When Dove Ran A Racially Insensitive Ad, The Internet Fought Back (And Won)

Internet backlash has pushed to retract the ad.

Though it's hard to believe that in 2017 a well-known brand could run an ad featuring a Black woman peeling away a brown shirt to reveal a White redheaded woman wearing a beige shirt, Dove, a company known for promoting diversity and body positivity, took a major misstep on October 6 when the racially insensitive spot went public.

The ad has since gone viral after being shared by a woman named Naythemua, and Internet's reaction was swift and brutal, with many calling for some sort of explanation. 


For many, the ad was not only nonsensical but hurtful, as it promoted damaging racial stereotypes. "Is @Dove soap's marketing strategy?" wondered one Twitter user. "Before - black & dirty, "After - Caucasian & clean."

To make matters worse, several others brought up the fact that this isn't the first time Dove has equated dark skin with dirt and lighter skin with cleanliness. The soap company came under fire for a similar ad in 2011 that showed a woman of color as the "before" and a White woman as the "after," seemingly implying the latter was somehow superior.

While the ad itself was clearly not well thought out, Dove quickly responded to the mounting controversy and addressed it in a tweet about 24 hours after the ad first went public. The company acknowledged the ad "missed the mark" and expressed regrets over "the offense it caused."

However, though it was powerful to see how such a negative response from those on the Internet could lead to such a quick reply, many felt Dove's reaction fell short. As educator and activist Brittany Packnett pointed out, Dove's "apology" was offensive in part because Black women spend nearly eight billion dollars in the beauty industry annually.

"That's a big 'mark' to 'miss,'" she declared. 

Dove once again sounded off on the controversy in a statement to BuzzFeed News, this time directly apologizing for any offense the ad caused. "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 have removed the post and have not published any other related content," the company said. "We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience."

Simply retracting the ad and offering an apology is not enough for some users, who are calling for a change in how the company thinks about and approves its advertising. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Johnson & Johnson, have already pledged to examine how women (particularly women of color) are depicted in various advertisements. Dove would do well to take notes.


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