In a report published Tuesday, the Western Center for Journalism referred to a Nigerian advertising campaign for Hypo, a regional bleach manufacturer. In one of three print ads published, Barack Obama is shown wearing an Arabian robe and headdress above the company’s tagline, “Damn good whites.”
Along with Obama, the other ads featured Ellen DeGeneres clad in a wedding gown and Bishop Desmond Tutu wearing Ku Klux Klan garb.
The article evoked a variety of responses from readers, many positing their own ideas regarding the campaign’s underlying message. A representative from Noah’s Ark, the agency behind this campaign, responded to WCJ’s request for comment Wednesday, offering some insight into the process.
According to an email from Bolaji Alausa, the overarching theme is that individuals might be drawn to unusual garments as a result of the advertised product.
Alausa called the campaign “a simple marriage of the unlikely,” noting that DeGeneres “would not be caught dead” in a white wedding dress. Similarly, Tutu and Obama were pictured in white garments deemed unusual for them.
“We’ve seen your Youtube spoof,” the email continued, “and it shows that you already have an understanding of the intent.”
While the original report alluded to the fact that each of the figures pictured in these ads were wearing clothing not typically associated with them, Obama’s inclusion stands out. An apartheid opponent such as Tutu would certainly not associate with the KKK; and, as Alausa confirmed, it was DeGeneres’ lesbian partner who wore a white gown to their wedding ceremony.
Obama, on the other hand, has extensive documented ties to Islam and has been pictured in traditional Middle Eastern garments on multiple occasions. Though the point of the ad campaign is clear, Obama was certainly not the most obvious choice for someone wearing a thawb ironically.
Instead of the drawings of DeGeneres and Tutu, the Obama ad did not elicit a knowing sentiment of absurdity from many viewers. Instead, it merely reminded them of his longstanding relationship with cultures quite dissimilar to the American experience.
–B. Christopher Agee
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