The Clicks pharmacy group was forced to close its 880-store franchise on Monday after 37 stores were vandalised, looted and in some cases petrol-bombed.
This was after the EFF protested outside the stores following the publication of an offensive and racist ad for a hair care product made by Unilever brand TRESemmé on the Clicks website last Friday.
The ad depicted the hair of a black woman as being “dry, damaged, frizzy and dull”, and put it against that of a white woman with hair described as “colour treated, fine, flat or normal”. The ad campaign was apparently meant to celebrate all hair types, but the discrimination was implicit: “Black women, use this shampoo and you can have hair like this white woman.”
The outrage was immediate. Marketers never seem to learn.
Clicks, Unilever and TRESemmé took the ad down on the same day and published an apology, with Clicks taking to social media to apologise to customers.
The EFF jumped into the fray and published a statement saying that its “progressive forces” would ensure that Clicks would be held accountable for its actions.
EFF Secretary-General Marshall Dlamini wrote to Clicks, demanding that it publish the names of all of the people involved in commissioning, producing and publishing the ad, whether they were internal staff or employees and directors of third parties.
If Clicks did not comply “in writing” within 24 hours, the EFF would close all stores “without further notice”.
The EFF followed this up with a warlike Twitter campaign:
Clicks replied to the EFF via its legal team at Werksmans, stating that privacy laws meant it could not release the names of the people involved (and for their own safety), but pointing out that Clicks acknowledged the ad was offensive and that the CEO Vikesh Ramsunder had apologised unreservedly. The open letter was later published, and Clicks invited the EFF to further discussions.
Werksmans then instructed the EFF to cancel the threatened shutdown of the stores and remove all content from social media which it said inflamed and incited violence against Clicks, its properties and staff.