Nivea for Men has apologized for an ad in Esquire magazine that critics called racially insensitive.
The company acknowledged that the ad was "inappropriate and offensive."
The ad, which appeared only in the September issue of Esquire, showed a preppily dressed black man tossing away the severed head of a bearded, Afroed black man. The text read, "re-civilize yourself," with the additional caption, "Look like you give a darn."
"Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent 're-civilized' Nivea for Men ad," the company said in a posting on its Facebook page. "This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of our company."
Nivea also has run an ad in the same campaign, created by the agency DraftFCB, featuring a white man tossing away his unshaven head with the text, "Sin City isn't an excuse to look like hell."
But the "re-civilize" campaign led to an uproar on Facebook and Twitter.
"What an ill-advised, poorly executed ad campaign," tweeted @Afrobella in a typical post.
"Too late Nivea," said another tweet from @Tastro.
Larry Woodard, president and chief strategy officer of Graham Stanley Advertising, said the flap reflected a problem of homogeneity and lack of multiculturalism in the advertising business, especially in large agencies.
"They don't have a problem with it because it fits their sensibilities," he said. "There's nobody in the group to say, 'That's not funny.'"
He noted that Esquire "has a pretty nice hunk of multicultural readers" who were bound to be disturbed by the ad.
Esquire referred requests for comment to Nivea for Men. Nivea for Men's parent company, Beiersdorf USA, said it "represents diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity."