Overheard on CNN.com: Ad campaigns, racism and little girls
The controversial advert for Nivea for Men appeared in the September issue of Esquire
August 19th, 2011
05:05 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Ad campaigns, racism and little girls

Comments of the Day:

"I'm a 51-year old white female, and yes, this is definitely racist. What on earth were they thinking? How did this ever make it through the vetting process?"–ShellyTea

"As a black man there is absolutely, positively, nothing wrong with this ad. It shows a mask of a black dude who happens to look like what a black person looks like when he doesn't clean up; then a black dude that looks like what a black person looks like when he cleans up. How the hell is that offensive? I'd say it's a good ad!! Also, you can be clean-cut with a shaped afro and lined beard, too. People whining about this are crazy to me."–DC in Big D

Nivea apologizes for controversial ad in Esquire

Two ad campaigns, two major underlying issues - racism and underage sexuality - had our readers arguing. In one, Nivea for Men ran, and later retracted, an ad showing a well-groomed African-American man holding what was apparently a mask of an unkempt African-American man and the slogan "Look Like You Give a Damn. Re-civilize Yourself."

The heat was so high on Twitter that Nivea almost immediately retracted the ad with an apology. Many commenters questioned whether the response would have been the same if a white man had been portrayed in the same way. In fact, there was one, which read "Sin City isn't an excuse to look like hell." Was it a racial portrayal of African-Americans? Readers who identified from both races spoke for both sides of the issue.

S1N said, "Seriously, racial? I see a mask of a black guy that looks like crap next to another black guy who is well-dressed, well groomed, and looking sharp. It's obvious which one cares about his appearance. That's the point of the ad. Hate to break it to those of you who are easily offended, but people can look like crap in any color. They can also look presentable. Sorry, but the guy in the ad is much more likely to get promoted or get laid than someone who looks like that fugly mask."

chef said, "Calling someone a 'black hole' isn't racist. Calling someone a 'tar baby' is. Referring to anyone black as 'uncivilized' could certainly, historically, be considered racially insensitive. However, would calling a young African-American street-level gang member 'uncivilized' be racist? Again this is a grey area, but I can't really think of too many black people who would be overly upset at this advertisement. I'm not black, but I do understand what it's like to be judged by racial stereotypes."

Candy S asked, "What if the photo was of a white male who was clean-cut throwing out a 'mask' of long, long hair, maybe even in a pony tail? No one would say anything to that. The ad is to clean up your look and that is it."

Anise Blue said, "The response to this ad is of course within historical context, where we all live. The United States has a history of slavery, formal and informal racism, and inequality that persists to this day. Yes, African-Americans are more sensitive to issues around race. Their grandparents and maybe parents lived under Jim Crow, you understand. All this did not happen hundreds and hundreds of years ago, removed from the current African-American experience. We have a ways to go before this is all left behind us, and the adult way to handle it is have a brain and use it."

Steven Harnack replied, "Anise, very well said! A person would have to live in a vacuum not to see that making an ad that mimics one of the core beliefs of racists would be inappropriate."

Adult-inspired lingerie marketed for young girls

In another ad campaign, this one by French company Jours Après Lunes, little girls pose like adults to market lingerie-like undergarments for their age group. Is the clothing problematic or is it the way the children are portrayed in the ad campaign? Are they really sexually provocative or are they playing dress up? Most CNN.com readers were shocked, but some said the clothes and the campaign were kids' stuff.

David1154 said, "Disgusting. They are little girls. Let them be little girls and enjoy childhood. What's as disturbing as the ads themselves is that parents would let their kids model for it. Money talks loudly, and some people just can't tell it to shut up."

ButJ said, "This is the end of common decency in our culture. You put such thoughts into little girls, and where is the innocence anymore? What kind of self-esteem will this cause the little ones? Kids spend all day watching Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, and all the Disney shows are now about sex."

