Fake and oversexed version of Brazil helps selling anything in Holland.

The Dutch are quite interested in Brazil. No doubt about that. The attraction between the two countries goes back to the XVII century, when the Dutch West Indian Company lead by Maurits van Nassau overtook Recife and Olinda from the Portuguese and ceased the double opportunity of supplying local landlords with African slaves to work in their sugarcane plantations and distributing the final product in Europe. Many paintings and drawings from that period still hang in the best Dutch museums as Het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Het Mauritshuis in The Hague, with realistic representations of all that looked very exotic to Dutch eyes at the time: from black slaves to tropical animals and plants.

Braziliaanse landschaap met huis in aanbouw- Frans POst

“Braziliaanse landschaap met huis in aanbouw” by Dutch painter Frans Post

More than 400 years later, that mutual interest has only grown, as stated on the International Relations section of the Dutch Government website :
“Relations between the Netherlands and Brazil are outstanding. Economic growth in Brazil offers the Netherlands a wealth of trade opportunities. The Netherlands is Brazil’s fourth-largest export market. “
Brazil is also an important export market for The Netherlands. In 2014, the Dutch exported US$ 3,6 billion worth of industrialized goods to Brazil, mainly heavy machinery and chemical products. according to the Dutch-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.

Dutch interest in Brazilian culture is also a fact. Most large Dutch cities feature at least one Brazilian bar, restaurant, shop and dance or language school. Brazilian musical events have been very popular for decades. Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil recently played to a sold-out Concertgebouw in Amsterdam despite the price tag of more than 60 euros for the cheapest seats.

Although official and reliable data on the number of Brazilians living in Holland are difficult to find, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry estimates that they were roughly 22000 in 2014.  There is also a considerable number of Brazilians living in Holland illegally. Most of them earn a living by cleaning houses (one of the few jobs a foreigner can still do in Holland without a valid work permit). This (illegal) phenomenon is so well-known in Dutch cities that one of the largest insurance companies featured two Brazilian cleaning ladies in its TV commercial back in 2004.

Since then, Brazilian imagery has been regularly used in Dutch TV spots to sell anything from cars to desserts. So far so good. The problem is that the image of Brazil being currently used to help selling Dutch products has lost its realism along the way. It’s mostly rather oversexed, fake, outdated and often inaccurate. If the economic and cultural exchange between the countries is so intense, why is it so difficult for Dutch creative agencies to depict a Brazil that is more real and accurate and less stereotypical?

Some examples:
This so-called Brazilian farmer who supposedly supplies Appelsientje with his best oranges, has an outrageously Portuguese accent :

It’s a bit like using a Surinamese or Indonesian actor to portray a Dutch “boer”.
Still talking about accent, last year Batavia got a beautiful brunette girl in a bikini ( how original!) to fake a supposedly Brazilian accent that, if anything, sounded like a Spanish one:

The caricature of Brazil is completed with the tropical bird, a relaxed favela dweller on a hammock and Carnival, of course. Apparently, despite the fact that there are 20000 Brazilians living in Holland, let’s say 10000 women, the production company that shot this commercial couldn’t find one who spoke Dutch with a real Brazilian accent. She didn’t even need to look good since the model just lip syncs to a previously recorded voice-over. Clearly they just didn’t try. We must give them credit to ask a real young Brazilian fashion designer to create the dress, but still …
The dress created by Pedro Lourenço turned out to be a challenge to Dutch girls, so Linda Lab organized a test to teach Dutch girls how to wear it, with salsa on the background. Again, no Brazilian girl was invited.
On the other hand, broadcaster Veronica didn’t have a lot of trouble finding enough Dutch-speaking Brazilians girls to play football in lingerie for their Lingerie WK.

What they were selling was not very clear, but they certainly helped Veronica increasing their male audience. If you don’t understand Dutch, don’t worry. You have been spared a lot of bad taste sexist comments.

Brazilian music is another common feature on Dutch TV spots. That is, what the Dutch creatives think is Brazilian music. Let’s get this straight once and for all: SALSA IS NOT BRAZILIAN MUSIC.

