*This article was written in October 2017 following the uproar around a marketing campaign activated by Dove*

Dove recently came under fire for being racist. Dove. The women’s skincare brand that has always championed uniqueness and beauty in everyone. How does that happen?

 A makeup artist shared a picture (the still of a video) on the internet of their latest campaign – the internet took hold of it and went wild. It appeared as though Dove were advertising a black woman taking off her top to reveal a white woman underneath. So you can see why people thought it was racist… it doesn’t look good. I clicked the article showing the image myself thinking how can a brand get away with this?!

 For anyone who hasn’t seen the full ad yet, it was intended to show how Dove is suitable for all skin types, which is way more in keeping with the general perception/values of the brand. Though, unfortunately, the still illustrated something entirely different. Dove publicly apologised for the content and the way it had been perceived but since this, thousands of people have viewed the full ad with everything in context and subsequently supported the brand. Apparently there is no need for them to apologise – the video ad in full has a lovely message. But everyone has their own opinion. (View the ad here).

 Another example of a campaign gone wrong is the use of a # for pizza company DiGiorno – #WhyIStayed. They meant this to be used in a light hearted context about pizza being why people stay together or stay somewhere. However, this was also a # for a domestic abuse campaign. The company received a ton of complaints about being insensitive etc but of course, this was not the intention at all.

 There are even more examples of campaigns that have gone wrong here.

 What I wonder though, is how have we come to presume negative motives? How can we be so quick to judge something without seeing it’s full context? Why are we so quick to see the negative in things? Are we just wired that way?

 Last week I attended an event held by DigitasLBi called “Make the internet great again”. There were many thought provoking conversations had, mainly around how the internet used to be this amazing place and now it’s full of hate, criminals and fake news. I can’t help thinking back to some of those conversations when reading about Dove. Had the ad only been seen on TV in its full entity, would this have happened? Probably not.

The internet is a wonderful thing – most of us couldn’t last much more than a day without logging onto something – but we do have a responsibility to keep it that way. Does this lay in the hands of brands? Should they be more careful about how all the individual elements can be taken out of context and be construed in a negative way? Or should we as consumers remember to look at the full picture, get the facts and try hard not presume anything negative was intended?

 In my opinion brands do have a responsibility to culture check (and # check) everything and then, double check again for anything that may cause offence or be taken out of context to be seen in a negative light. Especially when such sensitive topics are involved. The most important thing to a brand is peoples’ perception and we as consumers love to share negative stories, so brands need to consider this. I do, however, think we have a responsibility, as consumers, to understand full context and intention before partaking in viral negativity.

I am also wholeheartedly in agreement that those who are offended/upset/angered by certain situations/comments/campaigns are within their right to feel that way and that those not in their situation have no right to dictate how they should feel.

This blog was first posted October 2017, available here.