But EloraZ said, "The reason that all opinions on this article are AGAINST is that CNN deletes the ones who say it's no big deal. I don't think the photos or the product are a big deal at all and it would never even cross my mind to see it in an inappropriate way. It's just a clothing magazine. My comment went missing after it was posted, though. I bet this one will too!"

carlbotha agreed, "What you see when you look at these photos is a reflection of your own mind. I just see beautiful kids, imprinting on their parents, in the process of becoming adults. I see the innocence and it is beautiful. There is NOTHING sexual about it."

KarlinT said, "If the girl (ahem) 'model' in the photos did not matter why not just use a mannequin? Oh right, because that would not be sexy enough to sell lingerie! How does someone sit down in a room full of people and say 'I want to take photos of 4-year olds in panties and put them on a website' and not end up in jail? And of course little girls are going to want to be sexy after seeing ads like this, only perpetuating them as targets for sexual predators. It's just plain wrong on so many levels."

sherylsplace said, "Kids should have a childhood. Little girls need to have a balanced understanding of their value, which is more than sexual. The other issue is safety. Little girls in grade school who give off sexual messages are definitely at greater risk for attracting predators."

lostinusa said, "The clothing itself is not bad. The outfits are cute, and little girls would love them. However, they need to show the children doing what kids do: running in the backyard, chasing each other with water balloons, playing in the dirt and kicking a ball around. They are adding adult undertones that are inappropriate at best and more than a little creepy. The butt shot in the ad is pure pedo. Who the hell let that in? Some sick puppies running that ad agency for sure."

SpartyMom71 said, "I would not buy from this company. I, too, am sick of designers trying to sexualize our daughters. Sadly they continue to make these designs based on people buying these items."

jdsmyrf3 said, "Really? Go to your local Kmart tomorrow and look in the little girls' section. There is NOTHING different between the two companies other than pricing."

Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I wonder why banasy.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ banasy:
    I could have told you that.
    I found that out when trying to post Julia Childs's final line. (French.)
    Surely you see why it's so obscene, don't you?

    August 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    No, I didn't post the I-wonder-why line.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    You don't do me well enough to carry on a conversation with banasy using my name.
    Tomorrow, maybe.
    Not today.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I didn't post the* Julia Child's* line. That was a troll.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. and on welfare

    He wasn't shy to accept charity. He was shy to the fact that he doesn't qualify for food stamps, which are graciously given based on household income, not personal income. About half of those who collect food stamps do so illegally, by lying on their application about how much money their household takes in.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I did too post the Julia Childs line.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill

    I seem to remember schick running the same kind of add with a white male years ago and using the word civilized in it after he cleaned up and nothing was made of it. Quit being so overly sensitive people.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ and on welfare:
    Pride is good.
    Not "shy:" he was too proud to apply for food stamps if he can possibly avoid it.
    I knew an American singer with a European career who was here in NYC without money. Somehow he was given emergency food stamps, but he was ashamed to use them and did not.
    All of this is tremendously sad.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. and on welfare

    FACT: If the state lottery were to accept food stamps as legal tender, lottery ticket sales would go up. Way up. If not for governmental controls taking-up where self-controls left-off, we would be in a world of hurt. Wait a minute, we are in a world of hurt. Obviously then, we need more, not less government controls over our lives. Go big-Gov! Rule US where we refuse to rule ourselves, pleeze.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. the prophet

    Admit or not white is pure....black is not I have known many colored apes and they always stabbed me in the back. This can only define this evolved species as untrustworthy.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©


    Yes, I know.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jon

    If he was making a career in Europe then he wasn't paying taxes here and shouldn't be receiving assistance from taxpayers like me. He should've gone back to Europe and begged for help there.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. s kel

    there are a lot of racist things, adds and people out there ie: bachman, perry, tea party, republican party in general, the punk white sob 19 yo that should die a painful death that ran his truck over that black man in mississippi, kkk, skin heads,and many others. But the shaving add?? No.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the prophet

    Colored species are still evolving from the friend up, and duct civil rights they are among us in society prematurely.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
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