Dove ad turns black woman white: Other advertising campaign gaffes

(Clockwise from left) Burger King's sexually suggestive ad, Nivea's Middle East "racist" White Is Purity ad, and PlayStation's "racist" PlayStation Portable White ad.
(Clockwise from left) Burger King's sexually suggestive ad, Nivea's Middle East "racist" White Is Purity ad, and PlayStation's "racist" PlayStation Portable White ad.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/VIRALMENTE, TWITTER/HAYLEYZOR, FACEBOOK/ADS 66

This article was first published on April 6, 2017, and updated on Oct 9, 2017

Personal care brand Dove was widely criticised and forced to issue an apology after running an advertisement on Saturday (Oct 7) that showed a black woman turning herself white. 

The ad consisted of a static compilation of four photos in which a dark-skinned woman - pictured in a bathroom with a bottle of Dove body wash - reaches down and lifts up her shirt to reveal a smiling white woman. 

Offended Dove users erupted on social media, and the company quickly apologised on its online platforms. 

"An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully," it said. "We deeply regret the offense it caused."

This is not the first time Dove has slipped up in its advertising efforts. Here are some other instances of companies having their ads backfire on them. 

1. Audi draws ire for comparing women to used cars

The carmaker's advertisement, which aired in theatres and online in China in July, opens in a pastoral setting, with a bride and a groom about to take their vows.

But the mother of the groom frantically interrupts, rushing up the aisle to "inspect" her would-be daughter-in-law.

With a stare, the woman proceeds to pinch the bride's nose, pull back the bride's ear and then examine the inside of the bride's mouth.

The commercial then cuts away to footage of a red Audi sedan zipping along an empty highway, as a man's voice declares: "An important decision must be made carefully."

The response to the ad was less than stellar, with netizens calling on Audi to apologise, while some urged a boycott of the automaker.

2.  Dove slips up with bottle ad boo-boo

Dove's attempt to give its shower foam bottles a makeover did not go down well with consumers.

The six bottles came in different shapes and sizes that include curvy, slender and pear-shaped - just like women's bodies.

While the intention was to celebrate women's diverse body shapes, it came across as more tongue-in-cheek than sincere, and drew ridicule on social media.

"Like, I just want to (use) my body wash, not be reminded that I'm pear-shaped," Ms Julie Daniel tweeted.

3. Pepsi falls flat with Kendall Jenner ad

Soda giant Pepsi hit a flat note with its recent advertisement of Kendall Jenner that was criticised for downplaying serious issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality.

Jenner is the daughter of Kris Jenner, the matriarch of TV reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and former Olympian Bruce but more recently transgender celeb Caitlyn Jenner.

In the ad, the 21-year-old fashion model was shown walking through a street protest to hand a can of Pepsi to a police officer.

He takes a sip and gives an ambiguous smile, after which celebrations begin.

Pepsi has pulled the ad after an outcry on social media, accusing the cola company of trying to profit from the social justice movement. Pepsi has also apologised to Jenner.


4. Nivea's Middle East "racist" White Is Purity ad

German skincare brand Nivea has pulled a deodorant ad following criticism that its slogan, "White is purity", is racist.

The company's ad appeared in a Facebook post last week, targeted at its Middle East market.

The ad, for its Invisible For Black And White range, sported the slogan over a shot of a dark-haired woman dressed in white.

The caption read: "Keep it clean, keep it bright. Don't let anything ruin it, #Invisible."

According to its website, the product is Nivea's first anti-stain deodorant with 48-hour protection that leaves no marks either on white or black clothes.

Nivea apologised in a statement, saying that it withdrew the post after "realising that the post is misleading".

It added that its brand values difference and represents "diversity, tolerance, and equal opportunity".

5. Women's rights group slams Nivea Singapore for dark-armpit shaming

Nivea has rubbed people the wrong way on local shores too: In March 2015, its Singapore branch was criticised for a clip advertising its Extra White and Firm Q10 Deodorant, showing a woman being shunned for having dark armpits.

Women's rights group Aware chimed in, adding to the slew of comments by saying Nivea was playing up women's insecurities.

In a post on its Facebook page, it said: "Apparently having the 'wrong' colour of armpit makes you unfit to interact with other human beings. This is supposedly humour - but is promoting shame and insecurity about our bodies a laughing matter?"

The woman was portrayed in the ad by YouTube personality Maimunah Bagharib of the duo MunahHirzi. She later told the media that she had no creative control over the ad and "learnt a lot" from the situation.

6. Zara's "Nazi" concentration camp kids' shirts

In 2014, fashion chain Zara withdrew a striped children's top decorated with a large six-pointed star after it was likened to uniforms worn by Jewish concentration camp inmates in Nazi Germany.

The blue-and-white-striped shirt was on sale online in three European countries but not in Israel, a spokesman for Spain's Inditex, which owns Zara, said.

Within hours of its launch, the shirt drew flak for its design, with Israeli newspaper Haaretz calling it "hauntingly reminiscent of a darker era" as it bore "a large six-pointed star on the upper-left section, in the exact place where Nazis forced Jews to wear the Star of David".

The garment, called the "Sheriff", had been inspired by cowboys and the sheriff's stars from classic Western films, Zara said.

7. Burger King's sexually suggestive ad

A 2009 Burger King Singapore ad caused a stir among some Singapore parents and made the news in the United States for its suggestive content.

The ad, which promoted the Super Seven Incher burger, showed an open-mouthed woman facing the long sandwich.

The captions read: "It'll blow your mind away" and "Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the New BK Super Seven Incher".

One copywriter in a New York advertising agency told Fox News that the ad was "misogynistic" and "unappetising".

The model featured in the ad posted a video on YouTube several years later in 2014, saying her image was used without her knowledge.

"Is this an ad for blow jobs, or fast food? You'd think that for a scenario like this, the company would want to make sure the model is aware of how her image is being used," she reportedly said in the video, which has since been taken down.

8. PlayStation's "racist" PlayStation Portable White ad

In 2006, Sony put up a controversial ad in the Netherlands promoting its white PlayStation Portable, a handheld game console.

The ad showed a white woman, clad entirely in white, grasping the face of a black woman. Overlaid on the ad were the words: "PlayStation Portable White is coming."

The billboard ad split opinion, as some slammed it for its racist connotations, while others said it was simply a personification of the PlayStation Portable's two available colours.

A Sony spokesman reportedly justified the ad, saying that "all of the 100 or so images created for the campaign have been designed to show contrast in colours of the PSPs, and have no other message or purpose".

SOURCES: MTV, Mumbrella, NYTIMES, Reuters, The Guardian, The New Paper, The Telegraph, Washington Post