Why Dove’s Recent Ad Totally Missed The Mark

Dove is trying to align themselves with everyday women, thus creating ads that are supposed to help foster a more positive relationship to their bodies and the way they look. But even though their vision is to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety, their recent ad has done anything but provide confidence, causing them something of a PR nightmare and tremendous social media backlash.

The ad that’s raising arms on social media is one that features women morphing into each other as they change their tops, with the one of a black women morphing into a white woman after supposedly using Dove’s body lotion upsetting the masses.

After seeing social media resentment start to stir, Dove issued an apology and explained that their images were taken out of context, stating that they “missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully.”

So what’s their biggest mistake? Not critically analyzing their ad enough. How could not one person among the hordes of PR, marketing and advertising specialists who ought to know better, question how the public would respond to a black woman turning into a white woman in these racially sensitive times?

After the black woman turns into a white woman, that white woman then morphs into a Latina. Now if they would have placed the white woman first and then the black or Latina woman, maybe they wouldn’t have had to defend their creative work. After all, Dove is known for its diversity and inclusivity and prides itself on offering products for women from all backgrounds.

Although some might argue that nothing is really wrong with this campaign, they might not know the true history of these kinds of ads. Soap ads from the 1880s and early parts of the 20th century would depict black people being scrubbed “clean” so much that their skin starts to lighten.

So how could Dove potentially fix this and still be true to their “all women are beautiful” focus? It could be as simple as issuing a new ad that reverses the order of how the women are shown. Or better, be more careful at choosing what sort of social media images it chooses since many only saw a quick video that showed only the first two women in the ad.

This may well be partly attributable to a generational factor, with younger Millennials creating the ads while being unaware of the very peculiar history of soap ads in the United States, and perhaps a little advertising history lesson would be in order as well.