- Unilever's Dove soap brand had to pull and apologize for an ad shared on its Facebook page after it was accused of being racially insensitive, reported NBC News. Naomi Leann Blake, a makeup artist, helped spark the backlash with a screengrab of the ad that went viral on social platforms.
- The ad depicted a black woman removing a brown top to reveal a white woman underneath, who then removed her top to reveal a woman appearing to be of Asian descent, NBC News said. Consumers' ire stemmed from what was perceived as a message of washing away race. NBC pointed out this isn't the first time Dove has been embroiled in such controversy: Another ad from 2011 was also considered racially insensitive, featuring a "before and after" theme where the women became progressively whiter as they moved from before to after.
- On Saturday, Oct. 7, after removing the ad, Dove released a statement on its social media channels reading, "An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we'll use it to guide us in the future." This was deemed an insufficient non-apology by critics, some of whom suggested they will boycott the brand.
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
Dove has attempted to lead the charge in the industry in terms of diverse representations of both models' body sizes and races, especially with its 15-year-running "Real Beauty" brand platform. However, a number of recent marketing flubs underscore how this strategy is more frequently turning up misses as non-white or plus-sized figures are represented but continue to be marginalized in the marketing itself.
The now-pulled Facebook ad joins the notorious 2011 "before and after" slip-up and also a U.K. packaging play from May, where body wash bottles designed to represent different female body types were widely mocked for drawing unflattering comparisons to women's figures. These incidents underscore the tricky line brands straddle in developing socially-conscious messaging with real perspective and authenticity.
Other initiatives by Dove and parent company Unilever have seen more success. A partnership with TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes called Real Beauty Productions launched this past March and is focused on content building self-esteem. A recent short film, titled "Meet Diana," tells the story of a woman who rediscoveries her strength and confidence while re-learning to walk with a prosthesis. Rolled out in September, it's already garnered over 1.7 million hits on YouTube.