Update: On Thursday evening Watsons issued an actual apology, from Caryn Loh, general manager and country head of Watsons Malaysia:
We deeply and sincerely apologize for our recent “Legenda Cun Raya” video which was released on social media in Malaysia. The 15 minute video was inspired by the Malay legend Dayang Senandong made popular in the 1965 movie “Dayang Senandong’. It was our intention to convey concepts of inner and outer beauty, unfortunately the video instead offended many.
Regretfully, we acknowledge that the “Legenda Cun Raya” video is not in-line with the values that we hold dearly in Malaysia. Watsons Malaysia takes responsibility for the video and its content and is truly sorry that some elements have offended the general public.
Watsons Malaysia following the feedback from the general public, immediately removed the video and we appreciate your honest feedback especially leading into an important celebration like Hari Raya.
Moving forward we will continue to listen to the general public and our loyal customers. On behalf of Watsons Malaysia we humbly seek your forgiveness and deeply regret any harm that we have caused.
Watsons Malaysia has defended its Hari Raya video campaign in which a woman appears with a black face, which she then washes off to reveal her fair skin.
The tagline that appears at the end of the 15-minute video, which features many local celebrities, reads: “Only at Watson’s you’ll be beautiful”.
The campaign caused outrage on social media, with many Malaysians labelling the video racist, sexist and distasteful.
I have been a loyal customer for years. With this super sexist, orientalist and racist ad, I am boycotting Watsons Malaysia #disappointing— Mrym. (@mrymler) June 7, 2017
Dear Watsons Malaysia, apparently this terrible ad is for Raya, celebrated largely by BROWN communities. Please fire your marketing team. https://t.co/cxE6N6k28U— Iman Tanita al Ghul (@nocturnaltapir) June 7, 2017
Watsons Malaysia has since pulled the advert and released a statement sort of apologising, but also defending its decision to run the campaign.
“We are sorry that some of our fans feel offended by the video which was not our intention,” the statement reads—a textbook 'non-apology apology'.
However, Watsons also said the campaign portrays the legend of Dayang Senandong, a Malay folk tale about a lady who was “born cursed with black skin but blessed with a beautiful voice”, who wins the heart of the king.
“We stand firm on the belief that unity and fairness plays an important role, and we respect people from all nationalities,” the statement continues. “The video was shot to highlight the legend and its moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists.”
The full video can be viewed below.