The advert, which Dove has admitted “missed the mark”, was accused of racism for its depiction of the subject of the advert turning from black to white after using Dove body lotion.
Parent-company Unilever has apologised for the offending advert, saying it “did not represent the diversity of real beauty” in a statement reported by the Financial Times. Cosmetics Design has reached out for further comment.
While the offensive ad - which was a short video clip showing three women of different ethnicities transforming from one to another - was quickly removed from Facebook, it had already been shared across social media and continues to attract backlash.
Response from Unilever
The Anglo-Dutch multinational has tried to distance Dove from the advert, in a statement that attempted to minimize the scenario depicted and the impact of the narrative:
“As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a 3-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page. This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened.
“We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience.”
Lola Ogunyemi, the black model featured in the advert, has spoken out in support of Dove and the campaign in this piece for The Guardian. She asserts: "I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased."
Despite its attempt to make amends, Dove continues to find itself the subject of much derision and anger online, from scathing opinion pieces to further consumer anger on Twitter, with a hashtag ‘#boycottDove’ having gathered momentum.
"Dove's marketing team is fundamentally racist. A clean body is not a white body. Black bodies aren't systematically dirty," wrote Abigail Sewell, 34, a sociology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, on Facebook. "I've used their products forever, but it's time to move on."
Dove has long based its brand profile on campaigns that centre on body positivity and inclusivity.