People around the world are calling for a boycott of Nivea products, and it is not the first time. In fact, the brand has somewhat of a reputation for insensitive and hurtful ad campaigns that get pulled with an apology when people get angry. The latest involves the World Cup and an ad that attempted to capitalize on the tears of the Croatian and Moroccan national teams, only to receive backlash in return.
Wipes away everything but the tears: In a serious marketing blunder, the personal care brand decided it would be a good idea to post a provocative campaign focused on its Micellar Water, saying it wipes “paint and tears.”
The ad showed a woman with a Moroccan flag painted on her face and a downcast expression. It also depicted the results of the country’s World Cup game against France and a caption that read: “Nivea 100% supporting the most successful African nation, 0% regrets. With NIVEA Micellar Water 0% Residue, you can free your skin from face paint and tears, leaving your skin clean and ready to cheer on your team again.”
The brand created a similar ad that targeted Croatian fans after they lost the semi-finals against Argentina, which caused a great deal of backlash. The World Cup is about the world coming together, and while fans fiercely support their national teams, they also support the other fans and teams, even when they are at their lowest.
The countries called for a boycott quickly: Moroccan and Croatian fans alike started to call for a boycott of the “cheap” products as a result of the insensitive ad. In particular, some people pointed out that the ads only targeted the two countries, upset about the double standards involved.
- It was pointed out that the German company did not put up an ad when Germany exited the World Cup earlier in the tournament.
- The ads did not target any of the larger countries, only focusing on the national teams of Morocco and Croatia.
Ineffective apology: Soon after the backlash began, Nivea retracted the ad, removing it from social media and replacing it with an apology. The brand said, “We did not intentionally set out to hurt the feelings of such a proud footballing nation.” It also recognized the “fantastic achievements” of the teams.
Nivea also promised to “live up to” their “high standards” when communicating in the future. However, the apology has done little to quell the outrage caused by the ads in the first place. But should it?
Nivea has a history of insensitive ads, as well as the apologies and promises that come after. One example is the “Look Like You Give A Damn” campaign that featured an image of a clean-shaven black man with short hair throwing the head of a bearded black man with an afro. What really put people over the edge was the text that read: “Re-civilize yourself.”
Despite an apology from the brand over the racist ad, Nivea made the same mistake again years later. However, the second time showcased an even more obvious misstep with the brand’s “White Is Purity” campaign.
Boycotts also came after allegations of homophobia surrounding the company. Reportedly, when pitched an advertisement where two men touched hands, an executive responded by saying, “We don’t do gay at NIvea.”
Accident, or accidentally on purpose? It all begs the question of whether Nivea made a mistake with these ad campaigns, including the most recent against the Croatian and Moroccan national teams. Did nobody see how these ads could be insensitive? Is it just a way to gain attention? While the answer to these questions might never be known, Nivea is slowly but surely driving away customers as more and more communities begin to boycott it over its pattern of poor advertising choices.
Spencer Hulse is a news desk editor at Grit Daily News. He covers startups, affiliate, viral, and marketing news.