Alright Dove, One racist ad is a mistake, but another one makes you culpable. The consumer giant is back with yet another shameless portrayal of racism. In the face of severe backlash, the company has apologized for and withdrawn one of its advertisements after massive outrage. The advertisement shows an African American woman removing her dark brown T-shirt to reveal a white woman, who then removes her light brown T-shirt to reveal an Asian woman.
The outrage resonates in India and our country’s obsession with fair skin. Dove has crossed the line with this way, way beyond the likes of Indian brands like Fair & Lovely, which is known to make ads to urge Indian women to desire a fairer complexion. Where Indian cream brands show lightening of skin complexion after wearing the product, Dove has taken it a step further, albeit to a deplorable level. While the advert begins with a women with a darker skin tone, it moves on to unveil a completely different woman, from another part of the world, after using the product. While the company withdrew the ad, it has, once again, brought into focus how deeply rooted racism and colourism are in the society. It may well be firmly ingrained that many fail to recognise they are indulging in it.Dove was quick to apologise but it may well be too late. While the insensitive ad may have been pulled down, the backlash is only growing.
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
More than being insensitive and indifferent, Dove’s ad is a sign of poor marketing strategy. During a time when issues of skin colour is a delicate topic around the world, skincare product companies, like Dove, set and control the discourse on what is considered pretty, and hence desirable. Thereby, giving cause to heightened hostile response.
Earlier this year, it designed bottles of shower gel in six different shapes, seeking to ‘evoke the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition’. After the counter-attack, the company stopped the production of the bottles.
When a company which openly recognises that beauty comes in various shapes and shades ‘misses the mark’ so often, what can we hope from the ‘Fair and Handsome’ and ‘Naturally Fair Herbal Fairness’ creams of the world?