Beiersdorf, the German company with U.S. headquarters in Wilton, has parted ways with its longtime advertising agency following an alleged homophobic comment made during a creative meeting.
According to an Ad Age report, Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) decided not to renew its contract with Beiersdorf following the company’s rejection of a proposed advertising campaign for the Nivea lotion brand because the campaign included an image of two men holding hands. The meeting took place by telephone and a member of the Beiersdorf team reportedly nixed the idea by commenting, “We don’t do gay.” A creative employee of FCB who was part of the meeting is gay.
The Ad Age report did not identify which person at Beiersdorf made the alleged comment or when the meeting in question occurred. The publication obtained an internal FCB memo circulated in April stating the agency was ending its relationship with the Nivea brand at the end of this year, although the alleged incident was not cited in the memo. Nivea accounts for 1% of the agency’s global revenue, and the FCB-Nivea relation can be traced back by more than 100 years through predecessor companies.
However, Ad Age also cited unnamed sources that claimed the working relationship between FCB and Beiersdorf had been fraying for at least two years. Beiersdorf seemed to confirm this in a statement that noted it had been planning to “review Nivea’s current agency model” since the beginning of the year. Beiersdorf also refuted that it encouraged prejudicial comments or behavior from its workforce.
“We are an international company with more than 20,000 employees with very different genders, ethnicities, orientations, backgrounds and personalities worldwide,” the company said in its statement. “Through our products, we touch millions of consumers around the globe every day. We know and cherish that individuality and diversity in all regards brings inspiration and creativity to our society and to us as a company. No form of discrimination, direct and indirect, is tolerated.”