Many Brands have taken it upon themselves to become more inclusive of all people in their advertising campaigns; however, all progress comes with many setbacks, and it just so happens that many of these setbacks are racist in context. Dove, Shea Moisture, and Pepsi to name a few of the brands who are responsible for problematic advertising, have all spoken out against the ads they previously posted stating that it wasn’t their intention to make a racist advertisement, but the damage had already been done making these textbook examples of intention versus impact.
Perhaps Dove did make the mistake they claimed to not realize was a mistake, but this is a spilt milk situation or maybe a chocolate-milk situation. The advertisement that Dove recently released on Facebook depicts a Woman of Color removing her shirt and as the shirt is removed a Caucasian woman appears where the Woman of Color once was, and during the entire advertisement a Dove bottle was placed in the lower right-hand corner. At first glance this seems harmless, but that is only if someone is oblivious to the history of skin whitening and the desire for fair skin by using bleach and cleaning products as an attempt to wash away melanin.
There is a dark history in America of fair skin being preferred over darker skin, of course racism is a factor in this, but specifically speaking about the Black community and internalized racism this advertisement plays upon that preference. The desire to have fair skin is one constructed in a society that favors people who possess this ineffectual trait, and in the recent Dove advertisement this fallacious desire for fair skin is fully depicted. The context of skin whitening and the preference for fair skin is a phenomenon that is talked about frequently in the black community, which is my main concern for the advertisement because it not only reveals how oblivious Dove is but it also may suggest that no people of color were involved in the creation process of the advertisement other than the actor of color included in the beginning, who seems annoyed that the advertisement was being misinterpreted.
How could a brand that preaches about inclusivity not employ people whom they are trying to include? Shea Moisture is another brand responsible for the same misstep, and it’s troubling to think that this will not be the last time a story of this caliber, so what is the solution to this problem? Ironically, the solution is the exact purpose of the advertisements in the first place, diversity, not just on camera but behind the camera and all throughout an organization. If certain voices are left out of a conversation and only present to save face issues such as this advertisement will continue to occur.
The advertisement “missed its mark” as placed by Dove execs who apologized for the ad, but that doesn’t free them for what they did. In situation such as this where intent differs from impact it seems only fair to forgive those who committed the transgression, but it’s not that simple when the issue harms other in the process. Intent is inconsequential when dealing with the impact of that action. Dove’s apology is far from change they are empty words, and this is something observed by many twitter users who have planned to boycott Dove for the time being.
Dove apologized for the offensive advertisement, but what will they actually do to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future?