Nivea get into trouble for “White Is Purity” ad that talks about a pure white robe

Badland: 

There's a lot of things that can go wrong when you translate a global or near global campaign, I've been there. This is why there used to be many "localisation" copywriter services, that wanted to ensure you got your brands' statement correct in the many languages of the many markets a global brand could sell in. That was in the 90s, now it's 2017 and the internet made us all speak emoji-English with equal fluency, so you'd think an English language ad from the middle east wouldn't be an issue. Well, you'd be wrong. After all, if you make your ad in English, native English speakers can read it, and they see things from a different perspective. Pretty soon the image left Nivea ME facebook and was passed around on twitter among Candian activists - very far away from the intended target and chosen online media. The ad was accused of promoting racist rhetoric, and the usual demands to "fire the marketing person who made this" were made. This attracted people to the Facebook post, and trolls amused themselves by leaving Hitler gifs all over the comment thread.

The initial post from Nivea Middle East, has now been removed. It rad: “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible.” Yes, they're talking about that pristine white robe in the photo, which is one of the first items of clothing you'd notice yellow deodorant buildup on. You know, that robe that looks perfect for about a week, but soon after has an impossible to remove coffee-stain somewhere and you say "aw feckit I'm buying grey robes from now on." That robe.

The image and ad ties into the annoying global campaign where a woman dances with her arms in the air to demonstrate that the deoderant doesn't stain black or white clothing. The clumsy "white is purity" phrasing served as a lightning rod for easily amused shitposters, and easily offended activists, who both spent the weekend spreading the ad far and wide.

Nivea has now pulled the post from their Facebook page and released a statement.

“That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologize for that and have removed the post.
Diversity and inclusivity are crucial values of NIVEA. We take pride in creating products that promote beauty in all forms. Discrimination of any kind is simply not acceptable to us as a company, as employees, or as individuals.”

Nivea branded twitter accounts in the USA and the UK have spent days apologising directly to angry twitterers.

Previous posts touting the same product benefit are still up on the Nivea Middle East Facebook page: “Black Stays black. White Stays White.” The lesson here is that people will read into everything you do, so yes, the copywriters choice of words are important. The black and whole phrasing may fail in some parts of the English speaking world, but works just fine in most languages.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (1)

  • Rig's picture
    Rig (not verified)

    This came off like intentional outrage-mongering. No skin was shown and obviously race baiting is in vogue across the Western world. There's plausible deniability that the ad's wording could've only been referencing the robe.

    Apr 06, 2017

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