*Here we go again with Nivea.
The beauty brand’s current “Natural Fairness” ad campaign in parts of Africa and Asia promises to “restore and enhance fair skin,” a tagline that has women in the region heated and slandering the brand on social media.
The campaign may have come out months ago, but it’s made international news in the wake of similar racial controversy over competitor Dove’s tone-deaf ad in the states.
Nivea’s West African TV spot features Nigerian beauty queen Omowunmi Akinnifesi, who applies the lotion to “visibly lighten” and “care” for her skin—as if a lighter skin were a mark of health, youth and prosperity. In the ad, graphic effects show the model’s skin lightens as the lotion passes over it.
“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” she says in the spot, which she posted to her Instagram account below with the following caption: “The first Face of Nivea in West Africa. Have you seen the new Nivea ads, billboards and all around Africa?? I’m shy It comes on when I’m watching my favorite show ‘Blackish’ on mnet or when I’m watching CNN’s breaking news. Then I get startled when I see the massive billboards. You will think I’m use to this.”
Although Akinnifesi is proud of her ad, she is also receiving backlash for participating in the campaign. Social media users are calling foul, especially in Ghana where twitter users called for a boycott of all Nivea products and a removal of the campaign with the hashtag #pullitdownnow.
Nivea issued a statement on Facebook on Wednesday (Oct. 18) saying the “campaign is in no way meant to demean or glorify any person’s needs or preferences in skin care.” The Natural Fairness line’s “natural ingredients and UV filters” were aimed at “reducing the sun-induced production of melanin.”
As Africa’s Quartz Media points out, this isn’t the first time Nivea’s ad campaigns have offended people of color:
In 2011, Nivea was forced to apologize for advertisement that saw a black man discarding an Afro, with the tagline “re-civilize yourself.” The embarrassment from that incident seemed short lived as Nivea once again released a racially insensitive advertisement. Earlier this year, Nivea directed a deodorant ad to its Middle East customers with the tagline “White is purity.”
Nivea might have pulled the “white is purity” ad, but that hasn’t stopped it from advertising the benefits of whiter skin. In the Philippines, Nivea’s Extra Whitening Cell Repair & Protect Body Milk offers “fair skin” even after exposure to sunlight. There is also a range of other Nivea products in the Philippines promising to whiten skin.