Dove has been forced to apologize for yet another “body positive” campaign gone wrong, this time one that offended women of color.
The Facebook FB, +0.58% advertisement showed a black woman taking off a top to reveal a white woman underneath. The advertisement was called racist on social media by consumers who also pointed out a bottle of Dove “Summer Glow Soft Shimmer” is suitable for “normal to dark skin.” Amid a barrage of criticism online, some of which used the hashtag #boycottdove, the company tweeted that it “deeply regretted” the offense caused.
“An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully,” the statement by Dove read. “We deeply regret the offense it caused.” The company did not immediately respond to request for comment what the concept was behind the Facebook ad and what steps were taken to approve the ad before it was released. The company is currently celebrating “60 years of real beauty.”
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
Three racists ads from Dove. Stop supporting companies that views your skin anything different from “normal”. pic.twitter.com/RCxXkTfb4H
— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) October 8, 2017
— Quita (@MarquitaRich) October 8, 2017
The company released a longer ‘mea culpa’ on Facebook. “Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity,” the statement read. “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.” One commenter, many of whom were upset, wrote, “Feeling regretful is not an apology.”
This just the latest misfire for Dove. Earlier this year, it created six different limited edition bottles of body wash — designed to supposedly emulate six different body types. The hair and skincare products maker owned by Unilever UN, -1.15% once again set the internet alight. In May, a commercial for the body wash had a male voiceover, reminiscent of a beauty pageant, saying, “It’s time now to bring out the pretty people and I ‘D’ double dare you to find prettier ladies here.” One slogan says, “Real beauty breaks molds,” but then the ad goes on to fashion six molds of their own.
“This is horrible marketing,” says Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for Development at the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute at New York University. “Our bodies’ shapes do not define the soap we use. How trivial and offensive. I imagine they’re trying to be body positive. But, really, they’re shining a light on bodies in a context that does nothing to call for it. The shape of my body — apple or pear — has no bearing on anything whatsoever. Why would it? Can you imagine if we did the same for men? Beer belly-shaped soap containers?”
Dove wants to shape body wash bottles like women’s body types, a concept I find “mind-bottling.” What women-targeted marketing campaigns do…
— WomensRadio (@WomensRadio) May 8, 2017
Dove has won awards for previous “real beauty” advertising campaigns, says Stephen Greyser, professor of marketing and communications at Harvard Business School. “The company’s ads have been thoughtful and clever, and consistent with their approach to real women,” he says. Dove’s self-esteem project has reached more than 20 million young people “and we aim to reach 20 million more by 2020,” Sophie Galvani, Dove’s global brand vice president, said in a statement at the time. The campaign, she said, is designed to “celebrate this diversity.”
Last year, Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign focused on how women (rather than men) should talk positively about other women. Dove’s beauty expert wanted to talk about hurtful hashtags it says girls use online. The campaign was timed just before the final U.S. Presidential debate between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her then-Republican rival Donald Trump. Given the allegations of sexual assault against Trump (which he denied) and his comments about some of his accusers’ looks, it was regarded as bad timing.