My dad used to say only a jackass steps in the same hole twice.
Which prompts the question, Is Unilever run by a bunch of jackasses?
You’ve probably read by now about a Facebook ad that Dove put up last week featuring a black woman, quickly removing her top to reveal a white women quickly removing her top to reveal an Asian woman. It was introduced with the line “Ready For A Dove Shower?”
The idea, Dove said, was to promote diversity and that its body wash product works equally well for everybody.
Apparently, the company didn’t care a whole lot when it was first called out on the ad last Friday by beauty product entrepreneur and influencer Naomi Blake. She told CNN Money that when she expressed concern about the ad to the firm, she received “copy and paste” response.
But then the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan when the backlash on social media erupted, with people calling it racist and urging others never to buy the product again.
Finally, Unilever apologized, saying the ad “missed the mark.”
As The New York Times pointed out, there is a history of racist soap marketing in the U.S. It pointed to the example of the N.K. Fairbank Co. that featured ads of a white child posing the question to a black child, “Why doesn’t your mamma wash you with Fairy soap?”
The contretemps is just the latest accusation of racism in a Dove ad.
The fact that it’s happened before—to Unilever and others—would, you’d think, make a marketer extremely sensitive to the potential missteps that can occur when producing, well pretty much any ad these days.
A 2011 misfiring Dove body wash ad lined up three women from lightest to darkest skin color, appearing below “before” and “after” graphics. The intent there was to demonstrate how the product helped alleviate dryness.
Look, promoting diversity in advertising is highly commendable. Long overdue, in fact. But if you’re going to do it, do it right. Just don’t pay lip service to it.
So you have a problem Unilever. Because good intentions claimed by a marketer aren’t good enough. Everyone knows your number one goal is to sell stuff.
It’s a real-time marketing world, we all know that. So get real and get the kinks out of your system before the next ridiculously insensitive ad goes live.