If you thought Dove’s marketing campaigns were the lowest of the low, think again. This week, a Brazilian toilet paper brand has bagged the prize for the stupidest advertisement.
Santher, a manufacturing company based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which produces toilet paper among other things, is being accused of acute racism for its slogan “Black is Beautiful.”
The company released a Personal VIP Black toilet paper ad featuring Brazilian actress Marina Ruy Barbosa — who is a white-skinned, green-eyed and a redhead — wrapped up in nothing but swaths of the dark-colored paper.
But what really rankles is the fact the tone-deaf company used the slogan “Black is beautiful,” which was the hallmark of a cultural movement by blacks for their representation and rights.
The movement of the 1960s and ‘70s was defined by the rise of black rights activists like Angela Davis, Steve Biko, Stokely Carmichael and groups like the Black Panthers.
The goal of the grassroots black pride movement was to drive out the notion the natural features of people of African descent — their nose size, skin color and hair texture — were not beautiful. It encouraged men and women to stop straightening their hair and bleaching their skin. As a result of the movement, black people began demanding visual representations of themselves and their culture in marketing and mainstream media.
Naturally, the advertisement sparked outrage, with the loudest disapproval from the Afro-Brazilian community.
“People died for this expression to be revered to this day,” Brazilian writer Anderson França wrote on Facebook. “People are still dying and this expression is more important and vital than ever before. But in Brazil, if you type #blackisbeautiful you will find butt paper.”
“They are literally taking a s*** to us,” said black activist Daniela Gomes. “To use this slogan to talk about toilet paper is literally saying to our face that they are s***ing on us, our fight against racism and our fight to improve our self-esteem.”
In Brazil an advertisement decided to use the motto "Black is beautiful" to sell toilet paper. they are literally taking a shit to us— Daniela Gomes (@danielagomesjor) October 23, 2017
2017. They knew what they were doing. Regrets and excuses are meaningless. https://t.co/nCFpDVsKTB— Iris (@bellyofthesun) October 24, 2017
Raquel Barreto, a doctoral student who is studying the history of the Black Panther Party believes the marketing executives at Santhers knew exactly what they were doing when they used the “black is beautiful” slogan to market toilet paper.
“They are playing with it because they know the meaning. They felt they could play with it and not have big consequences,” she said.
The representation of a white woman wrapped in black tissue paper also conjures disturbing images of slavery.
Santher and Neogama, the advertising agency responsible for the ad, apologized for the offense and removed the slogan from their campaign, claiming they did not intend “a racial dispute.”
However, the slogan coupled with the imagery was so blatantly offensive, how could it not be intentional?
African-American marketing executive Denitria Lewis said she was shocked it passed the reviewing process.
“It seems very ill thought-out,” she said. “They also shouldn’t have used the phrase because it is about the reclamation of our unique beauty despite society’s constant diminishing. They are juxtaposing black beauty with bodily waste.”
However, this controversy is only the latest in a string of shameless racist ads in Brazil.
Although over 50 percent of Brazil’s population identifies as black or mixed race, there is hardly any representation of them by advertising agencies. A Brazilian advertising agency, ironically named “Africa,” features dozens of its staff in its banner photo of its Facebook page. Only one woman looks non-white.
Banner/Thumbnail credits: Pixabay, kropekk_pl