Dove came under fire last weekend for a three-second Facebook ad, which depicted a black woman wearing a brown shirt pulling off her shirt and revealing a white woman in a lighter colored shirt. The ad featured three women, each one taking off her shirt to reveal another woman.
Facebook users who saw the ad were up in arms, calling it racist and offensive. One user said it conveyed a message “that the Black Woman is dirty and once you use Dove soap, you’ll be clean and White.”
Dove, which is owned by Anglo-Dutch company Unilever (UL) removed the ad by Saturday, taking to its Facebook page to offer an apology. The company wrote: “Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity. In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.”
Yet this is not the first time that Dove has entered questionable territory with its advertising and products.
In May, Dove U.K. sold limited edition bottles of soap that were intended to mimic different body types and shapes, which some took to mean that women are defined by their body type. CNN political commentator took to Twitter to point out that Dove markets a moisturizing lotion, which is “for normal to dark skin.” And in 2011, Dove created an ad that depicted three women of different skin tones standing side by side, with signs reading “before” and “after” behind them. The black woman appeared to be standing in front of the “before” sign, while the white woman stood in front of the “after.” The ad’s strapline was “visibly more beautiful skin.”
While the implication of these advertisements is problematic, they also appear to run counter to one of Dove’s long-standing campaigns. The Real Beauty campaign, launched in 2004, maintains that “beauty is not one dimensional; it is not defined by your age, the shape or size of your body, the colour of your skin or your hair – it’s feeling like the best version of yourself.”