Troubled agency DraftFCB finds itself in the soup again over ‘racist’ Nivea ad

Nivea has used its Facebook page to apologise for an ad in Esquire for Nivea for Men featuring the line ‘Look Like You Give a Damn. Re-civilize Yourself.’

The trouble is the ad shows a black guy holding what looks like the severed head of some hairy cannibal. But with a line like that it would have been trouble anyway.

DraftFCB’s new creative director Todd Tilford from Grey New York finally moved into the Chicago agency last week, to be greeted by the wholly unwelcome news that its biggest client SC Johnson was departing after nearly 60 years for the greener pastures of Ogilvy & Mather and Energy BBDO.

Now he finds that someone or other has committed about the most serious howler in the book for one of the agency’s clients which did seem to be impressed with the agency. Owner Beiersdorf only moved the $700m global Nivea account from TBWA to Interpublic-owned DraftFCB last November.

Of course these things are never the fault of just one or two people; some creative officer would have seen it, the account team would have seen it, the client would probably have had a look or 12 as would Esquire.

But it’ll be the agency who carries the can.

DraftFCB could hardly cope with a major Nivea ruction after losing SC Johnson and also a big chunk of Kraft business last year.

The agency is already in the process of making around 250 redundancies and even closing some overseas offices in the wake of the SC Johnson loss and there’s even talk of rebranding as plain old Draft now that Johnson has departed. Johnson was an FCB client before the merger with Draft in 2006.

As for the unfortunate Tilford at least he has a fairly clean sheet of paper to work on as he contemplates a long Chicago winter. Unless he ends up fire-fighting on Nivea of course.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.