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"Do you wanna be white?" - Is this Korean ad taking Western beauty ideals too far?

By Michelle Yeomans+

09-Jul-2014

They say provocative campaigns sell, but is an advertisement featuring the above tagline for a skin whitening cream taking Western beauty ideals too far?

The tagline; 'Do you wanna be white?' can be found on an advertisement for a colour correction cream in the Elisha Coy range.

Skin lightening is nothing new in Asia, but is this type of campaign, spotted at a department store in New Koreatown Plaza in NY going to go down well in the US, considering the hyper-awareness of race discrimination?

Korean culture website Noonchi doesn't think so, stating the ad is selling 'an impossible dream while also making its potential consumers feel worse about themselves.'

On the contrary, Elisha Coy, mainly present in Asia describes itself as a 'European style' organic skin care brand that encourages a healthy lifestyle, spiritual abundance, and modern sense. 

Messages in skin whitening advertising taking things too far?

Although skin-whitening products have long been developed to lighten the face and hands, the trend has changed somewhat of late with brands driving desire for light-coloured skin in more ‘intimate’ areas.

The most recent being a cream claiming to mask dark patches on the nipple area from Japan, ‘Pinky Queen’, claiming to act as ‘a savior for some ladies, giving them a boost in confidence’, and comes with a recommendation that it be used 4-5 times a week.

This may be shocking to the reader that hasn't heard about the shower gel launched last year designed to bring ‘fairness’ for more intimate areas. 

That ad featured a scenario where an attractive lady struggles to gain her man’s attention which - in a nutshell - seemed to be resolved after using this skin lightening intimate wash.

Skin lightening in the West

Skin lightening is a relatively smaller market in the West when compared to Asia. There, skin lighteners are primarily marketed as anti-ageing products that are intended to deliver benefits such as reduction of freckles and spots.

In the US and the UK, rising demand for skin whiteners is attributed to the increase in immigration and the resulting expansion in the base of ethnic groups.

The only difference is that the products vary in function depending on what part of the world you are in.

For example, consumers in the West often use lighteners for their anti-aging benefits, while the Asian consumer uses them to lighten the overall color and tone of their skin.

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