Saturday, August 20, 2011

Getting the Nivea Ad Out of My Head -- Going w/the Graffiti

Personal care product manufacturers are trying to figure out how to market to Black folk and keep getting it wrong.  I can cite two egregious and one borderline:  The Old Spice ad featuring Isaiah Mustafa in a towel might be an attempt at "post-racial" product seduction or just a well-spoken scantily clad native (you decide).  First in the egregious category was the irritating Summer's Eve ad featuring a talking African-American hand puppert that couldn't refer to her vagina as a, well, vagina.  But most disturbing was the recent Nivea ad urging Black men to "re-civilize yourself". Here's the ad:

Note the beheaded, afro'd, grimacing (I would be too if I had somehow been separated from my body, even if it looks like a very clean cut) black man.

Now that I have planted the image in your mind (sorry about that) here is an image of Gil Scott-Heron from his 1972 album, Free Will. Perhaps the African-American ad exec who reportedly thought up this campaign was unconsciously influenced by the sudden passing of one of our most important and tragic musicians.

There was an advertising executive who did understand how to reach African-American consumers.  Herb Kemp pioneered a style of marketing that respected black people's intelligence and dignity.  Mr. Kemp passed away this past March.

I'm not a big fan of most commercial personal care products.  They are generally too stinky, sticky or flammable for my tastes (what is it with Fructis anyway?) or do nothing for my head full of tiny dreadlocks,  I would like to be able to open a magazine or turn on BET without being assaulted by ignorant and distasteful ads.  After all, according to the Terry College of Business African-American buying power amounted to $1.6 trillion in 2010, despite our having "lost a decade's worth of job growth"in the current recession.   Given that kind of spending power you would think marketers would do what it takes to get it right.  Might I suggest an Undoing Racism workshop?

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