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Dove’s PR disaster: Backlash against ‘racist’ advertisement

By Yashi Jain

Recently, the beauty brand uploaded a video showing a black woman wearing a chocolate coloured shirt taking off the shirt to reveal a smiling white woman wearing a white shirt, who then takes off her shirt to reveal an Asian woman. The video which was intended to display the ‘after’ product benefit on each woman, was not quite accepted by people across the world, as the way that it was done, made it appear as if the black woman had washed with Dove and turned into a white woman, in turn, offending many. It received brickbats and criticism on social media on the grounds of ‘racism’.

Backlash against apparent racism

The video and its inherent racism were called out by a makeup artist, NaytheMUA, who took screenshots and shared it on her own Facebook page from where it went viral and stirred up a controversy. She said, her main point for calling this out was that it was sending out a subliminal message that people who are white might be better than people of colour. Whether or not that was the intention of the company, it sure did come across as that and led to thousands of people sharing the screenshot and boycotting Dove using the #DoneWithDove. Following this, Dove and it’s parent company Unilever, on Saturday, wrote an apology and said “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.” However, Dove faced criticism for its half-hearted apology as well, as many said they could have done better than just “missed the mark”. Even after the apology, many continue to boycott Dove. It is hard to believe, that such a mistake was overlooked.

Dove’s other controversial campaigns in the past

This is not the first time that Dove has found itself in a PR crisis. In 2011 the brand apologised for an ad for Dove VisibleCare body wash which seemed to show a black woman as the ‘before’ photo and a white woman as the ‘after’ photo who had more beautiful skin after using Dove. Again in 2012, it faced criticism for advertising Summer Glow Lotion for “normal to dark skin”. Many people are questioning the approval process of the brand and their general common sense which does not seem to have improved since their last mishap.

What is ironic is that Unilever is at the forefront of the industry group called the Unstereotype Alliance, a group that works towards making ads that are less stereotypical. The group was launched with much hullabaloo at Cannes Festival this summer. After Saturday, many people have backlashed against this aspect of Unilever as well, saying the brand does not “walk its talk” and it’s time it does. Experts are saying, that the brand has stepped over its own 13-year-old effort of building a goodwill over it’s “Real Beauty” campaign. This ad is reminiscent of the racist soap ads of the past in the early 19th century, which is very contradictory to the “Real Beauty” campaign celebrating all kinds of women. It is apparently, the biggest PR disaster of the year, even bigger than Pepsi that faced flak over it’s Kendall Jenner advertisement, earlier this year.

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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