Bowing to a 24-hour publicity firestorm, Swiffer, the Proctor & Gamble-owned cleaning company, on Tuesday announced it would pull an ad that had been widely condemned as offensive for recasting the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter as a sexed-up homemaker.
The ad, which shows a woman holding a steam-powered cleaner while posing in the signature red bandana and blue shirt, was first spotted and posted to Twitter Sunday afternoon.
— Heather Beschizza (@hbeschizza) June 2, 2013
In addition to the ad, which came as a newspaper insert, Swiffer even launched a standalone website dedicated to the product, the Swiffer Bissel Steam Boost, that used the same image. The site has since been updated to redirect to the main Swiffer site.
The ad campaign was painfully tone-deaf, since it took a proud feminist symbol and put it back in the kitchen, so to speak. The original image served as a propaganda poster during World War II, telling women they were strong enough to fill factory jobs left vacant by men who were fighting overseas.
"Who knew that when the poster said 'We can do it!', the 'it' in that sentence was 'steam clean the whole kitchen!!,'" The Washington Post's Alexandra Petri joked.
Monday evening, Swiffer apologized for the marketing campaign and promised to "make changes."
We hear you. We didn't intend to offend any group with the image in our ad & are working to make changes as quickly as possible.
— Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 3, 2013
The company then continued to apologize on Twitter for most of the day Tuesday, sending dozens of messages to seemingly anyone who criticized or inquired about the ad.
Swiffer on Tuesday also elaborated in a statement on its decision to yank the ad:
We were made aware of the concerns regarding the image in a Swiffer ad this afternoon. Our core purpose is to make cleaning easier for all consumers, regardless of who is behind the handle of our products. It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and we are working to remove it from where it’s being used as soon as possible. [Washington Post]
The ad comes on the heels of a Pew study that found that women were the primary or sole breadwinners in four in ten households.