Personal care brand Dove has been forced to apologise after releasing a series of “racist” images that appeared to show a black woman turning white after using the soap.
The “deeply ignorant” campaign sees a black woman peeling off her T-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath her skin. A further image shows the white woman undressing to reveal an Asian woman.
Dove, owned by consumer goods giant Unilever wrote on Twitter: “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.”
It was unclear which market was targeted with the adverts, but makeup artist Naythemua, who first posted the images on Facebook, said the campaign was “tone deaf” and indicative of the messaging black people in the US receive about the colour of their skin.
“What does America tell black people … that we are judged by the colour of our skin and that includes what is considered beautiful in this country,” she wrote. “To know that colorism is a problem in the world, that includes bleaching the skin, and they would put this ad out without a thought … the tone deafness in these companies makes no sense.”
Customer Dooga Royall said: “What is Dove even trying to convey besides blatant racism?”
Another, Sha Nii, promised to boycott the brand: “I mean that’s what I use today but no more Dove for me racism will never end.”
It is not the first time the brand has found itself in hot water over its marketing messages. In 2011, a Dove campaign provoked widespread criticism after appearing to show women becoming cleaner as their skin tone lightened.
The brand said in a statement at the time: “All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”
The Independent has contacted Dove for comment.