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5 Most Racist Ads That Companies Wish You Hadn’t Seen

Every year, there are at least a few occasions when a major brand shoots itself in the foot by airing a politically incorrect ad that the public outrightly rejects. However, their problems increase manifolds when the ad is also deemed to be racist. From H&M and PopChips to Chicago Lake Liquors and Dolce & Gabbana, all have landed into trouble for coming up with appallingly racist advertisements.

Racism has had a long history in the world of advertisement. Unfortunately, it keeps getting written all over again year after year. And those are exactly the kind of ads that we seek to uncover so that you know the “dont’s” of marketing.

So, here we are with 5 outrightly racist ads that made people turn off their TV instantly.

1. Dolce & Gabbana

Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana caused an uproar with one of their ad series that featured a Chinese model struggling to eat pizza, cannoli, and spaghetti. The appearance and expressions of the model reflected an orientalist conception of Asian women; small-eyed, under-educated, and unintelligent to be more specific.

The most degrading aspects of the stereotype were made evident through the exaggerated surprise and confusion at seeing Italian food. While she uses eating utensils from her own culture to eat the Italian food items, the ad worsened with the ad manipulating the model to eat in the “correct way”, which felt like they were trying to teach a young, ignorant child.

While the ad certainly seemed stereotypical of the Chinese, I couldn’t understand what the makers aimed to achieve out of it. Why would an Italian luxury fashion brand come up with an ad that showcases a Chinese woman eating Italian food with Chinese utensils? Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around the message that was meant to be conveyed out of this ad!

2. PopChips

It’s been a decade since PopChips thought that it would be a good idea to bring onboard Ashton Kutcher, apply brown make-up on him, and have him play Raj, an Indian producer. As expected, the “parody” didn’t work. In fact, it landed PopChips in a big puddle of controversies where they were accused of being racists.

The ad was soon pulled down and PopChips CEO Keith Belling explained this decision saying that the ad wasn’t intended to hurt or offend anyone but to trigger a few good laughs. Dear Keith, you simply don’t take chances with an audience that makes up almost 20% of the global population!

3. Chicago-lake Liquors

You don’t just go around making fun of a minority. Instead, you make fun of two if you are Chicago-lake Liquors! The liquor brand came up with a series of ads that showcased white people acting like Afro-American hip-hop stereotypes- slang, fist bumps, grills, etc. While the entire ad in itself was full of racist overtones, perhaps the most stereotypical moment came at the beginning of the first ad when the black man says he got “Hennessy and bubbly”.

It seems to me that the brand’s marketing team was high on liquor produced by the same company when they decided to air this “abomination”.


Had it not been for a panda named Ling Ling selling bamboo, things could have been different for this Salesgenie commercial. However, the grammar-challenged dialogue delivered in a heavy Asian accent offended a lot of people. The ad was aired during Super Bowl XLII but was quickly pulled down because of the heavy criticism that came its way.

There’s one thing that I couldn’t understand though- why does the panda in the commercial not have an Asian voice? Also, what is wrong with brands, going after Chinese just like that! Or is it the Karma returning favors to the Chinese for that detergent ad? Well, it looks like that blemished past will need some ‘washing’.

5. H&M

Swedish apparel chain H&M had to close some of its stores in South Africa after protests against an online ad that featured a black kid modeling for a hoodie with the following text.

The item was first spotted on the retailer’s e-commerce store and soon led to a social media outcry that caused the cancellation of Canadian artist The Weekend’s collaboration with the brand. The incident further worsened the deepening crisis at H&M, whose shares have been on a decline since 2015.

Wrapping Up

So, that was our list of some of the most racist commercials and advertisements from brands. While controversies can often be a two-edged sword that can hype up your brand, some controversies are best to be avoided and racism is one of those subjects that you’d definitely want to steer clear of.

We’ll be back with more amazing commercials for you. Till then, stay tuned!


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