Dove executives admitted they "missed the mark" and issued an apology after posting what many consider to be a racially insensitive ad on the company's Facebook page.
The three-second ad posted on Oct. 7 depicted a black woman lifting up her brown shirt to reveal a white woman wearing a tan shirt underneath. An image of Dove body wash lies in the lower right-hand corner of the shot.
Most of the images appear to only show two women -- more specifically, a black woman "turning" white. The full ad used three women of different ethnicities, presumably to display the color differences between them.
Twitter user Hadsi Bravo managed to capture the three women shown in the ad, which has since been taken offline.
"To be fair, there are 3 women in the ad: BLACK woman switches to WHITE then to BROWN. Should they reverse the order?" the user quipped.
A Dove representative also confirmed there were three women in the ad.
"The short video was intended to convey that Dove Body Wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong," the representative told Adweek. "It did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs ... we are re-evaluating our internal processes for creating and approving content to prevent us making this type of mistake in [the] future. We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience."
Dove has previously announced a commitment to diversity. It proudly displays the "Real Beauty Pledge" -- which promises to show "real women of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair color, type or style" -- on its website. The color-changing ad has some doubting whether Dove's corporate culture is as reflective of the "Real Beauty Pledge" as the company claims.
"What exactly were yall going for?" a Facebook user posted on Dove's page, reports The Washington Post. "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."
The brand has repeatedly used producer and screenwriter Shonda Rimes to make short promotional videos promoting Dove products. An article for Mashable speculates if the ad campaign would have been posted if the company's marketing department had run it by Rimes.
This is not the first time the company has been criticized for its marketing practices. According to The Washington Post, Dove released six body wash bottles in the U.K. designed to represent different types of female physiques in May 2017.
Jess Zimmerman posted the following criticism on PostEverything:
Do all the bottles have the same amount of product? Are you supposed to buy the one that looks like you? Are you allowed to buy the ones that don’t look like you? Are we gearing up for a "Divergent"-style dystopia in which society is divided according to soap format?
Others have criticized the brand for using feminism as a marketing tool.
The Washington Post cites a 2013 article by Time for presenting this argument:
Brands like Dove and Pantene have made millions by preying on women’s insecurities and convincing them they need to buy products to meet societal standards of beauty: sure, you’re beautiful just the way you are, but use our products and you can be even more beautiful.