Racist reactions to dark-skinned model in the Czech Republic

What is taken for granted in many advertising campaigns triggered controversial reactions at Lidl in the Czech Republic: a dark-skinned model in an advertising flyer. The discounter reacted cool and relaxed to racist comments and was supported by politicians and the public.

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The facebook page of Lidl Czech Republic was very busy in January. The discounter had advertised a sweatshirt in a flyer for weekly promotions and offers, which was presented by a dark-skinned man. The choice of model led to numerous xenophobic and racist comments.

Lidl reacted calmly and prudently to the hostilities. The company is quoted with the following comment on a contribution: “Since the Czech Republic is a part of Europe, where people of different nationalities and skin colours live, we find the models in our advertising perfectly in order”. The clear stance was quickly rewarded, because quite soon, in addition to the xenophobic comments, more and more expressions of solidarity and supporting contributions for the discounter joined in. Even Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka is said to have described the criticism of a black model as “stupid”, according to the Czech news agency. The Minister of Human Rights, Jan Chvojka, is also said to have said that he buys his new sportswear from Lidl.

Experts are not surprised by the racist outbreaks. The Czech Republic has one of the lowest percentages of foreigners of all EU states and surveys show that a majority of the population (!) sees foreigners as a threat to their own prosperity and security. This attitude is fuelled by political forces that criticised the Lidl motif and expected ‘typically Czech rather than multi-cultural’ advertising. The German discounter sees this quite differently and refers to its Europe-wide presence: “The better you know the world, the more tolerance you develop towards others. That’s why our models come from all over the world,” said a spokeswoman.

Other companies showed less strength in comparable situations. For example, an American company is said to have temporarily swapped a black model for a white one for its Polish website.

The current advertising flyer from Lidl Czech Republic contains French motifs and products, including their own/trade brand Duc de Coeur.