Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dove/Unilever Team With Ogilvy & Mather On Racist Pitch

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but upon seeing this advertisement there is none. I also believe the racism accusation should be saved from use every time someone acknowledges difference. This is not one of those cases. This is some Madison Avenue racist bull-shit. I will avoid buying anything related to either of these companies in the future. I say boycott them bastards!

Where to start? Ad for soap, before and after, black to white, dirty to clean. Fat to thin. Dry to moist. Wrinkled to smooth. Sassy to demure. Ergo black is undesirable, white rocks the Casbah. And what’s with the skinny Latina? Pandering to up-swing minority at the expense of another. The only thing missing is a tattoo on the sister. I guess Dove cannot wash away ink, just yet.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

HA! You're paranoid. Looks to me like they were going out of their way to be politically correct, making sure they included all three demographics even though blacks and hispanics only represent something like 12% and 13% of the population, respectively.

Jim-Jim said...

Maybe there are a lot of stoners working in advertising. Because this Dove spot is just an infantile attempt at humor.

Desertflower said...

OMG! This above is an actual ad???

I can hardly believe this!
I don't have Dish or cable anymore so I don't see much of American advertising over here. but this is crazy!

Vince said...

It looks like the 'before' and 'after' text is only intended to apply to the skin illustrations in the background, showing the change from dry, cracked skin to smooth, moist skin.

It's an unfortunate - well, incredibly stupid - mistake to juxtapose that with a dark-to-light lineup of women, but it looks like it was just a mistake. They're not selling a soap that turns black women white. All three women are intended to appear clean, fresh, etc.

The question is, who was responsible for reviewing this before it was published? And what happened to their brain?

Anonymous said...

I showed this to my wife and right away she noticed the before and after meant the skin pictures before and after, not meaning the women were before and after.

Should have put the white chick in the middle to avoid the possible assumption, yes.
Racist? No.

dsc said...

I've also taken a bit long to understand where would be the racism, even though I didn't notice what the ad was for right away. I did noticed the before and after but I didn't thought it related with the women.

I do think that in this case it could have been more carefully planned to avoid this interpretation though, I don't think it requires paranoia to have such an interpretation, even though I think it may have been accidental anyway.

I like the blog "sociological images", but over there it seems that often there are some purported examples of racism and sexism in ads that simply make me crazy. I wish they would tell how it could be done alternatively, and I think that, if they did, self-contradictions would abound unless the ads never showed any people at all, or everyone wore burkas, even men. And sunglasses. So not gender nor skin can be assessed.

This is not an example of such case though, I do think it was sloppy. But more like those sexual innuendos we can sometime see when isolating panels from batman & robin comics, rather than real racism. I guess, but I may be somewhat optimistic. I don't doubt that sometimes these things get pushed to production by some sort of Kanazawa-esque troll somewhere on the production level.

Looking To Escape said...

If you look for racism, you will find it. From a graphics viewpoint, it was wiser to put the dark skinned girl in front of a pattern to allow her to stand out.
This is not a boycott worthy issue.

James C. Collier said...

High-order advertising, as practiced by O&M, is the art of subtlety with a hammer. The negative association (4 of 5) toward the black woman is 80%, if you give credit for facial attractiveness, vs. 0% for the white female. Too consistent to be random. I stand by this post.

dsc said...

I'll try to see if I can find more examples of the practice by O&M.

I'd like to note though, that the "effect" seems to be quite reduced in the original design (compared with this close up).

There's a reproduction of the entire thing here:

Desertflower said...

And I stand with you!

One cannot chalk this up to either "sloppiness"or "casualty". No,no,no!

The advertising machine is very sophisticated and it's highly unlikely that this was a mere "mistake" or whatever. It is clear that the complexions go from dark to light. No other races of women are depicted.

Anonymous said...

The woman in the middle could easily be Spanish and that might be what was meant.
How does anyone know she isn't?
Well you know because that supports your premise of racism?

But make of it what you will.
Sadly it's clear what you want to make of it.

When a person has to look that hard at something to make it into an issue they are looking too hard.

The NAACP indoctrination machine has done it's job well.

dsc said...

Desertflower said "One cannot chalk this up to either "sloppiness"or "casualty". No,no,no!

The advertising machine is very sophisticated and it's highly unlikely that this was a mere "mistake" or whatever. It is clear that the complexions go from dark to light. No other races of women are depicted. "

What's the evil hidden intent behind the things posted on the "photoshop disasters" blog then?

dsc said...

I did some mock-ups with various alternatives so we can see how different it could have been:

dsc said...

