Fury over Dove's racist advert


As a young boy growing up in Britain I was often confronted with racist stereotypes in commercial advertising and in some senses much more sinister in children's reading books. This was commonplace throughout the 60s and 70s where attitudes to race were an echo of the days of slavery.

Cartoons featuring black savages, golliwogs featured everywhere and The Black and White Minstrels show one of the most popular shows on TV. One off the most striking and offensive was the soap advert that promised to turn black into skin white.

One would hope that in 2011 such crude stereotypes would have been discarded by the advertising industry. Unfortunately not. These adverts follow the publication of pseudo scientific report published on the now disgraced web site Psychology Today by the LSE Professor Satoshi Kanazawa that sought to " explain " why black women were considered ugly.

The subtle and not so subtle denigration of black women in advertising continues. Yesterday we learnt that Cadburys had launched and advert that equated a chocolate bar with black supermodel Naomi Campbell whilst today Unilever launched a Dove soap care range that features before and after shots of three women, one black one Latino and one white standing in front of skin chart entitled before and after.

The impression given is that Dove soap can change your skin form black or brown to white.

Speaking to the Daily Mail Dove confirmed that the advert was genuine, adding

'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.'

The fact is that such advertising has long tradition and subliminal racial stereotypes can still be detected in advertising today.

Firms such as Cadbury and Dove seem completely oblivious to the harm they cause when they publish these adverts. Far to many of these firms fail to cater for a diverse and global market, they use white media creative companies to develop their adverts, their senior management team are usually all white and there is an assumption that by extension there customer base is largely white.

This reflects a casual disregard for black communities, black creative talent and the public impact of such advertising. These adverts prompt everything to school playground jibes to hateful racial abuse and racial attacks.

The production of these adverts reflects the deeper blindingly white culture of corporate big business. They are of course happy to take our money as customers whilst abusing us from advertising hoardings on our high streets.

Its time we took action as black consumers to challenge the institutional racist nature of these companies and teach them the value of black pound. Watch this space…

Lee Jasper

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Subliminal Racism at its cleverest!

Unlike the Naomi Campbell Cadbury chocolate advert – which I didn’t think was worthy of a racism debate/charge, this advert however caught my attention straight away and didn’t need to read the attached article by Mr Jasper to know exactly what was going to come. But you are spot on here Lee Jasper!

Subliminal racism can be the most dangerous because it seeks to imprint on the mind an ideology that the so-called conscious mind is unaware of but nonetheless the impact upon the person’s psyche is the same and successfully achieved (just cause you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there). The advertising industry conduct ‘psychological’ research studies all the time because the two go hand in hand. There’s no such thing as ‘unintentional’ when it comes to advertising – everything down to product placement, associated imagery etc etc is treated like a science. Of course the majority are claiming no such racist intention with this advert, and trying to silence the racism charge with “I just see 3 women who can all have great skin with using dove”… yeah right!!

The irony is had the advertiser placed the women in this order: white, latino and black white women would have also taken issue (even if they did not want to admit it openly) not because they would have thought the advert was saying use ‘dove’ and your skin will turn from white to black, but because black skin is known to be ‘naturally’ soft, glowing, wrinkle free (well into old age), and beautiful – whereas white skin tends to need constant miracle products to retain its beauty and highlighting this by placing the black woman in front of the ‘after’ would have just fed on that continuous inner fear of “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all”.


Seems a little hyper-sensitive. They're clearly not meant to be the same woman. The before & after show skin close-ups where after has less lines & more moisture. I've never felt black women are portrayed as less beautiful. And how can you know no black people at ad agencies were involved in the creative?

SURELY Dove did not do this

SURELY Dove did not do this intentionally! But I am surprised that no-one thought about possible implications when looking at the finished article! I do not go around searching out racism but glancing at the picture it did immediately strike me as having some (unintended???) negative connotations... All they had to do was to change the order of the women in the editing process. Would not have cost anything. ...Once again I wonder if it is simply as case of, "who cares whether we offend the black folk... They'll keep buying our products and will only make a small short lived fuss".

