Race, the big issue

Did the discrimination of race change in the advertising industry?  This discussion looks at  how during the period of ‘High Imperialism’ there was a notable racial difference between the European powers for the control of Africa whilst in our days it seems to be as if new messages have been sent through out campaigns in order to break down this ideal of inferiority within races.

In the 19th century, the images shown of black people in advertising were only associations of them being portrayed as slaves (Graca da Silva, 2012).Their inferiority was shown majorly when talking about hygiene where it was stated that “white was associated wit light cleanliness and purity, whilst black evokes darkness, dirt and evil.”(Bolaffi, 2003). The faces of black people appeared to show the difference in contrast of skin color from black to white. This is clearly shown in Pears Soap advertisement. According to Image one, it is clear to notice that the white boy is assuming a posture of superiority towards the black boy as if he is teaching that through Pierce he will learn how to become white and pure. This reinforces the idea that being black was “negative” (BBC News, N.D.). Moreover the calm expression of the white boy suggests that “he is elegant and of a higher class” (Visual Culture Blog, 2016) unlike the black boy that has a smile on his face. The discrimination towards black people was a big issue, individuals did not have rights and were never considered. Luckily things started to change.

Thanks to the brand Benetton, Oliviero Toscani wanted to spread awareness by introducing a “new language” (Gentili, 2015). This would have changed the perception of society talking about race, starting by the fact that the brand would have been spread internationally and be seen as United. The promotional campaigns would have touched delicate themes such as race. In fact, Luciano Benetton explained that their purpose through advertising was: “we did not create our advertisements in order to provoke, but to make people talk, to develop citizen consciousness,” (Blickwink, 2012). This is clearly shown in image 2, with an advert from 1991 which gives a powerful message to the audience about unity. The image is showing three different races under a single blanket which symbolizes union and gives a sense of reassurance and family. This advert has a powerful impact to the audience as the difference in skin color is combined through the gesture of the elders having their hands clasped together. The black arm is over the white one. This may be interpreted as a symbol of purity and mutuality between races. Everyone is portrayed as being the same, under the same sheet and holding tightly together.

The idea of superiority and inferiority seems to be changing and thanks to advertising the messages that adverts are sending are really powerful. There have been notable changes from the 19th century to the 21st where the advertising industry is managing to change the perception of society into a unite world.


Image one

Source : https://www.google.it/searchq=pears+soap+advertisement&espv=2&biw=1164&bih=592&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2g5zcsYrMAhXKDSwKHZXSBKkQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=mylMnkJ46cB9DM%3A


Image two

 Source : https://www.google.it/search?q=united+colours+of+benetton+blanket&espv=2&biw=1164&bih=592&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0_5uk3ZrMAhWIPxQKHZ-aBrkQ_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=united+colours+of+benetton+ad&imgrc=qlmgNY-XOY69dM%3A 




BBC News (N.D.). Black Representation in Advertising. BBC News. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/02/uk_black_representation_in_advertising/html/3.stm [Accessed 3 April 2016].

Blickwink (2012). 10 Most Controversial United Colors of Benetton Ads. Alistgator. Available from: http://www.alistgator.com/top-ten-controversial-united-colors-of-benetton-ads/ [Accessed 4 April 2016].

Bolaffi, G. (2003). Dictionary of Race, Ethnicity and Culture. London: SAGE Publications.

Gentili, A. (2015). “Behind” the Colors of Benetton: the reasons of Benetton’s controversial success. Riflessi Storici. Available from: https://riflessistorici.com/2015/09/01/behind-the-colors-of-benetton-the-reasons-of-benettons-controversial-success/ [Accessed 4 April 2016].

Graca da Silva, S. (2012). (Dis)Entangling Darwin: Cross-disciplinary Reflections on the Man and His Legacy. Cambridge: Scholar Publishing.

Visual Culture Blog (2015). Pears’ Soap Advertisement Analysis. Visual Culture Blog. Available from: https://thefutureisvisual.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/pears-soap-advertisement-analysis/ [Accessed 4 April 2016].






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