Nivea parent Beiersdorf AG responds to allegations of homophobia

Nivea’s parent company, Beiersdorf AG, has broken its silence in the wake of reports that FCB will resign the skincare brand account following an alleged homophobic incident involving a member of its client team.

In a statement published by Ad Age and Campaign, Beiersdorf did not directly address the homophobia allegation but said this is “the right time for a new beginning in Nivea’s brand management and creative work.”

The statement acknowledged the more than 100-year history between Nivea and FCB, noting that a decision was made at the beginning of the year to review it’s “current agency model.”

“Following the launch of our new corporate strategy C.A.R.E.+, this is now the right time also for a new beginning in Nivea’s brand management and creative work,” the statement continued.

Announced in February, C.A.R.E. is a multi-year investment program aimed at opening new markets, innovations, digitalization and workforce up-skilling. The company said it hopes to achieve growth of 4% to 6% in its consumer business segment (which had €5.9 billion in sales in 2018).

The statement also acknowledged “isolated, controversial Nivea communications over the years,” but said that it used consumer feedback as motivation to “learn, adapt and further improve,” its brand marketing.

Most of those controversies have revolved around ads with decidedly racist messaging, including a 2011 ad featuring a clean cut black man carrying a decapitated head with a shaggy head of hair and beard (presumably intended to represent him before discovering Nivea’s men’s products) accompanied by the words “re-civilize yourself.”

Six years later, the company again came under fire for an ad promoting its Natural Fairness Body Lotion that ran in the Middle East. The ad featured an image of a white woman in a bathrobe, accompanied by the headline “White is purity.”

“We are an international company with more than 20,000 employees with very different genders, ethnicities, orientations, backgrounds and personalities worldwide,” said the statement. “Through our products, we touch millions of consumers around the globe every day. We know and cherish that individuality and diversity in all regards brings inspiration and creativity to our society and to us as a company. No form of discrimination, direct and indirect, is tolerated.”

The controversy arose earlier this week, when Ad Age reported that FCB will resign the Nivea assignment at the end of the year. The decision reportedly stemmed from an incident involving the client team and FCB’s creative team. According to reports, a member of the brand team rejected an image featuring two men’s hands touching, telling the FCB creative team, one of whom is gay, that “Nivea doesn’t do gay.” FCB has declined comment.

Chris Powell