When L’Oréal went beyond the pale

115The quality of subbing in our national newspapers these days! Imagine my interest when I read in The Times ‘L’Oréal found guilty of racism in shampoo ads’. Was this a re-run of that shameless ploy at Ogilvy & Mather all those years ago, when they  ‘glocalised’ a Ford print ad for the Polish market by whiting out all the black employees’ faces?

In fact, L’Oreal had done no such thing. What had actually happened – according to the body copy below the headline – was that a L’Oréal subsidiary, Garnier, had been found guilty in France’s highest court of fielding a white-only female team to sell its Fructis shampoo into French supermarkets. Despite the company’s feeble defence that Black, Asian and Arab women would be less able to articulate the product advantages, L’Oréal seems to believe France is a (not very latently) white supremacist society.

By way of postscript, the guilty sub was on to something – if only subliminally. Because L’Oréal does have form in manipulating its ads. Last year, it had to furiously back-pedal after being accused of tampering with Beyoncé Knowles’ skin tone to make her look paler for a Feria hair highlighting ad appearing in Elle’s US edition.

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