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Five adverts that stirred racial tension under spotlight in SAHRC inquiry

05 September 202

The inquiry into racism and discrimination in the advertising industry by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) continues this week.

Here are five advertisements that have sparked public outrage and formal complaints in recent years:

TREsemme hair care

Around September 2020, Clicks published a TREsemme SA advert on its website which depicted black women’s hair as dull and damaged, alongside pictures of white women’s hair marked “normal” and “flat and fine”.

The pharmacy chain had to close shop for several days after protests flared across the country and TREsemme products were removed from their shelves.

Chicken Licken Big John burger

Towards the end of 2018, Chicken Licken published what was known as the Big John burger ad. The advertisement was criticised for making light of the colonisation of the land and people of Africa by Europeans.

H&M ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie

In early 2018, H&M published an online advert featuring a black boy wearing a hoodie with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle”. It was removed after widespread anger from customers‚ the public and the company’s employees.


Skincare brand Nivea came under fire in 2017 for an advert that aired in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. The advert featured former Miss Nigeria Omowunmi Akinnifesi, who applied a body lotion to instantly turn her skin lighter.

The company withdrew the advert for Natural Fairness lotions after it was criticised for perpetuating colourism among black women.

Feed a Child hunger awareness using a dog

In July 2014, Feed a Child, in an attempt to raise awareness about starving children, published a triggering television advert in which a seemingly rich white woman feeds a black child as if the child was her dog.

The tagline read: “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children.”

While shock was the intended reaction, the advert also invoked racial stereotypes and involved likening the condition of African children to pets.


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