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Nivea's 're-civilize' ad called racist; company apologizes

August 19, 2011 |  7:01 am

Recivilize
Nivea’s “Look like you give a damn” campaign: Does it contain a deliberately racist suggestion that black people aren’t civilized or an unintentional gaffe by the skin care company’s marketing team?

The print ad in question features a clean-shaven black man grasping the longer hair on a bearded mask of his own face, preparing to throw it away. The phrase “Re-civilize yourself” is boldly emblazoned over the image.

The Internet erupted in fury over the ad, with calls that songstress and Nivea spokeswoman Rihanna disown the company.

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.”

Some suggested that the backlash could increase sales of products geared toward black people from other companies.

Nivea, owned by German parent Beiersdorf, responded on its wall with an apology:

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.

No word on whether a companion advertisement -- featuring a clean-shaven white man grasping the longer hair on bearded mask of his own face, preparing to throw it away -- will also be nixed.

The text on that one: “Sin City isn’t an excuse to look like hell.”

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo credit: Nivea

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