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As Dove admits ‘we got it wrong’, we look at other ads that miss the mark

Personal care brand Dove was accused of racism after it released on Saturday a three-second gif featuring a black woman taking off a brown t-shirt, only to reveal a white woman who also removed her t-shirt, followed by an Asian woman.

Dove faced criticism for posting that ad on its U.S. Facebook page, with many social media users branding it “racist.” By Monday morning, the hashtag #boycottDove was spreading over Twitter. The campaign was removed from Facebook and Dove posted an apology on Twitter as follows:

“An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”

As for Unilever, Dove brand’s owner, it shared the following official statement with Gulf Marketing Review, AMEinfo’s sister publication. “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.”

Read: Global online ad spend set for nearly double digit growth until 2021

“It did not,” the statement continued, “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 from making this type of mistake in the future,” the statement added. Unilever concluded the statement as follows: “We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience.”

3 ads that missed the mark as well

Dove definitely missed the mark, but as our short list below shows, they’re not the only ones.


The brand of skin-care products Proactiv released in 2012 an ad campaign that included the following line: “Got acne? Just ask your boyfriend what to do. Oh, that’s right, you don’t have a boyfriend.” As a result, many people were provoked and deemed that Proactiv was trying to take advantage of people’s insecurities to market its products. A petition against Proactiv was drawn up on, even though that ad campaign was only seen by a handful of people at malls.

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 Advertising slogans

In the UAE more than 30 billboards carrying provocative advertising slogans were taken down in Dubai in 2012, following several complaints from residents. The boards featured phrases such as: “I am yours”, “Buy me”, “I’m available” and “Call me now.” After receiving complaints about the adverts, Dubai Municipality ordered them to be taken down.

Hyundai makes light of suicide while touting environmentally friendly car

Hyundai and its agency Innocean made an ad for the ix35 in 2013 that showed a depressed man attempting suicide by locking himself in his car with a running exhaust pipe. The idea behind the ad is that nothing happens to him because the ix35 emits water, not carbon monoxide, since it is a non-polluting fuel-cell car.

A freelance copywriter named Holly Brockwell brought this to Hyundai’s attention in a devastating blogpost about how the ad made her recall her father’s suicide. Facing a tidal wave of consumer anger, Hyundai apologized, saying that the ad was created by an affiliated agency without its request or approval.

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