In a world of mess-ups, the advertising sector is certainly no stranger to the odd controversial mistake. We recently saw global giant Unilever pull one of Dove’s short advertisements which saw a black woman remove her dark coloured shirt to reveal a white woman with a, you guessed it, lighter coloured shirt. Accompanied with the caption ‘100% gentle cleansers’. The ad soon sparked Social Media frenzy, with many out-rightedly branding Dove as racist and thoughtless. Dove quickly pulled the ad, contending they “missed the mark”. However, this is not the first time we have seen Dove forced to pull a campaign after being branded as racists. After releasing a ‘before and after’ photo which saw a darker skinned woman stood in front of the ‘before’ image, and of course, a lighter skinned woman stood by the ‘after’ image – Dove was heavily accused of racism and forced to apologise once more. Since Dove’s second slip up, many have now turned to Social Media to content that ‘once is an accident but twice is on purpose’ which led me to think – maybe this could have something to do with Dove’s marketing team working alongside the saying that even bad publicity is still publicity.
Although heavily guilty of it, Dove are not the only players in the controversial game. Pepsi was faced with immense backlash after they released an advertisement that ran parallel to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. When famed Kendall Jenner was shot handing a Pepsi to a police officer amidst riots to calm it all down, many social media users furiously turned to complain – Pepsi of course was forced to pull the ad shortly thereafter and issue a public apology. Many brands have made advertising cock-ups, to put it frank, in the past few years including the likes of Protein World, Nivea and Bic; which has led me to question: is it actually on purpose? As although opinions are negative, these toxic campaigns have thrown the said brands in to the limelight in very obvious fashion.
In my opinion, having your brand in the public eye is all good and well, however if it is only there because of a mistake then perhaps it need not be there at all. Brands should work towards getting it right to get the right type of media coverage as ultimately, mistakes can irreparably damage your brand and image which is never good for business. Also, apologies are good but they never have the power to let a mishap lie, Dove is still rife in the news right now – and of course, so it should be. It is an interesting topic worth debate however it does not seem logical that a brand would essentially throw itself under the bus in order to obtain a bit of publicity, especially market leaders as these are – is there even a need for the coverage?
Campaigns are a brilliant way of generating brand engagement and many do get it extremely right. I will be posting shortly a round up of the best PR campaigns of the year in my eyes, and why they are so effective. Perhaps the likes of Dove could follow in their footsteps and work towards formulating marketing tactics that do not upset the nation.
Of course, there are good opinions to counteract the bad and many do not think the ad was racist at all – just misinterpreted.
What do you think?