"Fair skin" will never be out of fashion. But advertisements for skin lightening treatments often come under fire, mostly in the West.
Recently, a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) ad that was seen as promoting skin lightening treatment generated so much controversy that the advertiser had to apologize and request TTC to take them down.
The TTC ad appeared on the Line 1 Yonge-University subway.
The ad, for LightNaturalSkin.com, was trying to promote the naturopath's IV-based method for skin lightening.
It showed divided frames of a black woman and a South Asian woman; the frames with lighter skin tones were shown as the result of the treatment. This led to people complaining about the the ad's content.
Twitter user @EmilyKnits posted a picture of the ad online. It raised questions whether the transit authority of Canada's most diverse city should run such ads, Canada.com reports.
The treatment, according to the ad, could be used for cosmetic as well as medical reasons, The Star reports.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said that since last week, as many as 11 complaints about the ad have been filed.
"Complainants expressed concern that the content of the ad was racialized," he said.
People took to the social media to express their views. Some said the ads were "disgusting" and "racist," and some asked TTC to "give [the company's] money back."
Ross said that all ads that they run need to be in adherence to Canadian laws and if they receive a minimum of five complaints regarding any ad, a review is conducted.
Jean-Jacques Dugoua, the naturopath behind LightNaturalSkin.com, issued a statement on 30 November, apologizing for any unintended offence caused by the company: "It has come to our attention that the TTC ads for LightNaturalSkin.com have caused offence and concern. The ads were not intended, in any way, to offend. We apologize for any concern, offence or distress the ads may have caused and have requested that the TTC remove them immediately."
Coesmtics and procedures to lighten skin tones have for ages attracted criticism all over the world as they are seen as promoting racial stereotypes like "lighter skin is more beautiful."
However, in Asian countries like in India, skin lightening treatments are very popular. People crave for "fair skin" because most are not born with it. Therefore, resorting to fairness creams or other methods are common practice.
Ads for fairness creams have not really raised many eyebrows in India. In fact, they have proved to be a successful marketing strategy.
However, it's different in Western countries. Keeping in mind the prevalence of widespread racial discrimination, such ads are considered as an offensive remark to an entire community.