Sunday 8 August 2010

The Business Of Skin Whitening In Asia

I've been talking about this for so long that the only thing that really interests me is why anybody in marketing and advertising who would want me do for some work with them, might not have googled my name and Unilever + Skin whitening

In any case it's still worth making a quick summary because money doesn't come first in my universe. Skin whitening creams in Asia are broadly speaking about hierarchy. The whiter the skin the less likely you are to be fresh from the rice paddies. The less likely you come from the rice paddy, the more likely you are to be hired, promoted, secure a Blu Ray DVD player, iTablet, BMW 3 series and/or shiny white teeth.

Though it strikes me that for someone who argues a woman is entitled to make her own decisions about abortion that the final decision on what colour one wishes to be is down to that person. So I'm not anti skin whitening.

They say that holding opposite and conflicting thoughts in our heads at the same time is a mark of evolution and so the only position I can take when thinking about this category is that it behooves the multinationals; that is the onus is upon them. That they bear the responsibility that there is a clear responsibility to fulfil and articulate, that melatonin expectation transactions should come with an unambiguous message that Unilever, P&G, Johnson & Johnson et al respect all people of all colours. The reverse isn't true for tanning lotions because that hierarchical imposition isn't present within that context. I maintain it's a great communication opportunity of the win win variety - if it's with sincerity.

Anyway, above are a series of ads by Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong regional office. They look innocuous and in some markets they may well lean more towards the beauty end of the spectrum than concealment but as I've mentioned over here in the comments; the focus groups are revealing because with skilful moderation, the kind where dirty secrets surface...well they tell the story of skin whitening. 

And it aint pretty.