding a black model by the chin as it read “White is coming”.

Playstation advert

Kendall Jenner had the greatest backlash of her career when she was at the forefront of the Pepsi ad which was released during a trying time of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. The ad, which featured Kendall coming out of a shoot and joining a protest going on outside, to giving the law enforcement a bottle of Pepsi, sparked outrage. The insensitivity towards the cause of the black race at the time by an international brand and a public figure begs the question, “Who approves these ads in the first place?”

Kendall Jenner in Pepsi advert

The argument with the mentioned companies when it comes to these adverts that get airtime is the misconception of their aim by the public. It is clear that the message recycled supports the ideology that white is superior and black is inferior. As many apologies that can be sent to the public, is the backlash worth the decline in sales or the dent in brand imagery? Are these brands signing off on lousy ad campaigns or was this their plan to get publicity with the underlying message from the initial start?



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