Speed Reads

Ad Fail

Dove apologizes for, yanks body wash ad showing a black model turning into a white model

Over the weekend, Dove faced down a controversy of its own making: a remarkably tone-deaf three-second ad for Dove Body Wash that shows a black woman taking off a brown shirt to reveal a white woman in a white shirt, who then takes off her shirt to reveal a slightly browner woman in a slightly browner shirt. "An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully," Dove tweeted on Saturday. "We deeply regret the offense it caused."

The offense went viral on Friday when Naomi Blake, a beauty entrepreneur with a large social media following, posted the first transition on her Facebook page.

"This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened," Dove said in a statement Sunday. It took down the ad, but did not reveal how it "happened" — how it survived marketing and executive vetting — or what the intended message was. Many critics pointed to early 20th century ad campaigns where black people were "washed" white, plus more recent Dove and Nivea ads.

Some people found Dove's response insufficient. But as The New York Times notes, when the Chinese company Qiaobi released a May 2016 laundry detergent TV ad in which a black man has a detergent pod stuck in his mouth before he's put into a washing machine, only to emerge as a light-skin Asian man, a Qiaobi spokeswoman stood by it, saying, "If we just show laundry like all the other advertisements, ours will not stand out."