BMW, a German multinational manufacturer of luxury cars and motorcycles, has apologized for its latest advertisement, which sparked outrage and was described as “offensive and racist” by media personality and poet Ntsiki Mazwai.
The advertisement featured a black woman standing next to one of the brand’s latest BMW 5 Series models, with the phrase “We Are Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” behind her, the word ancestors was crossed out.
Hailey Philander, the product communications specialist at BMW Group South Africa, said that the advertising campaign was designed to highlight South Africa’s diversity and inclusivity, rather than to question anyone’s belief systems.
“The BMW brand campaign was launched in August 2022 for mainly social and digital assets. It was completely locally produced.
“The broader campaign was spun off into a number of smaller out-of-home executions, including the one pointed out by you.
“BMW South Africa understands the wording of this example might have offended fans of the brand, for which we unreservedly apologise,” said Philander.
Mazwai, who never minces her words, took to social media on Sunday to express her outrage at the advertisement.
Mazwai said: “What level of racism is this now, where our things get used to sell white things? Which marketing agency authorised that? And why the fu** is BMW being racist?
“They wouldn’t do this to any other religious practices, so why do they feel that they have a right to use African spirituality in their marketing campaigns? I am appalled. BMW is disgusting.”
Following mixed reactions on social media, Mazwai shared another video on her platforms, responding to those who claimed the advertisement was not offensive.
“If the BMW advert was not offensive, nobody would have been offended,” said Mazwai.
“I think what I’m seeing play out is how broken black people are, how colonisation and slavery have broken black people down for them to think that they are not worthy of being respected … that advert was not targeted at white people or Indian people.
“Those people have never talked about their ancestors. They speak about their own gods and deities, so that advert was definitely targeted at black people. That’s where the racism begins … ” said Mazwai.
Other social media users chimed in and shared their thoughts.
@VuyiFebruarie tweeted: “BMW knows this or they should be wrong. As Africans, we cannot be used as tokens to celebrate what is stolen from us. The minerals battle is lost but they can not push this further and take our words.”
“Stop! A person of colour is not going to tell us what racism is and how we should perceive racism. This picture is clear to us, that our ancestors were primitive and couldn’t fathom owning sophisticated futuristic electronics. To rubber stamp this, they place an African woman there!” said @Griquachild.
“I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the boardroom when this was presented @bmwsouthafrica because there is absolutely no way that this was presented without racist undertones. I mean, how was the erasure/crossing out/invalidation of the word ‘ancestors’ rationalised? I’m actually quite interested @bmwsouthafrica if you have the time please indulge me,” replied Lehippie herbalist.
“People have been highly misled here; BMW vehicles are referring to their production of their past vehicles, they are basically referring to the old models as ancestors, not yours but BMW vehicles production from the past production of their models. Stop it,” said @MokwakwaThomas.
@Matthew40150500 said: “Ancestor is an English word sister. Then ldlozi is vernacular. Ancestors are where we descend from. Let’s try to have this argument in our own languages.”
“What does race have to do with ancestors? Does that mean whites don’t have or Asians? I thought ancestors were referred to (one lived before us or something like that). I regret not going to school,” commented @ DesMalau.