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Dove issues apology over ‘racist ad’; here’s a look at some other similar instances

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On October 7, Dove, a beauty care brand put up a public apology on its Twitter account. “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused,” it read. This came in response to a GIF put up by the brand on its Facebook page on Friday where, in a bid to advertise its body wash, a looping image of a black woman removing a t-shirt to reveal a white woman could be seen. Later, the white woman removes her t-shirt and a third woman could be seen. This led to outpouring of severe backlash and criticism. The advertisement was labelled as insensitive and unequivocally racist, forcing the brand to take it down and publicly express regret over their content.

UPDATE: The black model, Lola Ogunyemihas who featured in the clip has now spoken up and said that the advertisement was not racist. She has also maintained that the screenshots that took the media by storm paint a “slightly different picture” and there was a 30-second television version that had other images and slogans. Read more here. 

Notwithstanding the carefully worded apology , this is not a singular instance and neither is it the first time the particular brand has been criticised for being insensitive.

This was the advertisement.

And this was the apology put out by the brand.

But people were quick to remind that this has happened before, and by the same brand.

In an effort to promote their products, several brands, time and again have put out content that have been interpreted as racist and inconsiderate. And by doing so they have not only upheld white supremacy but have also perpetuated the belief that having a darker complexion puts one in an extremely disadvantageous position. Only recently soft drink brand Pepsi was in the midst of a raging controversy when it released an advertisement that was criticised for trivialising protest movements. In the two-and-a-half-minute ad, Kendall Jenner, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star and supermodel could be seen walking ahead, amidst a protest and acting as a peacemaker between the activists and the police, with a can of beverage in hand. The advertisement was slammed for co-opting a resistance movement and belittling it by using a privileged, white 21-year-old supermodel as a supposed peacemaker, who restores peace and harmony.

Watch the video here.

The brand had later issued a public apology. “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position,” the statement read.

A Pakistani advertisement too was recently in the news for supposedly presenting the people of the country in a bad light. A biryani maker advertisement, it shows a woman from China living in Lahore, Pakistan and making an effort to forge new ties with her Pakistani neighbours. In aneffort to do so, she prepares delicious biryani for them. Notwithstanding the intent, it was criticised for not showing people of Pakistan as hospitable enough. “I don’t want to sound like a hater, good initiative by shan BUT the foreigner lady should have received food by her Pakistani neighbours, as the lady is a Guest in a new country. She should have been welcomed in a new neighbourhood ! This is against islam and our culture,” read a comment.

Watch the video here.

These were some of the reactions.

In April this year German skincare brand Nivea received severe backlash for promoting its deodorant with the tagline White is Purity. People had viewed it as extremely racist and were quick to criticise it. The brand later had taken it down.

The recurrence of such advertisements is only indicative of the fact that the people in power are clearly missing out on identifying some obvious markers and symbolism, those that later snowball into bigger causes. Perhaps it is time for these agencies to look inward and give some more thought before putting out the content.

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