Dear DOVE, Diversity is useless without INCLUSION

The internet was in uproar this past weekend in response to an ad posted on Dove’s Facebook page, promoting its ‘Deep Moisture Hydration Profonde Nourishing Body Wash.’ The 3-second video clip shows a dark-skinned black woman removing her nude colored top, with a bottle of Dove in the lower right hand corner, transforming into a “cleansed”  white woman. The ad reminded the brand’s consumers of 19th Century racist ads promoting skin bleaching/whitening, thus #BoycottDove spread on Twitter.

The ad was removed by Dove — owned by Unilever — and a vague apology was issued on Twitter, stating that it had “missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully.” The apology failed to confront the historical racial insensitiveness of the ad.

Dear Dove, how did we get here? How did this concept make it this far down the executive approval pipeline? There was no mention in the apology if any black women or men were involved in the ad’s approval process.

This Dove ad speaks to the lack of representation at the decision making table for several companies that parade the word “Diversity” across it’s marketing materials for the sake of a better market position.  However they lack substantial effort to weave an environment of inclusion into the actual fabric of the company’s employees, leadership, multicultural work, or best practices. Diversity is nothing without inclusion, representation matters.

Findings from the 2014 study, “Black Women: Ready to Lead,” show that when asked what black women want most from work, 91% want an ability to flourish, 89% want an ability to excel, and 73% want an ability to empower others and be empowered. Black women bring personal insights to the table, without these insights, brands consistently lose, hence the Kendall Jenner for Pepsi ad.

Black women need to be invited in, and don’t say you can’t find us. We are graduating with internship experience and degrees in public relations, marketing, and advertising from prestigious universities. Some who are more seasoned have several years of work experience, however, applications to agencies, and in-house marketing departments continue to be denied. Racial discrimination is the source of the issue and until Dove addresses it, they will continue to “miss the mark.”

Ashley Obasi

Ashley Obasi is the founder of BGG. She's also a PR strategist by day, and change-agent by default. She's so Chicago, and loves free food.

3 Comments
  1. As a dark-skinned African woman, I can say people misunderstood the ad. It was not promoting skin-bleaching as people think.

  2. Sorry not boycotting Dove. Clearly someone is pushing the misinterpreted agenda rather than explaining how/why the ad could be misinterpreted. The latter is ok to explain but the ‘black women’ changed into a ‘white women’ who changed into another ‘tan women’ on ad that clearly is trying to advertise skin hydration wasn’t intentionally trying to push a racist agenda. Dove is one brand that goes out of its way to try to push diversity from hair to body types, to non-editorial beauty. They don’t always get it right but at least their trying. Plus their products are decent. I agree the ad can easily be ‘misinterpreted’, and it’s ok to admit that. But I’m not going to sit here and say ‘they did this on purpose’ to ‘downplay black people’ or to push ‘skin bleaching’ because I’m over analyzing an ad. Where was the uproar when an ad in China actually did intentionally push an agenda exactly like what the internet is ‘claiming’ Dove is doing? Shame, people forgot that there are black foreigners living in that country. I notice in life unless something is directly affecting an individual, nobody cares. And I hope this doesn’t steer Dove away from its mission of inclusion because that would be shameful, and a loss for ‘diversity’.