Dove’s ‘racist’ ad might have cost the brand an advantage it spent 13 years building

Dove Facebook ad

  • Dove is hardly the first marketer to find itself

    embroiled in a public-relations crisis this year
    , but it’s
    likely to take a bigger hit than others, experts say.
  • This is because the digital ad — which many say carries
    an overtly racist message — flies in the face of everything
    Dove has been trying to say about women over the past decade
    with its « Real Beauty » campaign.
  • Dove’s screwup also once again highlights the delicate
    place that marketers occupy in the age of social media, where a
    consumer mob can quickly jump on a misstep and cause it to
    escalate far beyond the brand’s control.

Dove is the latest marketer to
find itself in hot water
after it ran what many saw as a
racist ad on Facebook last week.

The beauty brand posted a three-second video on its US Facebook
page on Friday showing a black woman removing her top to reveal a
smiling white woman underneath. On Saturday, the brand apologized
and said in a
that it had removed the clip.

While Unilever, which owns the Dove brand, is hardly the first to
find itself
embroiled in a public-relations crisis
this year, experts say
it’s likely to take a bigger hit than others,
like Pepsi
, which was hammered earlier this year for an ad
starring Kendall Jenner.

That’s because the Dove ad isn’t just tone-deaf — more
problematic is that its message seems to stands staunchly against
everything that the company’s much-praised, pro-women marketing
has stood for over the past decade. Its uber-successful
13-year-old « Real Beauty » campaign has featured messaging such as
« You’re
more beautiful than you think
. »

« The Pepsi mishap seems small compared to this ad by Dove and
Unilever, » said Chris Allieri, the principal of Mulberry
Astor, a New York-based PR, branding, and marketing agency. « For
a company that has professed to embrace ‘real beauty’ by
showcasing everyday women, this misstep is unconscionable. »

With this unforced error, the company has unraveled the entire
premise of its « Real Beauty » campaign, said Erich Joachimsthaler,
the founder and CEO of the branding-strategy firm Vivaldi
Partners. Those ads have long centered on rejecting insular
notions of beauty while
vowing to feature
« real women of different ages, sizes,
ethnicities, hair color, type or style. »

« Dove’s brand has been built on this unique and well-communicated
belief system, » he said. « And this ad undermines the very brand
value for which Dove stands. »

Not only has Dove built its brand on « Real Beauty, » but Unilever
too has embraced a role as a champion of diversity in the
advertising and marketing industry.

Unilever is at the forefront of an industry group called
the Unstereotype Alliance
, tasked with proactively coming up
with ways to make ads less stereotypical. The group, launched to
much fanfare at the Cannes Lions festival this summer, was

lauded by Unilever’s marketing chief, Keith Weed
, during his
panels at Advertising Week two weeks ago.

« When your ad is being called ‘racist’ by people across social
media, you’ve done a lot more than ‘miss the mark,' » Allieri
said. « It just goes to show that in reality there is a long way
from Cannes to Main Street. Maybe they should have ‘real people’
create the ads rather than just starring in them. »

This isn’t the first time Dove has caused outrage — many people
see the ad as just the latest
in a string of marketing efforts
from Dove that elevate white
beauty above that of women of color.

In 2011, for example, Dove apologized for an ad for its
VisibleCare body wash
that seemed to show a black woman in
the « before » photo and a white woman in the « after » photo with
« more beautiful skin. » And in 2012, Dove faced criticism for
advertising its Summer Glow Lotion as being for « normal to dark
skin. »

« This would be a crisis of extreme proportions even if it was a
one-off, » said Matt Rizzetta, the CEO of the brand-communications
agency North 6th Agency. « But it’s not the first time that it’s
happened to them, and that’s why lands them a place alongside the
biggest brand crises of the year, including United and Uber. »

Dove’s widely derided ad also once again highlights the delicate
place that brands occupy in the age of social media, where a
consumer mob can quickly jump on any perceived slight and cause
it to escalate far beyond the brand’s control. Like
United Airlines
earlier this year, Dove has lost control of
its narrative and consumers have called for a boycott, using the
hashtag #BoycottDove.

« I don’t question their intent, but I do question their approval
process, their execution, and general common sense, » Rizzetta
said. « While social media requires a faster turnaround and a
shorter response time, there need to be ample checks and balances
to ensure that the sensitivity of the message is at par with
speed and response time. »

Dove told Business Insider the short video was intended to convey
that Dove body wash was for every woman, as well as celebrate
diversity, « but we got it wrong. » The brand also said the video
« did not represent the diversity of real beauty, which is
something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, »
and that it was « re-evaluating our internal processes for
creating and approving content to prevent us making this type of
mistake in future. »

Experts said the brand must not only put an efficient
crisis-communications plan in place, but walk the walk.

« Launching an Unstereotype Alliance at an advertising party with
lots of rosé at the beach or fancy yacht events at Cannes is just
a lot of talk, » Joachimsthaler said. « They need to walk the
talk. »

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *