Cosmetics company Dove recently sparked a social media uproar after it ran what many saw as a racist advertisement, making it the latest target of consumer rage.
After the beauty brand posted a three-second video on its Facebook page, on Friday, Oct. 6 showing a black woman removing her top to reveal a smiling white woman underneath, the advert to get slammed for less-than-ideal racial undertones.
The first frame shows a dark-skinned woman in what appears to be a bathroom, a bottle of Dove body wash in the lower right-hand corner of the frame.
In subsequent frames, the woman reaches down and lifts up her shirt (and apparently the rest of her skin/costume) to reveal a smiling white woman.
Offended social media users erupted with immediate and merciless backlash and the brand quickly apologized in a tweet on Saturday, saying that it had removed the clip, but there are still calls to boycott the product using the hashtag #BoycottDove.
Dove says the video was intended to convey the body wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity.
“This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened. We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience,” the company said in a statement.
The brand also said it was “re-evaluating our internal processes for creating and approving content to prevent us making this type of mistake in future.”
For more than a decade, Dove has been at the forefront of a controversial campaign to change the way Americans think of female beauty. It has generated a long-overdue conversation about what defines beauty and why our preconceived notions are outdated.
But most importantly, it has implored women to love themselves regardless of whether they fit the standard society has defined for them. It has placed round bodies, slim bodies, dark bodies and light bodies on a more inclusive pedestal — one that embraces diversity by showcasing our uniqueness.
Unilever, Dove’s parent company, is at the forefront of an industry group called the Unstereotype Alliance, tasked with proactively coming up with ways to make ads less stereotypical.
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has taken on a fresh significance over the last year as the country has struggled with a broader crisis revolving around race and ethnicity.
This isn’t the first time Dove has caused outrage. Dove has had a few missteps along the way, some of which have been used to raise questions about whether the company is taking advantage of women’s deep-seated emotions about body image.
In 2011, Dove apologized for an ad for its VisibleCare body wash that seemed to show a black woman in the “before” photo and a white woman in the “after” photo with “more beautiful skin.” And in 2012, Dove faced criticism for advertising its Summer Glow Lotion as being for “normal to dark skin.”
Dove’s widely derided ad also once again highlights the delicate place that brands occupy in the age of social media, where a consumer mob can quickly jump on any perceived slight and cause it to escalate far beyond the brand’s control.
While Unilever is hardly the first to find itself embroiled in a public-relations crisis this year, experts say it’s likely to take a bigger hit than others, like Pepsi, which was hammered earlier this year for an ad starring Kendall Jenner.
With racial tensions running so high, many have at times been too quick to charge racism when something makes them feel uncomfortable and experts advise the brand to not only put an efficient crisis-communications plan in place, but walk the walk.
Watch the controversial video below: