Unilever's Dove has apologized for a Facebook ad decried as racist in a social-media backlash that began Friday afternoon. The brand's apology has been met mostly with derision since it was issued Saturday, including threats of boycotts and questions about how the ad could have been approved in the first place.
The body wash ad showed a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman underneath. The backlash began Friday when makeup artist and online beauty products retailer Naomi Leann Blake (@NaytheMua) posted images from the ad on her Facebook news feed. By Saturday, amid growing social-media criticism, Dove issued its apology.
it's unclear who created the ad. Ogilvy & Mather handles much of the brand's creative work, but Unilever also has moved considerable work, particularly for quick-turnaround digital ads, in house to its U Studios.
In its statement on Twitter and Facebook, Dove said: "An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused."
A statement for Dove from its PR shop Edelman says: "As a part of a campaign for Dove Body Wash, a 3-second video clip was posted to the U.S. Facebook page. This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened. We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience."
A Facebook conversation posted by Blake on Friday afternoon appears to shed more light on the "what were they thinking?" question.
"The content featured demonstrates the benefits of our Dove Body Wash for every type of skin," the brand said in a message to Blake. "It offers 100% gentle cleansers, is sulfate free, and is #1 Dermatologist recommended. We are committed to representing beauty of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes and to listen to all women's needs to create great products."
Dove's 13-year-old "Real Beauty" campaign aims to celebrate the beauty of all kinds of women. The brand promised for its 60th anniversary this year to show in its ads only "real women," as opposed to models and actors, and to give the women featured sign off on the finished work.