One of these brands made a poster of a newborn baby covered in blood to sell clothes.
The social media backlash has been heavy and notable celebrities and partners such as American musicians, The Weeknd and G-Eazy have expressed their disappointment and ended their relationships with the brand.
H&M has issued a public apology and pulled the sweater from their list of product offerings. Although the mother of the Kenyan model in the hand has said she does not believe the ad was racist.
Regardless, H&M is not the first major brand to court controversy of an ad that was interpreted as insensitive.
Here are seven brands and their controversial ads.
The Unilever-owned personal care brand was roasted on social media in October of 2017 after it posted an ad that was deemed as racist and unfair to women of colour.
The ad was part of the brand’s Facebook campaign and included a series of photos that purported to show women getting clean.
In one of the photos, a black woman is seen taking off a shirt representing her skin with the help of Dove and transforming into a white woman.
In response, Dove tweeted that it regretted “missing the mark in representing women of colour” and “the offence it caused”.
Next stop is China. This absurd ad from the Chinese detergent brand was made in March 2016. It showed a black man being shoved into a washing machine by a Chinese woman.
The man is then laundered, apparently Qiaobi detergent, into a light-skinned, young Chinese man.
The tone was made worse by the tagline which says “Change, it all starts with Qiaobi Detergent”. Needless to say, the ad was criticized on social media.
With many drawing attention to the fact that Chinese social media campaigns still rely on old, mostly insensitive methods.
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Qiaobi Detergent’s parent company, Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Ltd apologised soon after, accepting the blame but also adding that “We sincerely hope the public and the media will not over-read it”
Early in 2017, beauty and skincare brand, Nivea posted an ad for its deodorant line with the questionable jibe, “White is Purity”. The ad went on to read, “Keep it clean, Keep it bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #invisible”.
The obvious potential for social media outrage was not fully realized.
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Not long after it came to public attention, Beiersdorf, Nivea’s parent company, removed the ad claiming, “That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologise for that”.
British supermodel Naomi Campbell is one of the most easily recognisable women of colour in the world, which is probably why Cadbury thought it was a good idea to make an ad comparing her to a bar of chocolate.
In 2011, the chocolate brand ran the advert with a headline which said “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town". The diva in question was a Dairy Milk Bliss candy bar.
“It is upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me but for all black women and black people”, Naomi Campbell responded, “I do not find any humour in this. It is insulting and hurtful”
Cadbury apologized for the ad.
It was “not our intention that this campaign should offend Naomi, her family or anybody else”, the apology read.
If any brand is known for its controversial advertising, it has to be Benetton. Among its many sins, it ran an ad that depicted then-US President Barack Obama bending over to kiss former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
You will have to go back to 1991 to see another more insensitive ad where a poster of a newborn baby covered in blood led to protests in Italy.
There's also a 1989 poster which featured a black womna breastfeeding a white baby.
Despite the backlash, Benetton has not toned down the shock value in its ads.
Yea. Sometimes, even Sony’s Playstation does not understand when it’s time to stop playing games.
In 2006, when Sony was advertising its all-new Playstation Portable (PSP) console in different colours, it used a poster featuring two women.
A white woman with a combative expression held the face of a black woman. Sony purported to use the comparison to highlight the contrast between the two colours but the ad was deemed racist.
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After much outrage, the ad was pulled. Sony also issued an apology, saying, “We recognise that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising”.
Since they were first introduced to the market in 2004, e-cigarettes have steadily grown into a big market of their own. One of the more popular brands, Nicofresh created a controversial campaign in 2014.
In the ad, a young black man is seen embracing an older white woman with the tagline, “No tobacco. No Taboo.”
The ad was seen as racist because it purportedly depicted mixed-race relationships and those with a big age gap as unhealthy.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned the ad, although posters were spread around Belfast in Northern Island.
Nicofresh said in a statement at the time that the ad conveyed an “entirely positive” message.