How a Racist Ad Ruined TRESemmé South Africa’s Reputation

South African retailers have been pulling popular hair care company TRESemmé’s hair products from their shelves in light of a problematic print advertisement released by popular drugstore chain Clicks.

The ad, first released in the beginning of September, describes natural Black African hair as “frizzy & dull” and “dry & damaged”, while images next to two white women and their dressed up tresses are described as “fine & flat” as well as, “normal”.

South African consumers immediately took to social media to voice concerns and horror over the irresponsible move, even going on to start the hashtag #BoyCottClicks in response to the store and company’s apologies. Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi blasted the company with a fiery tweet saying, ” Not only is this disrespectful to black lives, it is also evidence of an absence of representation and diversity within the organization. And we are talking about a South Africa with a population of about 80% black people (stand to be corrected). No ways.”

Then, continuing the theme of reckless moves, Clicks CEO Vikesh Ramsunder went on to say that they had fired four junior staff members who were responsible for the ad. Naturally, social media users argued that junior staff are very rarely given the final approval or say on advertisements, with the beauty and drugstore giant responding by dropping the TRESemme brand from their stores and a senior executive stepping down, and promising a disciplinary hearing for any staff involved in the ad.

South Africa’s self proclaimed watch dogs, political party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), immediately jumped into action with the release of a statement condemning both Clicks’ negligence and TRESemme South Africa for their act of overt racism. EFF members and supporters took to the streets to physically protest outside of various Clicks stores across the country, with EFF leader Julius Malema taking to twitter to thank those who did, “Fighters & Commissars, we must extend revolutionary gratitudes for your fearless, selfless & disciplined defeat of #ClicksRacism. The doomsayers have swallowed their fork tongues in utter disappointment. Be proud of all your effort to restore the dignity of a black child. Salute!”

Protests were called off once conversations between the EFF and TRESemme owning organisation Unilever came to an agreement, as seen in the above statement.

While many South Africans were angry and deeply offended by the ad, some choose to see the humor, while others thought more racism was the missing ingredient in an already burnt and foul-smelling pot.

On the other side of the advert, some South Africans said the negative feedback from the advert was ‘dramatic’, while they had their fun with comments such as, “So Clicks said monkeys have dry and damaged hair? Clicks leave the poor monkeys alone!” by one FaceBook user.

Many opinions and takes have been made regarding the issue, but one that Twitter users are sharing speaks about knowing the privilege that comes with being white and listening when someone says they are offended.

Watch the full video here.