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We’ve written in Reach Hispanic recently about poorly-executed marketing efforts towards Latinas. Summer’s Eve decided to target Latinas and failed, which I wrote was a result of a lack of women and minorities in the decision-making room. Well, another ad agency has found itself apologizing for an ad that struck some as insensitive. Nivea released an ad portraying a black man removing a mask; he is cleanly shaven with a bald head, while the mask has long, wiry hair. The text reads, Look like you give a damn. Re-Civilize Yourself.
For me, this ad is yet another example of the cluelessness of some agency types. The implication is that the black man is uncivilized; given the history of portrayals of black men as uncivilized and wild, the ad is jarring, to say the least. What was more puzzling to me was the outcry by Por Colombia in response to the new action movie, Colombiana. The advocacy organization is upset that the film shows Colombia in a bad light, as a crime-infested place where violence is the norm. Yet I am pleased that Hollywood is making an action movie with a woman of color in the lead role, and a Latina, no less. Zoe Saldana is playing a fierce woman, not the girlfriend or wife. This revenge movie takes place in Hong Kong, London, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and elsewhere.
The two controversies outlined above illustrate just how hard it is to portray Hispanics in a way that won’t offend or upset. Showing models of color in marketing campaigns and making star vehicles for Latina actresses is a step in the right direction; all that’s needed now is the right creative direction.