Why Ads for Blacks Backfire

A controversial viral campaign from Summer's Eve proves that the ad industry still doesn't understand black consumers.


A roll of the eyes. A shake of the head. A sigh of disgust. Whatever your reaction may have been to Summer’s Eve’s latest viral advertisements, you certainly had one.

As part of the personal-hygiene brand’s Hail to the V campaign, it released a series of three ads last month featuring talking hands meant to represent vaginas. Using a hand to symbolize a vagina is problematic enough, but it gets worse: The three hands represented a black woman, a Latina and a white woman, with personalities that could have come straight out of a handbook of racial and ethnic stereotypes.

While the white hand-vagina is health conscious and advocates using Summer’s Eve after a workout, the Latina vagina has an accent and opens her commercial by saying, “Ay yi yi.” She even suggests getting rid of your “tacky leopard thong.” Black vagina urges you to stop spending so much time styling your hair and focus on your “wunder [sic] down under.” And she even manages to get a neck roll and an “mm-hmm” in before requesting you use some cleansing wash to keep your lady parts fresh before hitting the club.

The commercials caused an uproar. Ad execs and consumers were baffled that Summer’s Eve — which weathered another storm last year after releasing an ad that suggested its products would give women confidence to ask for a raise — would use such offensive depictions to sell products. Though the company held strong for a few days against harsh criticism, it decided to pull the black and Latina versions of the ads. But even after removing the online ads, Summer’s Eve didn’t apologize for offending millions of black and Latina vaginas (excuse me, women).

In a statement to AdWeek, Stan Richards of the Richards Group, the agency that created the campaign, said, “We are surprised that some have found the online videos racially stereotypical. We never intended anything other than to make the videos relatable, and our in-house multicultural experts confirmed the approach.”