One also has to have in mind that the final piece is not necessarily the product of a carefully planed design that runs unaltered from the initial mock up sketch to the finished product.

In between there can be many many alterations solicited by the client. For example, it's obvious that the patches of skin are not a real picture, they're not "there" with the women. These patches could have been a late addition. And/or even the models, all or some of them could have been late additions. You don't have all the time to deal with a single piece then it's possible that the possibility of some bad interpretations may come up as a byproduct of this messy process. Even if you're at one point or another trying to think of this sort of thing.

If I were to think that this is purposefully designed as to have this interpretation, I don't think it' exactly racist as to convey a message of racism, but more as some sort of troll-racism. To stir polemic, and, in turn, make the ad seen and talked about by more people. Not that it's any really good ethics to use peoples sensitivities to stir up polemic and earn more profit, but perhaps it's still interesting to make the distinction. If that's indeed the case, the best one can do is to not bite the bait, to not add to the polemic. By swallowing it, then we just show that it work, and there will be those willing to apply the same strategy again, as results are guaranteed.

I think that with real racism in mind the final product would either be less ambiguous/mild, or at very least (and more likely, perhaps) just avoid the issue altogether and just use plain white people with no other shades of skin. They'd be saved from all the trouble of making something clearly racist, at the same time they don't have to deal with making an ad they would conveivably find that is "weakened"/"worsened" by the presence of a non-white person, even with a hint of non-egalitarianism/white-is-superior hierarchy.

I guess.

Desertflower said...

I think thou doth protest too much.... and, anyway, what the hell does soft skin have to do with three females from black to white standing there in towels????

That ad is ridiculous on so many levels.

ogunsiron said...

James C. Collier said...
...The negative association (4 of 5) toward the black woman is 80%, if you give credit for facial attractiveness, vs. 0% for the white female. Too consistent to be random. I stand by this post.
what are the negative association numbers that you're talking about ?
I was going with your interpretation at first (racist ad) but a few commenters made me change my mind. I can easily see how the ad could be misinterpreted, but I'm not sure at that there was any ill intent. I think that you react very badly to the black woman ( you find her ugly ?) because you're very much pro-thinness and have no tolerance for higher BMIs at all, right ? That's fine, though i personally find the black woman very nice :) It's possible that the "thick" black woman was chosen precisely because her body size is (accurately) seen as befitting "average black american " taste. They could have gone further in conforming to the "black" taste by making her lighter skinned, but maybe they were in fact sensitive about colorism issues and refrained from using a very light skinned black woman :)

I'll side with honest mistake.

I guess this is one rare context in which "diversity" might have been helpful because a black member of the staff could have pointed the possible misinterpretation out to the team.

Anonymous said...

ogunsiron, I'm with you. Seriously, the black chick looks GREAT. And why can't the Latina be skinny????? Does it not fit with your stereotype? Why should skinny be a sign of social-climbing? That's sad! They should have put the white chick in the middle, for the sensitive among us. Supposedly Dove strives to be multi-cultural and inclusive. It would be interesting if there was WAS a black member on the staff, and she did not catch this gaff ... how dare she not have color constantly on her mind. Maybe I'll try to find out ... I wrote them once before about another issue I had with them, maybe I still have the woman's name.

Anonymous said...

Must be exhausting seeing racism everywhere you go... hateful too!

James C. Collier said...

10:37, I could say the same thing about pseudo-professionals who get paid for cooking up pretend-random and coincidental, one-sided BS. And why not read a smattering of my 600+ postings before generalizing, eh?

Theodore said...

The whitey in the middle? Are you insane? Ever seen how the medals are awarded at say the Olympics, the greatest is standing in the middle, that would be classic racism!!! Between you , me and the rest of the universe, I guess the dark woman stands in front of the before skin, because the light skinned woman would not show as much contrast with the "bad" skin...

Oh, yes, and I do believe that people are fully able to stop discriminating on race, when they are offered something better, such as discriminating on religion.

Anonymous said...

Kinda Lame....boycott the UN/Unesco, they have murdered more Black Africans than Hitler murdered Jews.

Otherwise not a bad blog.... a bit too touchy and PC about the whole RASCCIISM thing but not as bad as some.

I'm still waiting on that Holder's National Conversation, how about you?

fhm said...

A close look at the blown-up skin in the background will reveal what the ads intent was. The soap effectively moisturizes all skin types (as conveyed by the ethnically-inclusive model lineup). Let's leave it at that. God bless you.

Fred@Urban Soul Connect