Pity Dove – all they want women of colour to do is lighten up

Imagine the memo going around Dove HQ right now: 'We are a commercial company tasked simply with selling face-creams. We are not in the business of challenging local culture and prejudice'

Sufiya Ahmed
Monday 09 October 2017 16:59
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Dove says it deeply regrets 'racist' Facebook advert

Let’s imagine the state of the poor advertising executives at Dove’s head office. A gloomy Monday morning and they are sat around the “creative thinking” desk, heads in hands, wondering what went wrong.

We are going to assume that in the summer the advertising executives came under strict instruction from the global sales team. The brief was clear that the team must produce a new campaign which will succeed in hooking women into becoming loyal customers for their whitening skincare. Everyone in the beauty industry is excited about the new Global Industry Analysts report. Published in June 2017, it has predicted that that the global market for skin lighteners will be worth $31.2 billion by 2024.

The mission at Dove was clear. It is a brand that must give women hope. The campaign must be designed to make women feel better about themselves. You know the ones whose low self-esteem is reinforced every time they look in the mirror and see colour rather than white skin.

The advert was meant to be genius.

Use Dove and become what you have always aspired to be.

Fair.

But something went wrong and the marketing department are now in deep trouble because women on social media are calling the campaign racist.

The top people at Dove have had to issue this apology:

“An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.”

I imagine the private memo to employees doing the rounds at Dove:

“Going forward we must learn from this setback. Let it be registered that the women of colour in the western world do not have an issue with their skin tones. Interestingly, they seem to be happy with what they were born with. Research we should have paid attention to (you know who you are) shows that western women of colour do not suffer from low self-esteem in relation to not being pure white. If anything they have brought into the western cultural trend that tanned skin is a marker of wealth as it shows they can afford foreign holidays.

“On a positive note, our Love Yourself campaign has been a success. Sales are up. We have taught women to love their different shapes. They have been lathering on our body lotions as a result of the feel-good factor from the adverts.

Please also note that the whitening products should not be placed on shelves under the Love Yourself banners. Obviously, the women who hate their skin colour do not Love Themselves. Each to their own, but we do not need some smart pain-in-the-neck to make a huge point about it on Twitter or Facebook. Social media has a tendency to twist innocent campaigns into fake news. We must learn how to avoid this and the Board of Executives will discuss this on their next away day.

“The race changing advert for which we had to issue an apology will be pulled from the UK and USA. But please do not be discouraged. We expect you to go ahead and design similar ones for the Middle-Eastern, Asian (Far East and South Asian) and African markets.

Some employees have raised the ethical question of producing and selling skin whitening creams. A brief explanation: Dark skin stigma is prevalent in these regions as fair skin is the highest standard of beauty. Various products already exist to turn dark skin fair which includes cosmetic creams, skin bleaching, chemical peels, laser treatments and whitening pills. The obsession with fair skin (especially in places like India which is a HUGE market for us) stems from the time of colonial rule. We, however, are not an imperialist force. We are a commercial company tasked simply with selling face-creams. We are not in the business of challenging local culture and prejudice. Our job is to provide the products women want and need. Beauty products allow women to aspire to become what they are not. If we follow this motto we will become the number one brand in the world.

“We should work to secure our share of the $31.2 billion market for whitening products. Bonuses all round when and NOT if we meet sales targets.”

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