Dove campaign in hot water

Posted by Carrie Reichenthal on May 25th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Dove has often been lauded for its unconventional beauty marketing techniques, such as launching the innovative Real Beauty campaign, designed to represent women of various shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.

However, the beauty brand is facing major criticism this week for its latest ad for body wash. Three women are depicted in a manner which some say suggests that dark skin and hair is a problem, and that light skin and hair is an optimal result.

The ad, for your viewing pleasure.

Female-driven online sites such as Styleite and Jezebel call the ad "cringeworthy" and downright "racist," harboring angry discussions from countless women who agree in their forums.  Others, like Maggie, from The Online Dish, calls it "a stupid ad" in a viral video.

However, Dove defends its ad, reporting to Gawker, "The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the "after" product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience."

Regardless of whether or not the ad is blatantly racist, one thing is true:  Dove is getting a lot of publicity.

It seems hard to believe that such a large company, with an undoubtedly large marketing team, failed to see anything wrong with this ad before thrusting it upon the world.  Companies are known for pulling this same strategy -- while the offensive message may be "unintentional," it is always mobilizing.  "Any press is good press," right?

Controversial ad campaigns such as these tend to bring hoards of both positive and negative consumers to the table.

But in Dove’s case, can this type of attention yield any positive feedback? Or in this case, is some press bad press?

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5 Responses to “Dove campaign in hot water”

  1. Lauren says:

    One word: oversensitivity. Just because the black woman is under the "before" it's racist? That's ridiculous. The racist people are the ones who look at the ad and see that, not the photographer/agency who was blind to the connotation.

    Everyone needs to just chillax

  2. Christopher says:

    Actually, and I've done this before, you could fix this ad with a tiny copy tweak...put the word "Dove" underneath "before" and "after".
    Then it doesn't matter where the models are standing; what matters is how Dove improves skin, regardless of "race".

    And, if you actually look at the ad, the "before" skin looks like a Caucasian who's been tanning too much, as opposed to the "after" skin...I suppose too many people have a bit too much time on their hands.
    It's body wash, not the implementation of Jim Crow voting laws, for cryin' out loud.

  3. Rachel says:

    Wow...really?? I agree with the first two posters. Oversensitivity and people with too much time on their hands.
    People today are looking for anything to complain about to try and get a buck or some sympathy. This is just ridiculous!!! You can clearly tell that all of the models have visibly nice glowing skin (as the ad copy underneath the photo mentions) from using Dove - regardless of their skin color. I agree, too that simply putting "Dove" under the words "Before" and "After" would have made a huge difference. After all, we do live in an age where common sense has to be spelled out for people because it doesn't exist any more! I am a native american, therefore a minority, but I don't go looking and scrutinizing every little thing to find a way to twist it into racism and I'm so sick and tired of people who do! This is 2011 in case some people missed that. Race, religion and sexual orientation of all kinds are tolerated in this day and age. Sure, you have some people who still live in the 1920's but guess what, not the majority! Quit using your race as an excuse to be lazy! Go out and work hard, make something of yourselves and don't give reason for one race, religion or sexual orientation to earn a "bad name".

  4. Keiko says:

    Dove is part of Unilever. They make a ton of skin whitening products, they just don't advertise them in the US, although if you go to beauty supply stores in certain neighborhoods you'll find them. And they make the most racist ads you'll ever see that air all over India, North Africa and the Middle East. There's one where a woman's fiance leaves her for a paler woman, so she uses the bleaching cream and quickly wins her man back. Another involves a tv audition, and the casting director actually tries to wipe off the screen he's looking at thinking it's dirty, but to his horror its actually just that the girl auditioning has dark skin. She wins the role after using the bleaching cream. There are a lot more, but it depressed me to think about them.

    Point: While this particular ad is not disturbingly racist to me, the company certainly is.

  5. eryung says:

    The most stupid campaign that I ever seen before...

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