Unilever brand apologises for skin whitening campaign in Thailand

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

A Citra skin whitening advert has put the brand in hot water
A Citra skin whitening advert has put the brand in hot water
A Thai subsidiary of cosmetics brand Citra, owned by Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever, has apologised for a controversial competition asking students to promote its skin whitening product.

Citra is known as a natural based ingredients beauty brand with a strong Indonesian heritage and a packed portfolio of skin care products; but its Thai subsidiary has come under scrutiny over a TV advert aimed at female university students which has drawn criticism.

Unilever Thailand, has apologised for any ‘misunderstandings’ and says it did not intend ‘racial discrimination’.


The ‘Citra 3D Brightening Girls Search’ offered rewards for female university students who sent in photos of themselves holding its body lotion, and included cash prizes from a fund of more than $US3,000.

The advert is set on a university campus where two presenters ask female students what would make them ‘outstanding in uniform’.

The first girl to be asked, who has a darker complexion appears confused by the question and says she does not know. But a much whiter-skinned girl judged by presenters to have ‘beautiful’ skin answers with the Citra product slogan.

The campaign drew heat from social media sites, with users criticising the company for linking education with whiter skin, which is already widely associated with higher economic status in Thailand.

Skin whitening is a big trend in Thailand and throughout Asia with creams and lotions prevalent in the region, helped by the popularity of white-skinned models and actors.


In this case it seems, Citra got its advertising completely wrong and has had to move quick to limit the damage caused through this communication. A Unilever Thai Trading statement read:

"The campaign, developed in Thailand, had no intent to suggest racial discrimination. We apologise for any misunderstandings regarding the campaign.”

"The Citra brand will exercise greater sensitivity for brand activation campaigns that take place in the future."

The company has announced it will also be changing the television commercial for the competition.

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