Nivea has been spectacularly dumped by its own advertising agency and accused of homophobia after a company executive allegedly rejected an ad pitch saying, "We don't do gay".
The offensive remarks have prompted a boycott movement, with angry consumers posting videos and photos of themselves binning their Nivea products in an attempt to "cancel" the skincare brand.
Boycotting efforts began after the contents of a phone call, between Nivea executives and creatives from the New York-based ad agency, Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB), were leaked.
Nivea has been a client of FCB for 100 years, and spends more than $400 million on advertising annually.
During the conference call, an FCB representative reportedly pitched a commercial in which two men would be filmed touching hands.
The pitch was flatly rejected, with an executive from the beauty brand allegedly saying: "We don't do gay at Nivea."
Among those looped in on the conference call was a gay advertising executive who had been behind the pitch.
FCB released a statement with its CEO Carter Murray explaining the decision to sever the century-long partnership came after "much reflection and discussion on our creative ambitions".
Nivea was shown an ad proposal from their agency that had two men touching hands. Their response? “We don’t do gay at Nivea.” Well, sorry, but from here forward, we gays and our friends don’t do Nivea. @NIVEAUSA— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) July 2, 2019
"There comes a point in every long-term relationship when you reflect on what you've accomplished together and set your sails for where your journey will take you next," Mr Murray said.
"Sometimes that journey ahead demands tough choices that lead down different paths."
The company executive's remarks have caused a social media frenzy, as people around the world film and photograph themselves dumping their Nivea products in the bin.
Many have moved to permanently cancel the brand after years of advertising faux pas and subsequent public apologies from the company.
An ironic mantra has emerged in the aftermath of Nivea's PR nightmare: "I don't do Nivea."
People are also using the word "Novea" to describe their anger at the brand, with many pledging never to buy their "old lady formula" products again.
Even Star Trek star George Takei tweeted: "We gays and our friends don't do Nivea."
Nivea doesn't do gay? I don't do Nivea. Are you with me? pic.twitter.com/BIR1ozpgQ6— Jane Palen (@jbriggspalen) June 27, 2019
A Nivea spokesman responded to FCB's move to dump the brand as a client, telling advertising news outlet Campaign US it was the "right time for a new beginning" in the company's creative work.
"We understand that emotions and news interest are intensified when a longtime business relationship comes to an end," the spokesman said.
Refusing to confirm whether a company executive had made the alleged homophobic remark, the spokesman asked for understanding from the public while Nivea remained silent on "unsubstantiated speculations around this matter".
"Nonetheless, we wish to express our concern on the reported allegations, as they do not reflect the values of Beiersdorf, Nivea and our employees worldwide," he said.
"No form of discrimination, direct and indirect, is or will be tolerated.
"We are strongly committed to diversity, mutual respect, equal opportunity and tolerance."
The deodorant ad caused huge controversy over it's "racist" slogan. Photo / Supplied
This isn't the first time the skincare company has been criticised for its ill-advised campaign decisions.
In 2017, Nivea was forced to ditch an ad campaign for its Invisible For Black & White women's deodorant after the public labelled it "racially insensitive".
The advertisement, which ran in the Middle East, featured a woman with long, dark hair, wearing white and staring out of a window in a brightly lit room.
But it was the slogan accompanying the photo that caused the controversy.
"White is purity," the ad read.
In a Facebook post beside the newly launched advertisement, Nivea wrote: "Keep it clean, keep it bright. Don't let anything ruin it."
The ad was slammed by the public as racist, with people taking to social media asking Nivea "What the HELL is this?".
"White Purity? Shame, Shame, Shame on you," one Twitter user wrote.
"Fire your marketing person and anyone who approved this ad."
White supremacist groups fervently supported the advertisement, creating a hashtag #WhiteIsPurity following its release.
"We enthusiastically support this new direction your company is taking," one white supremacist group wrote on its Facebook page at the time.
"I'm glad we can all agree that #WhiteIsPurity."
Nivea pulled the ad several days later and released a statement apologising for the misstep.
"We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offence to this specific post," the statement read.
"Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea."
In the same year, Nivea was forced to dump another racially charged advertisement that featured on billboards across Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal.
The ad featured former Miss Nigeria, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, in a blue dress, rubbing moisturiser on the top of her wrist and smiling across her shoulder.
Nivea's Natural Fairness Body Lotion was aimed at African consumers and promised to deliver "visible fairer skin".
Nivea's targeted billboards promised Africans"visibly fairer skin" from their moisturiser. Photo / Supplied
The billboards were also accompanied by a TV ad where Akinnifesi said she needed a product she could trust "to restore my skin's natural fairness".
In the ad, she even received a compliment from her daughter's teacher, who said, "You have the most beautiful, glowing skin."
British hip-hop artist Fuse ODG — who has Ghanaian heritage — publicly called on people to boycott the skincare brand.
"I saw this one with my own eyes today in Ghana and we love our complexion the way it is. And if you don't take these down. We will," he wrote.
"Every African everywhere should stop buying any Nivea product."
Naturally, the campaign drew widespread criticism from locals across the continent, who furiously informed the company that they didn't "want fairer skin".
Six years earlier, in 2011, the company found itself in the middle of a global PR nightmare after it released an ad for Nivea for Men products.
The advertisement showed a clean-shaven, smartly-dressed black man holding the severed head of his "former self" featuring an afro and facial hair.
The ad's slogan was "Re-Civilize Yourself", with the company inviting men to "look like you give a damn".
The ad campaign caused significant offence to minority groups around the world. Photo / Supplied
It immediately sparked outrage from minority groups around the world, forcing Nivea to pull the ad days later and issue an apology in which the brand admitted the ad was "inappropriate and offensive".
"Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent "Re-civilised" NIVEA FOR MEN ad," the company's statement read.
"It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry."
The company promised the ad would "never be used again".