Today In Badvertising: Pepsi Solves Social Strife With Soda; Nivea Says “White Is Purity”

Two major brands — Pepsi and Nivea — are under fire this week on social media for ads that some say are offensive and tone deaf.


Nivea has pulled an online ad for deodorant bearing the slogan, “White is Purity,” amid a storm of online backlash calling the ad racially insensitive.

The ad was featured on Nivea’s Middle East Facebook page, reports The New York Times, and shows the tagline against the back of a woman in a bright white shirt with long hair streaming down her back, with a can of the product in the bottom right corner. The post also included copy that read, “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible.”

Social media users called out Nivea for being racially insensitive.

“@NIVEAUSA didn’t think this through did you?” one wrote on Twitter.

“Fire your marketing person and anyone who approved this ad,” another said.

Others pointed to racist comments that appeared to support the ad: The Times notes that one Twitter user posted the ad and wrote, “Nivea has chosen our side.”

Nivea’s parent company Beiersdorf has now deleted the ad, and issued an apology.

“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”

A representative for Beiersdorf representative also told the Times that the ad was part of a broader campaign for deodorant in the Middle East tying the color black to strength and white to purity.

“We never intended to hurt anybody or to raise any wrong interpretation,” the rep said.


Pepsi is also facing a rash of criticism on social media this week for airing an ad that some say presents social unrest and police brutality in a tone-deaf manner.

In the spot, famous-ish person Kendall Jenner is minding her own business, just trying to strike modeling poses in a blonde wig when protestors (all coincidentally clad in colors that match Pepsi’s branding) march past.

She ends up sauntering up to a line of straight-faced police officers and languidly offering one a Pepsi. He opens it, everyone cheers, and start hugging each other and slapping high fives.

CNN notes that some on social media called out the ad for using imagery similar to photos of Ieshia Evans, a protester in Baton Rouge who was detained by law enforcement while protesting after the shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police.

Other Twitter users called out the ad as well, suggesting, among other things that it might serve better as an ad for Coke:

Pepsi said in a statement that “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an import message to convey.”

UPDATE: Pepsi has since removed the ad from YouTube and issued an updated statement about the controversy.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize,” the brand said in a statement (via AdAge). “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

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