Advertising is easily botched. Every year, plenty of attempts to sell a product are found to be absurd and/or offensive, though this discovery only comes once the advert is handed to the public. There are two options for the advertisers when this happens: either they knew what they were doing, and stand their ground even after being told they missed the mark, or admit to completely ignoring the possibilities for interpretation and apologise. If, for example, your ad campaign is very evidently racist, even if you didn’t intend for it to be, the latter choice is evidently the better route to take. Of course, the best choice would have been to employ advertising staff who aren’t entirely oblivious to the world and didn’t produce the campaign from beneath a rock.
Dove’s campaign is either naïve, or ignorant, depending on if you wish to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t. To see the mock-up of those adverts and okay them must have been done by a room peopled entirely by the blind. Otherwise, there is no real excuse. To present a transformation from black to white, which is what the adverts are whether Dove care to admit it or not, is exactly why the Chinese detergent company, Qiaobi, found themselves ridiculed worldwide last year. Qiaobi might have very blatantly been using race as a clean/dirty comparison, so their denial was obviously ridiculous. Dove did not deny their idiocy, but why was it missed before being released? Yes, Dove didn’t publish with anything like the intent of Qiaobi, but the resulting advert presents the same image.
Dove opted for an apology tweet. At least, they attempted to, in their own, special, insensitive way. ‘An image we recently posted on Facebook,’ tweeted Dove, or more likely, the same ad writer who came up with the campaign, ‘missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.’ Somewhere there is the whiff of a sorry, but it’s lost behind their suggestion that, they’re only sorry because it was found to be offensive. The alternative, of course, being that it was advertised exactly the same way, and nobody thought there was a problem, just like Dove themselves.
What is to be learned from the adverts? Well, Dove is going to find themselves with a lot of offers from the Trump family to buy all of their stocks. And it’s perhaps Lena Waithe who said it most aptly: ‘Dear Dove, I’m never taking my shirt off again.’
Photo Credits: Dove