By: Olivia Wile
The second week of 2018 has proved to be that of a nightmare for the H&M clothing brand.
The company recently released an advertisement with an African American child wearing a green hoodie with the phrase, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” The decision to feature this child with a speculated racial slur on his sweatshirt has since sparked controversy.
Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Megan Adams explains that such a mistake stems from a lack of communications within the H&M team.
“So many factors go into this that we study in communications,” said Adams.
“We can say with assurance there was a breakdown in communications somewhere down the line.”
According to the article, “H&M’s ‘monkey’ ad isn’t the first time celebs have yanked endorsements, but it’s rare” on USA Today, Rapper G-Eazy and Singer The Weeknd ended their partnerships with the brand because of the incident. Though these celebrities were quick to end their ties with H&M, the mother of the child reacted differently.
The Fox News article “Mom of H&M ‘Coolest Monkey’ ad model slams critics ‘crying wolf,’ tells them to ‘get over it: says that Terry Mango responded to critics of her child in a now-deleted Facebook post stating, “stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here… get over it.”
The brand itself seemed to have quickly realized its’ mistake releasing a statement on Monday, Jan. 8 stating, “We agree with all the criticism that this has generated — we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.” The photo has since been removed from the H&M website.
As Adams has a background in news, she explains that although she made mistakes during her previous career, H&M’s larger platform has made this incident that much more problematic.
“It was a mistake, but I don’t think it was as harmful because it was localized,” said Adams reflecting on an incident during her career. “I think the issue of audience reach is different when something is national news.”
As for the future of the brand, she is not sure the company will suffer as much as some may think.
“I don’t think this will necessarily hurt their brand as much as it should,” she said. “Are people actually going to stop getting cheap clothes are H&M because of this principle? Only time will tell.”