Protesters outraged by ‘racist’ Tresemmé advert posted on retail website Clicks

By Becky Bargh 8-Sep-2020

Consumers in South Africa have hit out at the retailer, which posted an advert of the Unilever-owned brand’s advert showing ‘racist stereotypes’ of African hair

Protesters have hit out at South African beauty retailer Clicks over a ‘racist’ Tresemmé advert posted on its website.

The marketing campaign issued by the Unilever-owned brand’s South African team shows a white woman with blonde straight hair captioned ‘normal hair’, compared with a black woman’s afro hair labelled ‘frizzy and dull hair’.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party led protests outside a number of Clicks stores, including chaining shop doors shut.

Twitter hashtags have also been been deployed by the group including #clicksmustfall and #shutdownclicks.

Prior to protesting, the EFF took to Twitter to express its disappointment over the advert.

The statement read: “The Economic Freedom Fighters notes the disgusting racist advert put out by pharmaceutical outlet Clicks, which displays the hair of Black women as inferior to that of white women.

“It is inexplicable that this imagery can be portrayed, one which reinforces the racist narrative of the abnormality of blackness as opposed to whiteness as standard.”

It continued: “Anti-black racism through the use of the politics of hair has been a benchmark of discrimination against black people across society and through oppressive histories.

“The transgression that Clicks has made goes far beyond a simple advert, rather, it represents a cornerstone of anti-black racism which manifests itself through the disregarding of black identity.”

The group also said Clicks had committed a human rights violation by displaying the advert.

However, the Democratic Alliance political party has countered the EFF’s move and laid charges against the EFF and its President, Julius Malema, for “petrol bombing, burning and destroying” Click’s stores.

One video posted on Twitter by a consumer in Queenstown recorded protestors vandalising the inside of a Clicks store.

Tresemmé apologises

Since the EFF issued its statement, Clicks has recalled the advert, while Tresemmé and its parent company Unilever have issued apology statements.

Tresemmé wrote: “We are very sorry that images used by a Tresemmé South African marketing campaign on the Clicks website appears to promote racist sterotypes about hair.

“Our campaign set out to celebrate the beauty of all hair types and the range of solutions Tresemmé offers but we got it wrong.”

Clicks also posted a statement from its CEO Vikesh Ramsunder: “As Group CEO of Clicks, I am deeply disappointed that we allowed insensitive and offensive images to be published on our website.

“I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and anger these images have caused.”

Beauty’s chequered past

Beauty brands have been at the centre of a number of ‘racist’ campaigns in recent years.

Dove, another Unilever-owned brand, issued an apology in 2017 for a video clip that promoted its body wash product featuring a black woman transforming into a white woman.

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Meanwhile, Dior was accused of cultural appropriation and racism last year after starring a Native American in its Sauvage fragrance campaign alongside long-standing frontman Johnny Depp.