Swedish clothing giant H&M (Hennes & Mauritz AB) recently opened stores at Gateway and Galleria and advertised using a picture of a black child modelling a hooded jacket with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the jungle”.
The company has since apologised for the image and for offending customers.
“We, who work at H&M, can only agree - the image published was distasteful and hurtful to the broader public. This is about common sense. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering,” said H&M spokesperson Amelia-May Woudstra.
She said the company would thoroughly investigate the incident to prevent a similar mistake from reccurring.
Marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk said the main reason behind such advertising and marketing gaffes was that the people who created them were young.
He said they tended to be between 20 and 30 years old.
This age group, he said, did not consult media forums such as radio, television and newspapers to find out what was happening in the world around them.
“The people who develop campaigns are out of touch with what is socially acceptable,” he said.
Moerdyk also pointed out that, it was difficult to create an advertising campaign without offending anyone today.
However, he pointed out that companies did not test campaigns on sample populations any longer because of the costs involved. A lack of doing this could result in “incredibly stupid and offensive” adverts.
He said 20% of adverts internationally offended people and pushed them away from brands.
Another problem, he said, was that marketing directors no longer took their campaigns to the board of a company to be critiqued.
A lack of enthusiasm and interest from board members also played a role in there being insufficient checks and balances, he added.
This is the latest controversy involving a big brand’s advertising.
Canadian singer The Weeknd, real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, ditched H&M, the second biggest clothing retailer after Zara.
“(I) woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore,” he tweeted.
Last year, personal care and beauty brand Dove released a series of images that showed a black woman turning white after using its soap. The ad angered social media users, with people threatening to boycott the brand.
Nivea also came under fire last year for its advert, which appeared in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal.
It featured former Miss Nigeria Omowunmi Akinnifesi applying the lotion to her skin, which instantly turned lighter. She then said it made her feel younger.
Nivea acknowledged that the advert upset people, but did not apologise or recall the ad.
Nivea’s “Give a Damn” campaign for its face and body shave lotion also sparked controversy.
It pictured a short-haired black man tossing the head of a black man, his former self, with an afro and beard with the slogan “Re-Civilise Yourself”.
Nivea subsequently pulled the offensive advert and apologised.