Dove has been forced to apologise after releasing a series of images appearing to show a black woman turning white in a Facebook advert accused of being “racist”.
The cosmetics company said it “deeply regret(s)” the offence caused, admitting the images “missed the mark”.
The advert shows a series of photographs in which a black woman pulls off her T-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath.
Another image shows the white woman undressing to reveal an Asian woman.
The images were shared by make up artist ‘Naythemua’, who commented on her post: “What does America tell black people... that we are judged by the color of our skin and that includes what is considered beautiful in this country... they believe lighter representations should be at the forefront... and that the darker you are the less beautiful.”
She added: “The tone deafness in these companies makes no sense.”
Some commenters tried to defend the advert, with one writing on the post: “I think they meant it’s for all skin types... it went from black to white to another race.”
Another wrote: “Think its meaning is for all skin types? Must be more to the ad.”
But others said there was no excuse for the misleading campaign, with one woman writing: “No matter how it was intended... it conveys the wrong message.”
The post has been shared more than 8,000 times so far.
The advert has sparked a lot of debate on social media, with some saying the advert implies darker skin is “dirty”.
The official response did little to stem the outrage against the brand, which has come under fire in the past for using racially-insensitive advertising despite marketing itself as a beauty company that celebrates diversity.
In 2011, the Unilever company was accused of racism after a black woman was pictured stood by the “before” image in an advert and the white woman was by the “after”, with another woman, possibly Latino, standing between the pair.
Many at the time felt the lightest woman suggested the end result.
Dove said in a statement at the time: “The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week.
“All three women are intended to demonstrate the ‘after’ product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”
Critics, including film producer Tariq Nasheed and historian Francois Soyer, were also quick to point out the history of racist soap advertisements used to sell cleansing products.
Many critics also wondered about the diversity of employees working at Dove:
A full statement from Dove on Monday said:
“As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a 3-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page which featured three women of different ethnicities, each removing a t-shirt in matching skin tones to reveal the next woman. 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. It did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened. We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. This should not have happened and we are re-evaluating our internal processes for creating and approving content to prevent us making this type of mistake in future. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience.”