National Geographic Launches Face Swap Campaign, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Brands have been latching onto millennial trends in an attempt to stay current since the beginning of time, and it is almost always ill-advised. Unfortunately, National Geographic has yet to learn this.

As first pointed out by Adweek, National Geographic Brasil recently launched a new print campaign called “Swap Prejudice for Knowledge,” which depicts people standing next to each other with their faces swapped. The people in question do not look the same, and the tagline that runs in the corner of the ads—“The more places and cultures you know, the more you respect the differences”—suggests that the intention is to promote empathy and the time-worn idiom of walking in someone else’s shoes.


The result is predictably bizarre and, as Adweek put it, “potentially offensive.” You don’t say!


Here’s a close-up of the copy that appears in the upper right-hand corner:


Adweek notes that the campaign was created by advertising company Young & Rubicam Brasil, which is corroborated by the fact that the agency’s parent firm posted this on their Facebook page recently:


It’s been suggested that Snapchat’s face swap tool was used for this mess, but that’s unconfirmed. Either way, the campaign, much like Snapchat’s offensive attempt at celebrating Bob Marley just last week, is poorly conceived at best—and a bizarre kind of blackface at worst.

We’ve reached out to National Geographic and Y&R Brasil, and we’ll update if we hear back.


All images via Adweek and National Geographic.

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Sophie Kleeman

Sophie is a former news editor at Gizmodo.