Unilever Apologizes for Dove Ad

By Saabira Chaudhuri Features Dow Jones Newswires

Unilever PLC pulled an online video ad for its blockbuster body wash brand Dove and apologized after critics called the spot racist.

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The video, which recently appeared on Dove's U.S. Facebook page, showed a young black woman taking off a T-shirt and then morphing into a white woman, who in turn takes off her T-shirt, and turns into an Asian woman. It quickly attracted criticism on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend -- users accused the treatment of being racist and insensitive -- culminating in Unilever's decision to take the ad down.

"The short video was intended to convey that Dove body wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong," said a Unilever spokeswoman Monday. "We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience."

It wasn't immediately clear who created the spot. Ogilvy & Mather has historically handled much of Unilever's advertising on Dove, but Unilever -- which is on a cost-cutting drive -- has recently been moving more of its advertising work in-house. Ogilvy didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A Unilever spokeswoman didn't respond to a question about who created the ad.

Unilever, in a statement, said it is re-evaluating its internal processes for creating and approving content "to prevent us making this type of mistake in future."

The backlash marks the second time in a few months that Dove -- one of Unilever's biggest brands -- has courted controversy. In May, the company launched body washes in variously shaped bottles that were ridiculed on Twitter. Some people accused Unilever of trivializing body issues.

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"From curvaceous to slender, tall to petite, and whatever your skin color, shoe size or hair type, beauty comes in a million different shapes and sizes," said Unilever at the time. "Our six exclusive bottle designs celebrate this diversity: just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too."

In 2011, Dove came under fire after running a before-and-after ad showing what appeared to be a black woman transitioning into a white woman after using the body wash.

Unilever at the time used similar language to Monday's apology, saying it doesn't condone activity that insults any audience and that all three women were intended to show the benefits of using the product.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 09, 2017 11:54 ET (15:54 GMT)