I do not think that those objecting are being hypersensitive. I think that just as I looked at the ad and did a double take there are those who will not do a double take but it will still, on a subliminal level, solidify / confirm their racist perceptions.

It has been brought to Dove's attention. What they do now will be telling.

Where is the political debate

I am really upset with the direction OBV seems to be taking of recent- there is minimal political debate on the real issues and challenges that black people are facing in the UK and even fewer practical solutions being offered. Why are we spending precious time and energy addressing non-issues such as the one above??
As a black marketeer, I have concluded that the only way to change the nature of the advertising in the UK is to become a key influencer within the sector, by working hard and working collaboratively with people of all races and backgrounds. OBV was featured in a leading marketing publication recently - not for its efforts in raising the awareness of politics and political debate amongst the black community, but for trivial statements that are of no lasting value - very disappointing.

As a very proud Black Man - I have to disagree with OBV

I came across the article on the internet here in the USA about Naomi Campbell and Cadbury - and I totally disagree with OBV and Naomi as to the ad being offensive and racist to black people! Maybe to Naomi it may be (and for a hidden agenda that she has also), but not to black people in general! Even "IF" Cadbury's intentions were comparing Naomi's beautiful milk chocolate skin to that of their milk chocolate candy bar, why is that offensive or racist? Black people refer and describe their various complexions to that of flattering sweet delectables all the time, e.g., mocha, coffee black, cognac, pecan tan, con leche, caramel, chocolate, milk and dark chocolate! So, why is it offensive now! If that was the hidden agenda, it will be hard to really claim that it is because no where in the ad does it make such a direct comparison of the milk chocolate to that of Naomi Campbell! The only comparison it makes is that Naomi is a DIVA and so is the new candy bar. Maybe Naomi should be more insulted by the DIVA comment than anything else, because DIVA is sometimes synopsis to being called a bitch; and Naomi isn't insulted by such because she knows she is one hell of a DIVA!

As a very proud Black Man - I Totally Agree with OBV

OBV highlighted the wrong doing of a very big and influential juggernaut called Cadburys. OBV handled this matter very well; highlighting it and giving us a platform to democratically discuss it. This is much more freedom than I ever had under the last New Labour Government. Why do a number of people lose their control when an injustice is heaped on a Black person? Surely, in a democratic country, we should be free to highlight it, and then correct it?

Naomi Campbell used her influence well and the backing from OBV on this matter which could have spirralled out of control, was a fantastic move indeed. Thanks to OBV, for exposing injusticies of this sort and others.


I was quite taken back when this Dove advert was brought to my attention by OBV. I had previously applauded Dove on their advertising being 'inclusive' portraying all types of women - black, white, old, young, slim and more voluptous body shapes. However, the subliminal message being conveyed by the' before and after' aspect of this ad has for me echoes of covert and overt forms racism prevalent in the sixties and seventies i.e." if you are white u r alright, brown stick around and if ur black get back. It is suggesting that all women should be aspiring to be 'white' as the ultimate goal and pinnacle of success and adoration.

Who ever is responsible for this ad and feels that it is ok to take Dove down this route is doing the company a disservice and undoing all the positive steps they have previously taken?

Proud women of colour we must negotiate with not only our mouths and pens but more importantly with our huge buying power. BOYCOTT their products until we are treated with the respect which is long overdue.

They're stupid

I don't think anything racist was intended because the before and after signs are on the close up images of skin - and the right side is no lighter than the left. Also I thought the product was CALLED skin lightening which shocked me because I wondered why they would make such a product, but its actually not, its called Visiblecare and is just meant to be moisturising. I seriously doubt Dove as a company are racist when so many of their ads have black/white/asian women all together who are all portrayed as beautiful, they have curvy models as well as skinny ones to fight beauty stereotypes and also had a massive billboard of an old wrinkled lady up with a beautiful smile - also she was black.

Perhaps they should have thought twice about putting the black lady on the left and the white on the right but I really just don't think they thought of it like that. I mean can companies always predict the hundreds of ways which their ads are going to be interpreted? At some point people have to take responsibility for interpreting it how it wasn't intended, and I really don't think any racism was intended here.