Maybe you’ve seen the headlines this weekend: “Dove is racist”. This all stemmed from a screenshot released online of a now pulled Dove Facebook ad. At it’s core, the ad depicted a black woman using Dove’s body wash and essentially turning into a white woman. Yikes, right? After immediate consumer backlash, the ad was removed and Dove issued a Twitter apology.
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
People were not happy with the apology and this turned into a social media uproar filled with angry tweets and consumers stating they would boycott the Dove brand. The problem was that to everyone that never saw the original ad (including me), their only point of reference was the image being circulated with the original Twitter users’ handle stamped in the centre. No matter how hard I dug, I couldn’t seem to find the original ad at the time (without the Twitter handle) which led most people to believe that the ad being circulated was in fact the real thing. Now if it isn’t completely apparent, the problem with the ad is that it’s tone deaf and depicts a black woman as dirty, and a white woman as clean. It’s worth nothing that this wouldn’t be the first time that Dove has been accused of racially incentive ads as well as products.
WAIT WAIT WAIT!!! HOW DID THIS LEAVE THE WHITEBOARD?!?! pic.twitter.com/3JaPKoMOPZ
— ✨Odion 🗣🎙 (@bodaciousbobo) October 8, 2017
to think that a group of people looked at that picture, put it on a campaign ad and wanted to people to just flow wit it in 2017…. 2017
— BigSeye 👑 🇳🇬 (@deRAYSTAR) October 8, 2017
Several hours later the original ad posted began to submerge and the reaction of consumers took a major turn. What initially appeared as a black woman turning into a white woman was dispelled as there is a third woman that appears afterwards. The purpose of the ad stated by Dove was “to convey that Dove body wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity“. What the ad lacked was racial sensitivity, and this should be a lesson for every brand out there that is trying to communicate a message surrounding diversity. There is a long history of brands using the idea that a black person is inferior to a white person, and by having the black woman first in this sequence, the message can be misconstrued and taken out of context. Do I believe that Dove is a racist brand that did this on purpose? Absolutely not. However, at the same time there needs to be someone with a seat at the table that speaks up and points out that this ad may come across as offensive. To think that a multi-million dollar brand sold in over 80 countries doesn’t have this person is unfathomable. Simply restructuring the order could have prevented 2 apologies and your brand trending for all the wrong reasons.
Did everyone jump the gun in trashing Dove? Yes, however this is the reality in today’s age. We react towards what is presented to us. There will be a large amount of people that don’t ever see the now released full ad in motion and they will continue on with their hatred for the Dove brand. Who’s to blame? Dove for releasing a tone deaf ad and us as consumers for not digging deeper. This is yet another example on the list for 2017’s racially incentive ads joining the likes of Pepsi, Nivea, and others. Looks like we’ll have to do an end of the year recap with the way things are trending.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Did consumers react too soon or was it justified?
Dakarai is an ambitious professional with a passion for advertising and marketing, and is currently employed as an account coordinator for an ad agency in Toronto. When he’s not at the office, he’s most likely trying out a new restaurant, browsing AdWeek, or binge watching something on Netflix. Dakarai, but you can call him Dak. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and connect with him on LinkedIn.