What were they thinking?
Someone thought it was a good idea to use an advertising image by retailer H&M to show a Black child in a sweatshirt with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The ad sparked an outpouring of outrage from such celebrities as NBA star LeBron James, rapper Diddy and others.
Singer The Weeknd, who has a clothing line at the retailer, says he was “shocked and embarrassed” by the photo and that he would end his ties with the company.
The retailer has apologized and removed the image, but not before the ad was widely criticized on social media as being racist and inappropriate.
James posted a refreshed image showing the model wearing a crown. Diddy posted an image with a sweatshirt revised to read “Coolest king in the world.”
The Swedish-based company says it is sorry the image was taken.
It should also be noted that the mother of the young model in the H&M ad said she did not see the ad as racist.
Although the company has apologized and the mother doesn’t agree that the ad was racist the question is why retailers continue to make such bad decisions when it comes to Black images.
H&M is the latest example of companies bungling ads for Black consumers.
Last year Dove had to withdraw its advertisement after a Facebook advertisement for the company’s Deep Moisture bodywash struck some viewers as insensitive, even racist.
In the video, a Black woman removes her brown shirt and transforms into a white woman in a peach shirt, who then becomes a South Asian woman wearing tan. Critics accused the ad of treating dark skin as dirty and undesirable, an old cosmetics-advertising practice used to sell skin-lightening product. In response to the criticism, Dove withdrew the ad and apologized. The company said it “missed the mark. Pepsi used the same excuse to respond to critics of a commercial in which a white model, mends police-civilian tensions during a protest by handing a police officer a soda, which some view as trivializing African-American protests over police shootings.
These advertisements are offensive to a growing market in the American economy. A Nielsen report released last year documented African Americans’ growing spending power, which is projected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2021.
The problem is that even the most inclusive ads come from a white-dominated industry: where only 4.1 percent of advertising workers in the U.S. in 2016 were Black, though African Americans make up 13.3 percent of the population overall.
African-American-owned ad agencies and more inclusive ad agencies with African Americans in decision making positions would make a significant difference in helping to create more cultural sensitive advertising.