Racist Adverts in 2017? Understand why Dove was boycotted on social media

People do not tolerate racist adverts anymore. Unfortunately, there are a few brands that have not responded to this. It is clear to see how Dove offended its audience and what the consequences were for the brand. 

Advertising tends to be a portrait of our society. So, what does it mean when a brand releases racist adverts? Well, this is what happened to Dove, of the anglo-dutch company Unilever, not once but twice. In October 2017, Dove released a 3 seconds clip for a beauty campaign launching their body wash on its US Facebook page. The video became viral in a few hours, the main reason for this attention was that it was accused of having racist content. In the campaign, a black woman removed her coloured t-shirt to reveal a white woman with a t-shirt of her skin colour.

Dove still releases racist ads in 2017.
Dove still releases racist adverts in 2017.

In 2011, Dove committed a similar mistake. The brand used a before and after the use of the product visual. In the before visual there was a black woman, in the middle a latin woman and in the after a white woman. On this occasion Dove said there was a mistake in the interpretation of their message and that all three women’s portraits showed the after effect of the soap.

Dove learned nothing from their first racist advert. This time they deleted it and apologised but they did not explain why they released it in the first place. When asked about how this advert was internally approved, Dove did not fill it necessary to respond. After this episode, people started questioning representativity in the advertising industry. Not only the portrayal of black people in the campaigns but the number of coloured people working in these agencies. And, of course, black people who have a voice in the approval of these adverts.

The first racist ad Dove released was in 2011.
The first of the two racist adverts Dove released.

The apologies made by Dove were not enough for women who felt offended by the advert. So, after the way Dove handled the case, a lot of social media users from the United States called out for a boycott of the brand. Personalities such as Ava DuVernay, director of the movieSelma, complained about both the advert and the apologies. The American broadcaster Keith Boykin was another famous person to speak out against Dove.

The idea of whitening skin products is very strong in the beauty industry. Marketers try to sell an idea that a fairer skin is more beautiful. This kind of content was widely accepted in last century, but now racist adverts are not accepted anymore. In this era of social media times, minorities such as coloured people are standing out to claim equality. So, it is correct to assume adverts like the two above released by Dove would not be tolerated.

Dove has been very inconsistent in their adverts. In 2004, they launched a huge campaign called “the real beauty”, exhibiting different kinds of beauties in women. Then they made two big mistakes, both offending black women. And then they clearly did not have a well-prepared crisis management team to deal with it. People are not passive to prejudice anymore and when a big brand such as Dove releases racist adverts, it certainly sets a precedent for this kind of prejudice to become commonplace in society as well.

Photo Source: Dove/ Twitter/ CBS News

Submitted By: Gabriela Amaral

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amaralg/