Unilever and Clicks to hold urgent meetings with EFF after damaging TRESemmé advert

10 September 2020 - 07:43
Unilever and Clicks are set to meet with EFF leader, Julius Malema on Thursday.
Unilever and Clicks are set to meet with EFF leader, Julius Malema on Thursday.
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Health and beauty retailer Clicks and Unilever, which owns the TRESemmé hair products brand, are set to meet EFF leader Julius Malema on Thursday, the party said in a statement.

Both companies had separately requested meetings with the EFF on Wednesday after the party had written strongly-worded letters to them, demanding to meet them or face the consequences.

In its letter to Unilever, the EFF said: “Should we not receive a response with 24 hours, we will take the most robust action against TRESemmé with no further notice.”   

The companies are set to discuss the damaging TRESemmé advert that triggered the EFF to take protest action against Clicks which published the advert on its website last week.

The advert showed four images: two of black women’s hair described as being “frizzy and dull” and “dry and damaged”, against two images of a white woman's hair, described as “fine and flat” and then as “normal”.

Clicks had to apologise on Friday after an ad for hair products on their website labelled black natural hair undesirable.
Clicks Clicks had to apologise on Friday after an ad for hair products on their website labelled black natural hair undesirable.
Image: Supplied

The EFF said the advert has racist undertones and called for those who approved it to be fired. It disrupted operations at several Clicks stores around the country. A number of Clicks stores were damaged in the unrest.

Clicks had to obtain a court interdict to bar EFF protesters from intimidating their staff and customers and also from damaging their property.

Shortly after the outrage erupted over the advert last week, Clicks immediately pulled it from its website, apologised for what it said was an oversight from its team and clarified that the ad was not its own but belonged to its client, which falls under Unilever.

This however, did not stop the EFF from attacking Clicks as it demanded that it fire those behind publishing the advert and cease doing business with TRESemmé.

Except for a statement on its website in which it apologised for the damaging ad, Unilever has not been vocal about the incident.

Its apology read: “We are very sorry that images used in a TRESemmé South Africa marketing campaign on the Clicks website promote racist stereotypes about hair. The campaign set out to celebrate the beauty of all hair types and the range of solutions that TRESemmé offers, but we got it wrong.

“The images are not in line with the values of our brand, or of Clicks. TRESemmé SA apologises for the offence these images have caused. We also apologise to the Clicks group. We are looking into how this happened and why it wasn’t picked up, and we will take all necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

It was not immediately clear whether Clicks and Unilever would hold a joint meeting with the EFF.

The red berets had announced that its meeting with Unilever was set to take place at the EFF headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, from 10am. 

“The EFF delegation will be led by commander in chief Julius Malema while the Unilever delegation will be led by Keagan Alicks,” the EFF said.

In its meeting with Clicks, the company's CEO Vikesh Ramsunder was to lead the delegation.

After the debacle, Clicks announced that it was removing TRESemmé  products from its shelves. Other retail giants have since followed suit.

Meanwhile, the EFF moved to clarify that the meeting did not signal an end to their protest action.

“We state categorically that the protests of the EFF will continue as we engage these two entities and hold them accountable for their racism,” the party added.

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Members of the EFF, led by deputy president Floyd Shivambu, protested outside the Clicks retail store in Sandton City as part of a nationwide protest on September 7 2020. This comes after the retail group released a TRESemmé advert on its website that has been condemned by the EFF as racist. Meanwhile, police are investigating several incidents across the country where stores were vandalised.


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