Nikon South Africa is promising changes after sparking controversy with its latest roster of influencers. In a country in which over 75% of the population is Black and less than 9% is white, the group of new South Africans representing the brand featured just one Black photographer.
On July 24th, Nikon South Africa released a video introducing its new influencers to promote the Nikon Z50 mirrorless camera in the country. The video was a teaser for a new campaign to share the influencers’ adventures and moments, and it prominently highlighted a series of white photographers on the roster. The only Black influencer, Austin Malema, appeared in the video mostly to say his name.
While the original video has been removed, it can still be seen at the 1-minute mark in this commentary made by LuiSpot:
People immediately took to social media to point out the new roster’s lack of racial diversity.
This is embarrassing for your soul Nikon. You telling me you could only find ONE black creative in the whole of RSA? Austin is not your token Black, do better.
— Miss Butterworth (@LailzM) August 2, 2020
How can you be this tone deaf and blatantly out of touch with the world around you? Our country brims with incredibly talented black photographers and influencers who understand the market and produce content that is not just excellent, but relevant. Do better @Nikon_SA!
— Mariette dT-Helmbold (@MariettedTH) August 2, 2020
Nikon South Africa could not find Black people… in South Africa https://t.co/FqUh5hlnnz
— Ingle Witch (@IngleWitch) August 3, 2020
Another tone deaf marketing team award goes to Nikon South Africa. I should actually say Nikon Europe cos clearly the South Africa they market in does not have black influencers. Bleh. 😬😢 https://t.co/HHcsEOC0gd
— Sylvester Chauke (@sylvesterchauke) August 1, 2020
Some began calling for a boycott of Nikon with a #NoNikonOnSet hashtag.
We cannot continue to tolerate the sheer ignorance by these brands and their teams. Our agency takes a stand and will not allow any Nikon products on our sets until we hear from @Nikon_SA #NoNikonOnSet
— Sylvester Chauke (@sylvesterchauke) August 4, 2020
We keep teaching brands about diversity & inclusion. Falling on deaf ears becasue there is no ACTION that affects them financially. Well here is ACTION, our agency group will ban all Nikon products on set & call on other agencies to do the same until they fix this. #NoNikonOnSet https://t.co/SGrxxaimgp
— Velokuhle Ngubane (@TheNduna) August 4, 2020
— Velokuhle Ngubane (@TheNduna) August 5, 2020
Our agency @AcademicRepublc is also joining on the move to ban all @Nikon products on set during production until @Nikon_SA releases an official statement or policy reform that addresses diversity & inclusion in their firm & in all marketing communications #NoNikonOnSet https://t.co/HJTYFN5p86
— Lihle (@Brain_Dogon) August 4, 2020
The video racked up hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of angry comments before Nikon South African responded publishing a statement yesterday (and subsequently deleting the original video):
— Nikon South Africa (@Nikon_SA) August 4, 2020
“We celebrate the power of creativity through imaging, embracing diverse ideas and differences among people and cultures,” Nikon writes. “We recognize that our recent influencer program launched in South Africa fell short of portraying these values that we commit ourselves to embody and project as a brand.
“To ensure we are better reflecting the incredible range of talent in South Africa, we are re-strategizing our initiatives and will be updating the program to introduce additional creators. We are committed to promoting the power of photography and videography as a tool across all societies and communities.”
Here’s a sampling of the social media response to this statement:
“Jislaaik ! These people are making a noise about this now. I don’t know why because we made sure we did that diversity dinges.”
” Hey Maboozer. You speak well. Come write a statement for your people. Remember to add a bit of Tartar Madiber Waka Waka magic in there ok.”
— Have a little patience. (@babs_libonge3) August 4, 2020
@NikonNews It is not only their marketing team; the entire company is all white. They are still in the racist David Livingstone “deepest darkest Africa” mindset.
If they as a company have not embraced diversity how can they reflect in their advertising?
Nikon SA management 👇🏿 pic.twitter.com/m9wdqUGAKd
— Structural Adjustment (@TheBeetrootSA) August 4, 2020
You were so close to saying what you needed to say. pic.twitter.com/FoLFNJIuCz
— Drew Murphy (@murphydrew) August 4, 2020
Lol. “We really embrace Diversity. You wouldn’t know it, because we ignored almost all South African races, except white, but trust us, we do.”…”We didn’t think y’all would notice, but since you’re observant and loud,here’s your bloody statement and diversity” Thank you Nikon.
— Aki.M (@akiMokoena7) August 4, 2020
“Hey guys. We f*cked up on a global scale. We’re incompetent assholes and now we need to figure out how to stop being incompetent assholes.”
— Zack Arias (@zarias) August 5, 2020
Camera companies have in recent days been taking steps to increase racial diversity in their ambassador programs. Nikon USA recently committed to “amplifying more Black voices” and then added two new Black photographers to its roster. Fujifilm is another company that has unveiled a plan to make its ambassador program more diverse and inclusive.