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Dove Pull Racially Insensitive Ad

By: Teri Bernstein


 looped ad pulled by Dove


Continuing a sad tradition in soap advertising, Dove posted an ad on Facebook this week that was racially insensitive. It morphed a woman of color with a "dirty" brown shirt into a white woman with a white shirt. On social media, a segment of the ad was converted to a .gif that replayed the transformation again and again, drawing attention to the bad advertising choice. 


Whenever I see ads (or films, or scenes on TV) that seem ill-advised, I try to imagine what the conversations in the decision-making rooms must have been like. What were they thinking? Did no one notice the problem? Or were people reticent to speak up? 


Although Dove did react by pulling the ad, and issuing a statement and an apology, I think it would be more instructive if they had been transparent about the decision-making process. This might be helpful in preventing future mistakes. 


Source: "Dove Drops an Ad Accused of Racism," by Maggie Astor, New York Times, October 8, 2017. 



  • List other ads that have implied or overt racism. (check out "Related Coverage" at the NYT link, as well as the article.) Explain the problem in the ad and describe how the company and/or the public reacted.
  • Research and describe ads that have been found to be insensitive to gender issues, religious issues, sexual preference issues or otherwise insensitive. What has been the reaction to these ads? What, do you think, was the intent of the advertiser? How did things go wrong?