Samba is and the two are distinguishable music styles. Even that famous sticky club hit from 1997 called Samba de Janeiro, that was a huge hit then and is still played a lot in Holland, has very little to do with samba. It was in fact produced by Germans.

Also last year, Gerard Joling, one of the best-selling Dutch music stars who’d never before had been associated with Brazil or football made that same common mistake. Although we are not certain if his song Rio classifies as salsa, it certainly doesn’t sound Brazilian at all.

The funny thing here is that he took the time and invested money going to Brazil to film his videoclip. It’s a pity that his musical producer didn’t invest anything in getting to know Brazilian music. Any good Dutch musician with a little of world music knowledge could have helped him.

This is precisely the point we want to make: Brazil in Holland is good to be used as a colorful background, as an ideal of laid-backness and (mostly female) beauty that sells and has been selling for decades. A lot of the same for a long time. But Brazil has much more to offer and has changed a lot in recent decades. While the Brazilian community in Holland has grown and changed, more and more Dutch citizens are visiting Brazil, either for tourism or to take advantage of the economic opportunities that arise with Brazil recent economic growth, as proved by that statement on the Dutch Government website and by regular large official trade missions to Brazil. From all international visitors who were in Brazil during last years’s World Cup, the Dutch were the ones who stayed the longest and spent the most. They certainly didn’t spend their money dancing to salsa, buying Korean cars  or eating fictitious Brazilian desserts which real Brazilians never heard of. In fact, research commissioned by the Brazilian Tourism Board ( Embratur) shows that what the foreign visitors appreciated the most in Brazil was its people, their hospitality and the diversity of their culture.

Now, with the Olympic Games in Rio coming up, it would be a good time for Dutch brands and their creative agencies who constantly borrow the imagery of Brazil to sell their products to start investing a bit more in discovering and representing what Brazil really is,  instead of nostalgic and sexists stereotypes:  That would in turn certainly help them opening the doors to Brazilian enormous, young and growing consumer market. 

© Braziel, 2015


  1. Frank Wisbrun
    August 6, 2015

    Wat een leuk en goed gessreven artikel Prabens !

    Brazilie blijft economisch, maar ook sociaal, zeer in beweging.

    Om sneller te kunnen groeien, zullen de investeringen, met name in infra structuur, energie en logistiek, versneld uitgevoerd moeten worden.

    Dit schept vele mogelijkheden voor het Nederlandse bedrijfsleven.

    Kansen die gepakt kunnen worden als er lokaal in Brazilie ,middels een goed netwerk, snel in het Portugees opvolging aan kan worden gegeven !

    Na ruim 20 jaar general management ervaring in Brazilie bij Unilever, Numico en Vopak, ben ik, Frank Wisbrun, in september 2012 een eigen bedrijf gestart: WCM (Wisbrun Consult& Management),Your gateway to Brazil ! om met name Nederlandse bedrijven te helpen om een duurzame positie op te bouwen in Brazilie.

    Buiten het hebben van een sterk sociaal en zakelijk netwerk in Brazilie, kent het Consulaat in Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro en de Ambassade mij redelijk goed, mede door de vele officiele bezoeken aan de Vopak Terminals in Brazilie.

    WCM: Your gateway to Brazil ! werkt inmiddels aan een aantal interessante opdrachten voor Nederlandse bedrijven geinteresseerd in Brazilie. Referenties zijn op aanvraag beschikbaar

    Ik ben beschikbaar om Uw bedrijf/organisatie te ondersteunen in Brazilie daar waar opportuun.

    Hoor graag van U.


    Frank Wisbrun

    Frank Wisbrun/WCM
    Sao Paulo, Brazil
    mobile: 55-11-994374242

    WCM: Your gateway to Brazil !!

  2. August 14, 2015

    In the case of Friesland Campina, the producer of the fake Brazilian pudding, the lack of budget is certainly not the reason foe their lack of reserach;
    “Every day Royal FrieslandCampina provides millions of consumers all over the world with dairy products containing valuable nutrients. With annual revenue of 11.4 billion euro, FrieslandCampina is one of the world’s five largest dairy companies. “

  3. August 14, 2015

    Perfectly summarized, congratulations – I could not agree more with your observations and conclusions.
    Hans Mulder
    Managing Director
    Dutch Brazilian Chamber of Commerce

    • August 18, 2015

      thanks a lot, Hans !

