Company issues second apology over controversial skin-whitening product ads

April 15, 2019 - 2:56 PM
Woman applying cream
Woman applying a product on her hand. (Creative Commons/Stock photo)

A skin-whitening brand has issued an official statement about its controversial advertisements that have earned the ire of social media, including local celebrities and Gabriela Women’s Party.

Glutamax said in a Facebook post that it acknowledges how “skin is never a skin-deep issue” and that it offers its “sincerest apologies” to those offended about the advertisements.

However, the company has released a different statement that has been deleted from their social media account several hours before the latest one was posted.

It was screen captured by Gabriela and other social media users who denounced how the company had defended its campaigns.

The women’s party in its previous tweets noted that the ads capitalized on women’s “insecurities” in a supposed bid to make its skin whitening products “more profitable.”

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Social media users also voiced out similar sentiments and claimed that the company’s deleted statement “maintained and perpetuated” the thinking that having fair skin is supposedly better.

Controversial ads

It all started when pictures of the company’s billboard advertisements along EDSA went viral. It presented scenarios of women who are supposedly treated differently if they are not fair-skinned.

The ads were accompanied by a now-deleted post on the company’s social media account where it claimed that having a fair skin is an “advantage” in commuting.

It also cited a survey from a consumer insights company that claimed “3 in 5 Filipinos believe that people with fairer skin receive better treatment from others.”

The ads — both the billboards and on social media — were heavily criticized by various sectors. Local celebrities with morena skin tone also chimed in and shared their two cents.

Bianca Gonzalez observed that whitening brands would always make it appear as if people with dark skin are supposed to be pitied.

Chai Fonacier, another actress, condemned the advertisement and said that she is still in the showbiz industry despite being brown-skinned.

Supposed violation of ad policies 

Ed Lorenzo, a Facebook user who claims to be a former employee of the company under its marketing department, shared in a post that he was “completely ashamed” of its current advertisements.

He tagged someone in the comments section of his post who is a member of the Ad Standards Council (ASC), an organization in charge of screening and regulating advertising materials content across all mediums.

Adie Pena, a professional screener at the organization, shared that the advertisement of the company has been “disapproved” several times.

He quoted ASC executive director Digna Dator Santos’ statement, who said:

“Unfortunately, the client and agency decided to still post/display the ad despite the disapproval which is a gross violation of ASC rules. The matter will be referred to the ASC Technical Committee for appropriate action.”

ASC generally follows two codes in approving advertising materials. It has its own “ASC Advertising Code of Ethics” and the “ASC Manual of Procedures.”

Although it did not disclose how it specifically “disapproved” the company’s advertisement, it shared on its website how it gets such a decision.

A “disapproved” rating is “given to a material containing copy, claim, visual or elements that are clearly violative of ASC Standards of Advertising,” it stated.

It did not, however, give any specific provisions of the mentioned code.

“The material is therefore denied permission to proceed to production, unless the violative elements are addressed by the Advertiser/Ad Agency,” the website continued.

The company in question is given the chance to “revise” the material or “request for the same material to be elevated to a Screening Panel” for further review.