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The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 09, 2017 1:00 am

Consumers view Dove ad as racist

Black woman turns white in photos

Washington Post

The Dove brand has sheepishly admitted that it had “missed the mark” with a not-so-vaguely racist advertisement that has made it the latest target of consumer rage.

But many angry and befuddled Dove lovers spent the weekend wondering what mark Dove was trying to hit in the first place.

The ire-inducing advertisement – a static compilation of four photos – was released Saturday afternoon. The first frame shows a dark-skinned woman in what appears to be a bathroom, a bottle of Dove body wash in the lower right-hand corner of the picture.

In subsequent frames, the woman reaches down and lifts up her shirt (and apparently the rest of her skin/costume) to reveal a smiling white woman.

Offended Dove users erupted, and the company quickly apologized. But the two-sentence Twitter note and a slightly longer message on Facebook left it unclear what exactly the ad was trying to convey.

The vacuum of information was filled by people on social media who peppered the company with comments and rhetorical questions, none of them good.

Was Dove saying that inside every black woman is a smiling redheaded white woman?

Was Dove invoking the centuries-old stereotype that black is dirty and white is pure? Or that black skin can or should be cleansed away?

And perhaps the biggest question of all: Did Dove really believe that the ad would make more people of color want to buy its products?

“What exactly were yall going for?” one self-described Dove consumer said on the company's Facebook page. “What was the mark ... I mean anyone with eyes can see how offensive this is. Not one person on your staff objected to this? Wow. Will not be buying your products anymore.”

Others wondered whether the problem was a lack of diversity at Dove. They pointed to historical examples of racist ads about soap so good that it apparently washes the melanin right out of your skin.

The marketing conundrum is, of course, not limited to the 60-year-old maker of soaps and body washes.

Earlier this year, the German skin care company Nivea was dinged for a deodorant ad that declared “White Is Purity.”