Advertising Gimmick or Accidental Racist Advert

The dove advertisement is being blown out of proportions. Could anyone say that today and get away with it? No. And that is perhaps good. However, as the model for the Dove ad also says, the full 30 second advertisement would perhaps give the right message that it initially intended to give. It was supposed to celebrate the diversity of beauty and not the opposite. The smaller clips are out of context and easily give an image of racist approach.

Why are then people reacting so negatively to a Dove commercial? There is a history in advertisement and generally too in society, where we discriminate between light and dark skin tones. In the past there have been advertisements that showed dirt being washed off a black model to reveal a lighter skin tone. Unilever’s Fair and Lovely is the recent example of consistent advertising of how fair wins and dark loses, or more so that dark is always the ‘loser’. All of Fair and Lovely ads explore the weak spot prevalent especially in South Asia where women of dark skin tone are rejected for jobs and romance.

There are other examples of Nivea and Ponds who have also marketed their products with racist slogans and commercials. One of the ad campaigns by Pond went by the slogan of ‘Dark out, white in’. In recent years we have also seen backlash and boycott of products that champion white as better than dark. India has been more vocal in comparison to Pakistan about their concern for the ‘white over dark’. There have been online campaigns like “Dark is Beautiful” and “Unfair and Lovely” to encourage women of all colour to wear their skin confidently. The famous art film actress Nandita Das has been seen voicing her protest against skin lightening products.

Dove ad campaign received their due share of backlash and criticism which is in a way a good sign of people not accepting certain standards of beauty. However, despite Dove’s apology, the problem of white skin vs dark skin runs deeper in our societies, where the sales of skin lightening products is still very high.