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Skin-care company makes customers sweat

By Emily Elicker
On February 26, 2013

  • Nivea is at it again with its extreme marketing campaigns, this time targeting random people at an airport as fugitives, attempting to make the point that stress produces sweat while also begging the question of how far is acceptable to go for advertising. Screenshot courtesy of

Let's face it - traveling can be more than a little stressful. However, this stress is exactly what Nivea, a German-based skin care company, is counting on for its latest campaign.

We've all had our share of less-than-pleasant experiences when traveling to visit relatives during the holiday season or en-route to a luxurious vacation destination. Just stepping into an airport and feeling the tension in the air is enough to put me on edge.

Everyone is rushing between terminals to find their gate and jostling one another to get onto the airplane first. Almost all of us have been the person sprinting to our gate at some point in time.

Then there's the constant threat of a delay. This could spell disaster if you need to catch a connecting flight. Maybe it's just the pessimist in me, but I was terrified something would go wrong when I flew to London by myself last summer. Fortunately, my vision of becoming stranded in a foreign country with only my wit and charm to save me never came to pass.

It's no secret that stress makes you sweat. I know I'm not the first person to break into a cold sweat during a pop quiz and I certainly won't be the last. Nivea realized perhaps it could capitalize on sweating when stressing out. What place houses more stress than an airport?

The unsuspecting victims were brought to the airport by friends under false pretenses. Only once the video production team received word their targets did not have any pressing medical conditions, like heart trouble, did they commence the prank.

They first inconspicuously took pictures of their targets and printed up fake flyers and newspapers identifying them as fugitives. Paid actors made sure the targets got a good look at their own faces in the print ads before the actors casually walked away, leaving the targets visibly confused. It was then announced over the loudspeaker a physical description of the targets and a statement describing that they were wanted by the police.

Finally, a breaking news bulletin flashed onto a nearby television. It once again showed the target's picture and urged bystanders to alert authorities, but warned that they were "dangerous and unpredictable."

At this point it became clear to the targets that they were the ones being sought after, even though many proclaimed "I didn't do anything!" 

They were approached by actors dressed in security guard costumes carrying a large metal case. They asked the targets, "Are you stressed?" before opening the case. Inside was Nivea's new "Stress Protect" deodorant.

"We want to illustrate the reactions that stress can trigger in the human body to consumers in an entertaining way," said Ingo Tanger, marketing director at Nivea's parent company Beirsdorf, in a Yahoo! News article.

This isn't the first time Nivea has gone to rather extreme lengths to prank unsuspecting customers. A French campaign in April 2012 promoting Nivea's anti-aging cream followed a woman through the streets of Paris with hidden cameras. After she was coerced into trying the cream, every man she passed began fawning over her. She attracted the attention of dancing firemen and a stripper in a police officer's uniform. Needless to say, she was just as shocked by the attention as the victims of the airport prank.

I'm the first person to admit that I stress myself out more often than not. I worry about the little things to such an extent that I make myself physically sick. Taking that into consideration, it's not that hard to figure out the airport is not my favorite place in the world.

If someone dressed in an airport security officer's uniform approached me and accused me of being "dangerous and unpredictable," I would probably start crying from sheer stress. Sure, I would be relieved when I was told it was all a prank. Then again, I would also be more than a little mad.

There is a time and a place for everything. Maybe it would be different if Nivea pranked its targets in a shopping mall or supermarket and accused them of shoplifting instead. Maybe I'm just overreacting because of our country's recent increase in airport security measures. Either way, Nivea seemed to have no qualms with putting innocent people under a very stressful microscope for the sake of promoting its product.

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