Note from BW of Brazil: Anyone who has lived or visited Brazil for any extended period of time knows that in terms of advertising, companies generally follow trends from the United States. Brazil’s television airwaves, particularly cable TV channels, are dominated by American TV programs and films that are overdubbed or subtitled in Portuguese. Walking through major cities, one will note that on most days, probably 80-90% of the t-shirts that most Brazilians wear in which there is some saying or slogan on the front are written in English. Many store owners name their stores with English words as usage of English is seen as being more sophisticated, hip or exuding an aura of success.
Another standard that is equally noticeable that Brazil shares with the US is the domination of white skin used in media marketing images. The overwhelmingly white images in advertising that are so dominant in Brazil are perhaps more striking than in the US as Brazil’s population of African descent is much larger than that in the US. Again, it is a shocking display of contradictory ideologies as Brazil has for so long proclaimed itself to be proud of its long history of racial mixture that has produced such a wide array of phenotypes throughout the country. In other words, one would be hard pressed to find evidence of this “pride” in this mixture by analyzing the advertising industry.
Of course, this blog has long pointed this out, and even realizing the overwhelming whiteness of Brazil’s media, it’s still shocking to sometimes take a step back and analyze the numbers. Just one example. In walking through shopping malls, I always take note of the large, colorful ads of the cosmetics company O Boticário. While not taking account of its catalog or even really entering its store very often, I sometimes conclude that this store is perhaps one of the more racially diverse in its ads. I often see a black woman with cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) posing with one or two white women in the store’s promo photos. It could be a situation that as one rarely sees black women in Brazilian advertising, the eyes can be deceived (in terms of percentages) when a black woman does appear. The store’s strategy is more deceptive than, say, Riachuelo (recently accused of racism), which in one of its infamous ads, didn’t hide its allegiance to the “dictatorship of whiteness”. But, as it turns out, neither does O Boticário.
‘Black Friday’ in Brazil: If I don’t see myself, I don’t buy it!
by Blogueiras Negras
(Originally published on the Blogueiras Negras blog)
Black Friday, this is what the first Friday after the Thanksgiving Day (called “Ação de Graças” in Brazil) holiday in the United States is called. When the preparation for the Christmas festivities starts, the most popular campaign of offerings of the time is released. Low prices, discounts, promotions. Brazilian businesses have copied this sales model, and also began offering its “Black Friday” (1), summoning customers for a moment of sales that borders on collective catharsis. But the question remains, how black is this Friday?
Apparently Brazilian advertising considers that blacks are a commodity, not a potential consumer. They ignore the fact that black people prefer those who represent us. We are still in a moment of complete invisibility (2), a non-representation that obliges us to call for a boycott of brands that really want our money, but don’t represent us. This is the only way to make you understand that our absence in commercials serves for the naturalization of racism in that we are not shown exercising the most daily activities of life, such as using a nail polish or an electronic product.
Speaking specifically of black women, it’s as if we were not human enough to use nail polish, a pair of jeans, skin cream or the simplest of electronic products. We tried to remember an advertisement in which we are shown consuming a sanitary napkin for example. When we are shown, this motion is merely so that the quota of 100% destined to white people is not totally evident. We are talking about dehumanization through an invisibility that screams at the eyes.
Advertising apartheid to which we black people are subjected also denounces that we are not content in colleges and advertising agencies. Last year for example, in the Publicidade e Propaganda (Advertising) career, there was not a single black person among those who passed the exam at the University of São Paulo. The excuse is always the same – whoever advertises say they are only reproducing the portrait of a society that is not equitable, shrugging their shoulders at the fact that it also has a large, if not strategic, responsibility for the construction of this.
We Blogueiras Negras, did the teste do pescoço (neck test) and we researched* some brands to say: IF I DON’T SEE MYSELF, I DON’T BUY IT! We will say no to a diversity that doesn’t hold up, that is practical only in the fast talk of who does publicity but that still has the luxury of closing their eyes to the fact that we are the majority of the population. We need to overcome the model that we are still an exotic presence, which further highlights racism. It’s no use featuring one black girl in the picture in a blouse if a white princess appears in a blouse or you hire only a small percentage of black models to give a false impression of inclusion.
Our approach to the theme was simple, as we said before, we did a simple neck test. We chose some brands and counted the proportion of black women represented in relation to the numbers of white women on their fan pages (Facebook). It was evident that some brands, even those that appear to strive for diversity, are not so diverse. We call on all black people to keep these results in your mind throughout the year and especially now as the infamous Black Friday approaches. Shout with us to the four winds – IF I DON’T SEE MYSELF, I DON’T BUY IT!
Here is the result.
(Note from BW of Brazil: Below we see a number of stores broken down into clothing, toys, cosmetics, shoes and technology. In bold black is the name of the store. The numbers represent the total number of women and percentages of white and black women featured in the advertisements of each store on their Facebook pages).
* Data collected between November 24 and 25, 2014
Source: Blogueiras Negras
1. Just for sake of clarity, while Brazilians are familiar with the American Thanksgiving Day holiday and is even translated as “Ação de Graças”, it is not a holiday that is observed in Brazil. And even with Thanksgiving not being a holiday, this day of shopping for discounts is directly adapted from the US promotion and like other terms and phrases in English that are adapted into Brazilian culture, it is promoted untranslated as “Black Friday”.
2. This writer personally knows a number of Afro-Brazilians who work for small and large advertising companies. Over the course of several conversations, several of these contacts affirm experiences in which they completed ad drafts for clients but are then directly told by representatives of these companies to remove black faces from the drafts and replace them with white faces even if they are only in the background of the ad photos.