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Racial Elements in Nivea’s ‘Re-Civilize Yourself’ Ads

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In August of 2011, Nivea started a “giving a damn” about your looks campaign that focused on body shave. In an ad that ultimately referred to African American men with overgrown hair and facial hair “uncivilized”, the racy ad sparked major controversy over the true intentions of the advertisement. The ad depicts an African American man with a clean cut and casual clothing holding what looks to be the head of another African American with an afro and beard. As if every black man with an afro and beard were uncivilized, Nivea seemed to state that the re-civilization of the black man was in order by means of a haircut and a clean shave. With “Re-civilize yourself” in white letters in the center of the ad and the savage look on the head of the African America, drawing the conclusion the underlying meaning of the ad seems to be that Nivea was directly relating Black men with savagery and barbarianism. No rational person today would debate that the African American race has been dealt their fair share of unfair treatment by the media.

With this Nivea ad coming to light, it was the question of everyone who took offense to the ad why the word “Re-civilize” was used when portraying the African American man. Grabbing a magazine reader’s attention with the words would prove to be an effective ad campaign strategy, but regardless of whether Nivea was aware that “Re-civilize” was an inappropriate term to use is beyond us. Seeing how the negative connotations of the word seem even more emphasized when paired with an African American individual. What may seem as an innocent campaign ad for body shave at first, can be dissected and proven to have rather racial aspects to it that are offensive to the many it may relate to. In the words of the late great Jim Morrison, “Whoever controls the media, control the mind.” The media seems to make matters worse when Nivea released a second ad days later that showed a Caucasian man on the cover holding a bearded, long haired head. Except on this ad, the words in the center read the words ‘Sin city isn’t an excuse to look like hell.’

The same company with the same product and 2 identical ads chose to use words this time that seemed highly less offensive words when portraying a Caucasian male. Is it a coincidence that Nivea chose less offensive words this time? When comparing the 2 ads, the “Re-civilize Yourself” ads seems to bear a harsher judgment than does the second ad. It’s unlikely that Nivea purposely released these ads with the intent of having the two compared and contrasted for racial aspects. Yet the insensitivity Nivea seems to bring with the release of the ad seems almost too obvious to not address. After the cries of outrage and insensitivity, Nivea goes on to state that the ad was unintentionally offensive and “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of NIVEA. Careful observation of whom and what your advert will target towards should be an element of every company. In the case of Nivea, the racial elements of their ad might have been taken too lightly, and as a result the people who took offensive raised their voices and stated their opinion of how they felt about the ad. The “savage” black man on the cover was clearly an aspect that viewers did not find appropriate and because of the overall inappropriateness of the ad, the overall campaign was deemed simply distasteful and improper for the company.

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