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. ENRON. Are you too young to 'member?

    If you ever wondered how ENRON got away with stealing your grandmother's retirement(other than SS stolen by the Pentagon) goto today's India protest blahg, and read what 'ENRON' has posted. ('ENRON' is in reality the well-known CNN blahger 'Philip'. A man who has travelled the world in search of oil, and has translated that search for oil into search for truth, and just for you. (you here lately, that is)

    August 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom


    August 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tim

    @Pink Panther: not really, I was pretty sure you were Pink Panther also, noticed several posts that made the same kind of comments. It's all good though, not dissing you for it I have used different names myself when people have started trolling me. Never Banasy though it was always one of my own.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tarah

    @s kel:
    Don't take the hateful comments to heart. You hit the nail on the head when you said it is IGNORANCE. Some of it is pure vitriol, I'm sure... but a lot of it is just ignorance.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mmmmm

    It is racism. Why the wheat man's and the wheat woman's unkept hair is commercially "s€x¥" while black unkept hair is commercially "uncivilized." There are well known best have worn the Afro: Jimmy Hendricks, Don King, Justin Timberlake, Richard Simmons, Paul Simmon...you WHITE GUY AFROs can come out of the closet anytime...I'm waiting...lol!

    August 19, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Affirmative Action Worked!

    Goto just 'bout any inner-city USA and see what empowerment has done for thos who had previously demonstrated a virulent lack of self-control. Don't go after midnight though. And keep in mind, fully 2% of America's urban inhabitants are now infected with AIDS, not counting gays. (source: our Center's for Disease Control. Our Nation's first-line of defense against epidemics. Yet, the CDC calls AIDS "pandemic". That's like an exponential epidemic, 'case you were wondering)

    August 19, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mmmmm

    It is what it is...nothing to debate about. Nivea realized its boardroom racism, retracted the ad, and apologized...they are hoping their money is still green with the consumer who really buys their products.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. joe

    @s kel: I'm curious about how you would know what the young ladies background is as it would be unethical for a prospective employer to tell people interviewing for a job what the other person's educational history and work back ground are? Not disputing what you say isn't true but how do you know the lady didn't have some other managerial experience that the company may have decided was more pertinent to the job than your wife's was. For instance if it's a retail business and the young woman had some management experience in retail and your wife didn't the of course they're going to go with the one with retail experience. Not saying that's the case just offering another possible reason for the decision they made is all.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. @Joey

    Explain then how it is that African countries rich in oil and diamonds starve, as those who birn their oil and wear their diamonds are obese. You have ignored this simple question many times in the past, including once, just now. Will you face it now?

    August 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    Lady's, my mistake.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. s kel

    thank you tarah

    August 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pink Panther

    @Tim. I wasn't dissing you either. You just seemed like a *little fun*to pick on. I am banasy and post under Pink Panther sometimes. But not all the time. I get so tired of those trolls. Don't you?

    August 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Leslie

    My real name is not Leslie. I've been posting here for half a year. I'm a 42 year old female. I want to go to bed with Joey I. Fraschini. I love Italian men. I can tell the real one from the fake one-usually. Is he married?

    August 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Hee-hee-hee is that Leslie Natural wittah
      7 1/2 shoe or LESLIE PRE-FAB innah size 12 shoe???

      August 19, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe

    BTW: it also may have had nothing at all to do with race, but age. With health care costs on the rise like never before I see most companies going with someone younger even if they are less qualified. And let's not deny the fact that looks has a lot to do with hiring too. I'd hazard a guess that a beautiful black young black girl will get hired over a slightly older housewife pretty much any day or vise versa. It may not be right but that's just the way it is. Hey don't feel bad though I'm just a middle aged average guy with a bad voice(both speaking and singing just to clarify) so my options in life never amounted to a hill of beans.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Leslie

    Joey if you are good looking not fat or bald and age 32-55 not married, we need to talk in private. I am a member of several web sites. Do you fit my profile?

    August 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Dang guyrl, yah done laid your tracks give the man a chance t'find dah trail...!

      August 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
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