The design of an advertisement (pictured) for Dove Visible Care body wash is under attack for what many are calling its racist imagery.
Stylites's take: "The ad features close-up pictures of skin taken before and after using the new wash. Then underneath, you see three women, one black, one Latina, one white, standing from left to right in descending order of melanin content. Visually, it communicates that if you have dark skin before you use VisibleCare, you’ll have pale skin afterward. You’ll also be thinner and have blonde hair."
From Copyranter: "Dove body wash turns Black Women into Latino Women into White Women."
Gawker's reaction: "Bye-bye black skin, hello white skin! (Scrub hard!) Can this ad possibly be real?"
There are a lot of racist things in the world, and a lot of messages that demean black women's beauty. Is this one of them? Not in our opinion. Is it one of the more unfortunately (stupidly, even) designed ads we've seen in some time? Definitely. But we just can't believe that the placement of the models of different complexions in relation to the "before" and "after" labels is actually meant to imply that the product has skin-lightening properties or that white is more beautiful than black. (It doesn't even add up. Seriously, who would actually believe that body wash would transform their face and hair?)
Gawker received the following statement from Edelman, Dove's PR firm, which (sort of) makes that point:
"We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential.
The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the "after" product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience."
Our advice to Dove: Skip all the talk about self-esteem building, and simply explain that "before" and "after" referred to the panels (depicting dry and moisturized skin, respectively) in the background of the ad, and the placement of the models was a fluke. And given that you specialize in skin and beauty, it wouldn't hurt to give your messages about the relationship between the two a little extra scrutiny — for both the values they mean to convey and the ones they might communicate by mistake.
Read more at Gawker.