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Recent Examples of Racist Products and Advertising

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One might think that people working in marketing, advertising and design would have a stronger sense of what may and may not come across as racist to different groups of people than what has been seen in previous decades. Especially for big brands who have to go through many, many steps to get any campaigns and designs approved. Here are some particularly tone-deaf examples that somehow made it all the way into the public eye recently.

Heineken’s “Lighter is Better” Ad (USA, 2018)

screenshot from the ad

Heineken was in hot water in 2018  with a beer ad that was accused of racism (source).It featured a bartender sliding a drink past 3 dark-skinned patrons to a lighter-skinned customer with a tagline “lighter is better”. 

The purpose? Marketing low-carb or low-calorie beer. This is always a confusing thing for Australians to see come out of America as we call “light beers” those with low alcohol content. 

The public did not respond well to this campaign, as using the colour of people’s skin to demonstrate any kind of positivity or negativity can be damaging and offensive to different racial groups.

And while it did get Heineken many views, this probably wasn’t the best tactic for obtaining goodwill from the public. 

Target’s “Baby Daddy” Cards (USA, 2018)

Father’s day is a good day to celebrate. That is unless you’re an African American receiving a “Baby Daddy” gift card from the American Target retailer in 2018. 

Target in America only stocked one father’s day card featuring African American depictions of fatherhood.  (source).

Thankfully, the store did apologize, removing the card from 900 of its branches.

Burger King’s “Vietnamese Burger” Ad (New Zealand, 2019)

white guy eating a burger with chopsticks

A Instagram commercial for Burger King’s new Vietnamese burger did not go down well with the local Vietnamese community in New Zealand. It featured two Westerners eating the limited edition burger with oversized novelty chopsticks. The caption for the ad read “Take your tastebuds all the way to Ho Chi Minh City with our Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp, part of our Tastes of the World range. Available for a limited time only”.  Naturally, Burger King removed the Instagram ad and cancelled it for television after the public outcry. (source).

What do you think?

Written by Keith Nallawalla

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