Dove’s latest Facebook campaign featuring a black woman removing a brown T-shirt to reveal a white woman in a pink T-shirt underneath has received widespread backlash and gone viral this week. The racially-insensitive blunder attempted to show the diversity of beauty in the world, but ended up falling flat on its face by seemingly implying that Dove products had “cleaned” her black skin off.
In the vein of Nivea’s ‘White Is Purity’ campaign back in April of 2017, Dove failed to have the foresight to see how this ad would be perceived as racially insensitive. It’s unclear if Dove’s usual agency Ogilvy & Mather was involved with the ad’s placement, or if its in-house U Studios was used, but regardless, this one gets filed under both the “What were they thinking?!” and “How did they miss that one?” categories.
Dove has been known to push boundaries in the pursuit of promoting body-positivity and inclusiveness (especially among women), and using ‘real women’ instead of models, but this type of misstep might be an important turning point for the brand who had been perceived suggesting in 2014 that dark skin isn’t “normal.” Oversight and diversity among creative teams and creative direction is critical to making sure your campaign can be embraced by all cultures, especially when diversity among beauty is your message.
In its statement on Twitter and Facebook, Dove said: “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.” While ‘missing the mark’ might be a fair, if understated, description, it’s great to see the power of the market let advertisers know that important issues like racial diversity must be discussed with due diligence, sensitivity, and care.