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What is the controversy behind Cetaphil’s Taylor Swift-themed Super Bowl ad?

What is the controversy behind Cetaphil’s Taylor Swift-themed Super Bowl ad?

A Cetaphil commercial warmed the hearts of many viewers during the 2024 Super Bowl. But that all changed when a TikTok creator accused the skincare company of stealing her content for the Taylor Swift-themed ad.

Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on 11 February, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime, Cetaphil shared its “Game Time Glow: A New Sports Tradition for Dads & Daughters” commercial on Friday. The emotional ad features a father and daughter finding a common ground over Taylor Swift and football.

In the ad, the father is seen watching football as he attempts to bond with his daughter on multiple occasions. The daughter is uninterested in spending time with her dad, until she hears a football commentator say on the television: “There she is here in support. The most famous fan of the game.”

The announcer’s comments were a nod to the 14-time Grammy winner, who has been spotted at many Chiefs games to support her boyfriend and NFL tight end, Travis Kelce.

The commercial continues as the father gives his daughter a red football jersey with the number “13” - which many fans pointed out is Swift’s favourite number. Before putting on the jersey, the two share a sweet moment when the father uses his daughter’s Cetaphil moisturiser as eye black before the two sat down on the couch. At the end of the commercial, the father-daughter duo are both covered in Swift’s signature friendship bracelets and the teen finally sets down her phone to watch a football game with her dad.

“This season, dads and daughters found a new way to connect,” the Cetaphil ad read. “Let’s celebrate that Game Time Glow.”

Although the ad instantly received praise from football fans and Swifities alike, it didn’t take long for TikTok creator Sharon Mbabazi and her stepfather to accuse the skincare company of copying her TikTok videos.

Mbabazi went viral on the platform in September 2023, following Swift’s first NFL appearance at Arrowhead Stadium. At the time, the TikToker posted three videos that showed her stepfather talking to her about football and Swift while she did her skincare and makeup routine at a vanity. Much like Mbabazi’s video, the Cetaphil commercial also featured the young girl applying Cetaphil moisturiser to her face while sitting at her vanity.

Her initial video, which was posted on 26 September, has since been viewed nearly three million times on the platform.

“Y’all, Cetaphil legit copied the TikToks I made with my stepdad back in September,” Mbabazi said in a video shared on Saturday. “Like, y’all could’ve at least given us some credit. What’s up?”

Mbabazi goes on to point out that the Cetaphil ad features a young girl who is mixed race and her white father, noting how she herself is Black and her stepfather is also white.

“In the video, she’s doing her makeup, her skincare on her vanity and her white dad walks in. I was doing my makeup on my vanity and my white dad walks in and tells me about football,” she continued.

“For a second I thought, okay, maybe it’s a coincidence. Until I saw the dad walk into her room and put skincare under his eyes like what my stepdad did in our video,” Mbabazi said, referring to her TikTok video posted on 30 September, in which her stepfather is seen wearing under eye patches. “He put eye patches under his eyes when he walked into my room, like, literally bar for bar.”

She added: “It’s the same concept, same idea.”

In a follow-up video, Mbabazi and her stepfather sat alongside each other as he directly addressed the skincare company. “Here’s the deal, Cetaphil,” he began. “That is a beautiful story that you have and your commercial is gonna be on the Super Bowl, but it’s our story.”

“My daughter made the content that you stole,” he claimed, before asking that Mbabazi receive credit for the ad: “Swiftie nation, do your thing.”

Now, it seems that Mbabazi may get recognition for Cetaphil’s Super Bowl commercial after all. In a statement to Ad Age, Craig Elimeliah - the chief creative officer of ad agency Prompt, which helped produce the campaign for Cetaphil - denied they copied Mbabazi’s TikTok videos. “We never saw the footage,” Elimeliah said.

He noted that the father and teenage daughter who were cast in the ad are actually a father and daughter from New York. “Part of our job is to make people feel seen and that’s what we did. It was a coincidental casting decision that was made last minute,” Elimeliah said, referring to the decision to cast a Black teenage girl and white father in the spot.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Cetaphil’s parent company Galderma told The Independent that the brand developed the campaign without seeing Mbabazi’s TikTok content. “We were inspired by a unique trend this year in which numerous young women and girls have been bonding with their fathers over football and posting about it on their social channels,” they said.

The spokesperson also suggested that Cetaphil has since spoken with Mbabazi about the ad and will be partnering with her for future Cetaphil campaigns. “After speaking with Sharon, we see how she contributed to this trend personally. This campaign was a response to that trend, and we are therefore not surprised the campaign connects with so many,” they said. “We are delighted to be working with Sharon and other influencers like her who embrace skincare and maintain such a positive online presence on this topic.”

Since then, Mbabazi has shared an update with her followers about the Cetaphil ad controversy. In a video posted on Super Bowl Sunday, she revealed that the skincare company “reached out” and they “acknowledged all the videos and all the content”.

“They’ve made things right with us,” Mbabazi added.

Just a few hours later, the TikToker shared her first sponsored video for Cetaphil with the hashtag “#CetaphilPartner” in the caption. In the comments, the company congratulated Mbabazi on the new partnership and welcomed her as a Cetaphil brand ambassador.

“So pumped to welcome you to the Cetaphil Creator Fam, Sharon,” the official TikTok account for Cetaphil US commented.