Nivea Apologizes For Racist “Re-Civilize Yourself” Picturing Black Man

This Week in Racially Insensitive Advertising News: the skin care company Nivea was forced to apologize yesterday after people objected to an ad that ran in the men’s magazine Esquire. The ad depicts a handsome, well-dressed black man holding a black, Afro-ed and bearded head in his hands, preparing to throw it into the distance, with the words “Look Like You Give A Damn: Re-Civilize Yourself.” Some people on Twitter and on Tumblr said that suggesting a black man with an Afro and beard needs to be “civilized” is offensive and that the ad exploits the racist idea that blacks are more primitive than other races. The company released a statement in apology:

“Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of NIVEA: The brand represents diversity, tolerance, and equal opportunity. We value difference. Direct or indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions by, and in all areas of our activities. This applies regardless of gender, age, race, skin color, religion, ideology, sexual orientation, or disability. Nor should cultural, ethnic, or national origin, and political or philosophical conviction be of any significance.”

The company also posted an apology on its Facebook page:

“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.”

I don’t think this ad was intentionally racist because there is a similar ad depicting a white man holding a shaggy, long-haired head, too. (The copy on the white man reads “Sin City isn’t an excuse to look like hell,” however.) But I do think it was dumb and perhaps unintentionally racist for Nivea’s ad team to not realize the connotations of the words “re-civilize yourself” with a picture of a black man would set people off. This may indicate said ad team is not the least bit diverse.

What do Frisky readers think of the Nivea ad?

[Ad Age]
[Facebook: Nivea USA]