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. and on welfare

    @it's mario.The earth currently produces about 5 times the food needed to sustain life. "Food shortages" are all artificial, and stem not from the lack of food, but the lack of fair and equal distribution. That's how it is possible for a country wealthy in oil and diamonds to be starving...while those who burn their oil and wear their diamonds struggle with obesity epidemics.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @and on welfare. I don't think fraud is that big of a crime. These VETS fought for their country. You know as well as I do that unless you are an officer,you don't get a fair wage. So you may want to re-examine your way of thinking. You are flawed and out of touch with our men and women in uniform. May God bless them.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gung hoe

    Lets talk racism shall we how about N A A C P or BLACK CONGRESSIONAL CAUCUS or B E T I think everybody can get the idea of what Im pointing out If there was a organization such as the naacp that was for white people the black community would come unglued and i would not blame them But every time racism is brought up its blacks getting a unfair advantage I would have been able to go to work for G M but couldnt get hired They had to hire 10 blacks to 1 white Now that my brother is RACISM

    August 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tim

    To help stop foreign threats from operating within our borders duh. How many times have you heard of the CIA ever investigating anything to do with domestic crime-never it's always the FBI or local law enforcement(hence why it's called the Federal Bureau of Investigation and not something else). The only domestic the CIA would investigate would be cases that may involve terrorism or cases of threats to the President or members of congress. Things that could be considered a threat to our sovereignty.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @and on welfare. 5 times? I think you make things up. People are dying of starvation in 3rd world countries and you post something like this? No it is not artificial. I take offense at that remark. People have died due to lack of food. Your post indicates to me that you know very little.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tim

    domestic crime, sorry.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    NOT JIF AT 8:21!

    August 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tim

    @and on welfare: your writing is very similar to Philip's-an understudy perhaps?

    August 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    NOT JIF AT 8:28!

    August 19, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pink Panther

    Tim,your writing is very much like banasy's.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I take offense at that troll. I am not dirt. Please use your own name. @and on welfare. Maybe since the federal government is more concerned with the well being of foreign countries,we the people should defraud the government more. I don't blame those VETS. It's only a way of getting what's owed to them.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. s kel

    dung hoe my wife, 21 yrs early ed, 13 yrs management early ed. Master degree early, works for private day care now because head start was cut back, she was laid off. applied along witn a non college degree younger white girl 2 yrs early ed experiance both applied for managment spot that required a degree. Well dung hoe, guess who got the job, my black wife or the white high school grad. It was the young WHITE NON DEGREE GRAD! Now dung hoe THATS RACIST!!

    August 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. s kel

    i expect any ,hateful stupid replys that wont mean a damn thing but show the persons hateful blind ignorance. bring it on.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    That was not me posting at 8:31 and 8:35. Troll I am curious. Why are you doing this? How many names do you steal? You are very immature.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tarah

    @gung hoe:
    Bet you also think that "black history month" is unfair because there's no "white history month," huh? - nevermind the fact is that EVERY month is white history month. As for affirmative action being the reason you didn't get a job at GM, sorry to hear that. President Johnson gave the best analogy in favor of it. If two men were running a race but one had his legs bound together in shackles, they couldn't achieve a fair result by simply removing the shackles. Instead, the man who had been in chains should be allowed to make up the missing yards from the time he was bound. There are flaws in the system but people deserve a fair shot.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
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