    • August 18, 2015

      Hartelijk dank, Hans!

  4. August 18, 2015

    Nog even, Hans… Als je wilt, misschien kunnen we een keer samen gaan brainstormen over een plan om de stereotypering van Brazilië in Nederland te stoppen, of ten minste om ervoor te zorgen dat een meer actuele versie van Brazilië komt te staan. Als je daar iet in ziet, laat me weten!

  5. August 18, 2015

    We hebben bij Campina een klacht ingediend over het feit dat ze een toetje als Braziliaan verkopen waarvan niemand in Brazilië ooit van gehoord hebt. Dit is hun antwoord:

    Dossiernummer 1277146-1
    Geachte heer Ramos,

    Hartelijk dank voor uw bericht van 14-08-2015 over Mona Limoen Munt pudding.

    We hebben ons gebaseerd op waar de ingrediënten vandaan komen, niet waar het toetje vandaan komt. Het toetje komt inderdaad gewoon uit Nederland.

    Voor de productie van Munt en Limoen is Brazilië een van de grote wereldspelers. Daarnaast is Brazilië een land wat tot de verbeelding spreekt. Dit alles bij elkaar zorgt voor de keuze van het land voor het Toetje van de Maand.

    Daarnaast is de muziek ingespeeld door een Braziliaanse musicus om het zo echt mogelijk te laten zijn.

    Wij vertrouwen erop u met deze informatie van dienst te zijn geweest.

    Met vriendelijke groet,

    FrieslandCampina Consumentenservice


  6. Camie van der Brug
    August 19, 2015

    Olá Eduardo,

    Just read your article “Fake and oversexed version of Brazil helps selling anything in Holland” : great! Feeling a bit ashamed to be Dutch, living in Brasil …

    But isn’t almost all advertising “rather oversexed, fake, outdated and often inaccurate”?

    Have you seen the short promotion movie the Dutch made of themselves in 2013?
    Rather arrogant and macho…
    Some examples:
    “There is virtually no other country in the world where you will find such variety of nationalities and cultures as in the Netherlands”… Sure?
    “Open minded, tolerant, entrepreneurial”… Can someone explain why, if we really are that multicultural and open minded, in the whole 24 minute movie we see and hear only white males (apart from one blond female exception)?
    “Haring the Dutch all love – best sushi in town -” … Really?
    “Combination of colonial past and multicultural society ensures that exotic dishes can be found everywhere”… Isn’t being proud of our colonial past nowadays a bit “outdated”?
    The end quote is quite tasteless, when the actor concludes: “I just hope that this has inspired you to come and to see for yourselves what the Netherlands has to offer” with an insinuating blink just when two blond ladies walk by…. OK, they are not in bikini, but the idea is the same…

    Is this a particular Dutch problem?
    I don’t think so.
    Brazilian beer commercials made for the Brazilian market are quite similar to the one of Bavaria, or worse. SKOLL even had to take a commercial out of the air this year, due to their famous (shocking) slogan: “Deixei o não em casa”… Have a look at:

    So… a lot to do in your business!
    Your critical analysis is promising!
    Question is: do you think the truth (or something more realistic) will sell?
    I once asked a Dutch journalist based in Rio why the articles about Brazil in the Dutch newspapers are always focusing on slums, carnival, drugs, amazon, football… Her answer was: something else is difficult to sell. I did not want to believe her. I hope you will prove her wrong.

    Kind regards,
    Camie van der Brug
    (Cultural Anthropologist)

    • zedu1971
      August 24, 2015

      Dear Carnie,
      Thanks for your reaction! I totally agree with you that advertising in general is full of stereotypes and this is not a Dutch problem. I write about Brazil in Holland and vice-versa, that’s why i focused on how Brazil is represented in Dutch advertising. Even more that the stereotypes, what really bother me are the lack of accuracy, as in the case of Portuguese actor, and the fact that the stereotype hasn’t changed a bit in 30 yearsm while so much in Brazil has changed.

Drop a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *