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Oblivious advertising misstep heats up diversity debate

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Swedish fashion retailer H&M may have learned its lesson — albeit the hard way — following the tumult it created with a sweatshirt advertisement.

Stockholm-based H & M Hennes & Mauritz A.B. ran an advertisement earlier this month featuring a black child dressed in a hoodie reading “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The ad appeared in the British version of the retailer’s online store.

The ad lead to widespread charges of racism in social media.  On Jan. 9, the company issued an apology stating, “We agree with all the criticism that this has generated — we have got this wrong.”  It said it has taken down the ad and removed the sweatshirt from sale and that it will be recycled.

Nevertheless, on Jan. 13 H&M was forced to close its stores in South Africa following protests.

On Tuesday, H&M announced it has appointed a global leader for diversity and inclusiveness, who will presumably keep the retailer from such major missteps in the future.