Racist Ads and Advertising Appeals

Advertising appeals aim to influence the way consumers view themselves and how buying certain products can prove to be beneficial for them. The message conveyed through advertising appeals influences the purchasing decisions of consumers – Ashwini Ambekar

A while ago I came across these two clips on Youtube. They are advertisements of the brands Nivea and Ponds in India, promoting Whitening Body Lotions.

When I first watched them, I remembered how when I was a child I desired to be blonde, white, and blue-eyed, just like my barbies, and it is clear to me today that TV (and barbies of course) had an important role in shaping this desire and my inadequacies with my skin and facial features. Many, if not most TV shows I watched in Mexico featured blonde, thin, blue-eye celebrities. Now, here are two examples of advertisements that appeal to this type of desires and inadequacies.

I find it a very good exercise to identify advertising appeals when I react to an ad, as it can help me look at points within myself that I haven’t seen, that I have forgotten or that I rarely consider. Also, it can help anyone develop critical thinking and analytical skills, and start interesting conversations.

So, the most prominent appeals I identified in these adds are:

Less than Perfect Appeal: Advertisements often try to influence people to make certain purchases by pointing out their inadequacies or making them feel less perfect and more dissatisfied with their present condition. These types of advertising appeals are used in cosmetic and health industries.

Romance Appeal: These advertisements display the attraction between the sexes. The appeal is used to signify that buying certain products will have a positive impact on the opposite sex and improve your romantic or love life. Fragances, automobiles and other products use these types of advertising appeals.

Here is a complete list of the major ad appeals:

I share with you a short analysis that I wrote for one of my classes on the first ad:

Nivea Whitening Cell Repair Lotion – India


The advertisement that will be analyzed in this paper was broadcasted in India. Its sender is Nivea, a worldwide known cosmetic company. The 35-second video displays an Indian couple of high status in a boutique, where the girl tries various dress outfits and looks for her boyfriend’s approval, who seems dissatisfied with his partner’s appearance every time she changes of dress. Finally, she wears a bareback dress that shows her new radiant, fair skin, to which her boyfriend reacts with surprise, enchantment, and delight. The ad then shows the product “Nivea Whitening Cell Repair Lotion” and the simulation of how it works on the skin by clearing it. Finally, the couple is together, the guy holds the girl in his arms, and they are both very happy.

Many appeals apply to this ad, at an individual level it aims to reach young females in particular with the emotional, personal, and fear appeals, because it affects women’s self-esteem in relation to their skin color, especially if it already makes them feel inadequate. The ad instills a desire for love, joy, pleasure, and romanticism, while at the same time making women feel insecure and afraid of not being accepted by men and thus not being successful in relationships. The goal of this ad is to make women buy this cream under the belief that they will be more attractive to men and/or will improve their partner’s satisfaction in their current relationship (romance appeal). Within this, this ad applies “the masculine/feminine appeal” by characterizing what a “perfect” or “better” woman looks like, which is one with a fairer skin. And therefore, by suggesting that white skin is “feminine and perfect” this ad also applies “the less than perfect appeal”, because it plays with the inadequacies and dissatisfaction that many Indian girls and women might have in relation to their skin, as most of the population in the country is dark-skinned. The “social and snob appeal” are also applied to this ad because the sender wants the spectator (mostly women) to believe that by buying this lotion, she will get more recognition, respect, acceptance and approval from men, and that she will be desired, envied, and seen as elegant by society. Another appeal that isn’t very evident but can also apply to this ad is “the music appeal”, which creates a romantic ambiance and makes the spectator link the romantic music to the product.

Individually, the man and the woman that appear in the advertisement are two famous celebrities in India, therefore, the company makes use of the “celebrity endorsement technique” to make their product more attractive to the public. It is important to note that both celebrities are Indian, but aren’t as dark as the average Indian person, which makes it easier for them to attain “the ideal skin color” if they use whitening products. Besides shopping in a very luxurious boutique, the kind of clothes they wear and their very well done type of hairstyles makes them look as a wealthy “American style couple”, which appeals to “the American dream” which many people in India seek to achieve.

Another interesting aspect to note is how the advertisement uses a “scientific tone” as it states that the cream is 40 times more effective because it has 40 times more vitamin C in its ingredients, a very questionable statement as we don’t know exactly what they are comparing their lotion to. And also, calling the lotion “cell repair lotion” instead of for example “skin repair lotion”, makes it sound more scientific as it makes reference to the biological structure of the skin.

  • This ad suggests that one’s skin color increases the possibilities of being accepted and loved by someone.
  • This ad sends its spectators the message that love is superficial, that a couple’s intimacy and happiness are achieved only when both are satisfied with each other’s appearance.
  • This ad also suggests that a woman should feel inadequate and unhappy when she does not have her boyfriend’s approval and when her skin doesn’t fit the standards of what is beautiful and attractive, and therefore, having a dark skin means having less possibilities of being loved and less reasons to love oneself. It is interesting to note how the woman’s expressions and poses, which are very delicate, feminine, and pliant, contribute to making her seem “needy” for approval.

All in all, I consider this advertisement to be racist. According to an online dictionary, racism is defined as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.” This ad fits with this definition. Indeed, it promotes the idea that having a fair skin will make one gain more self-confidence and will make one more successful in relationships. It appeals to people’s desire to be white by portraying it as a superior quality that any person could have if they use their lotion, and this lotion will hide an “inferior quality” of the person, which is his/her dark skin.

Interestingly, if one looks at how Nivea’s campaigns on beauty in the western world, we might find them to be bitterly cynical as they often use clichés like “real beauty comes from the inside”, while in other countries they are actually spreading the opposite message.


Nature Deficit Disorder & Allergies

In this video I talk about an article that I read lately. It is an interview to Richard Louv, the author of “Last Child in the Woods” (2005), in which he presents his hypothesis called “Nature Deficit Disorder”. I relate this hypothesis to the Allergy-epidemic that I have seen increasing in the last years in Canada.

Interview with Richard Louv: