Lately, it seems like hardly a week goes by without another big, embarrassing advertising faux pas; the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that drew inspiration from a Black Live’s Matter protest to much widespread outrage, McDonald’s ad about a grieving son, a deceased father and the questionable comfort found in a fish fillet and now we have a racist advert from Dove that appears to show a black woman turning into a white woman after washing. Or do we?

The full TV advert is 30 seconds long and features 7 different women. The clip Dove selected to share on Facebook is 3 seconds long and viewable here. As the gif has been taken out of context of the full advert perhaps it was simply poorly thought through. If Dove had chosen a different part of the film to share, they may have avoided the drama. But they didn’t.

Dove does seem to be missing the mark rather a lot lately. In May, we saw the release a variety of bottle shapes because ‘beauty comes in all shapes and sizes’ and in July we had the breastfeeding ad which claimed that 25% of the public would rather you ‘put them away’. Last week’s faux pas is the third time the brand has been called out for racism in their advertising. In 2011, Dove was accused of racism in the below ad for its ‘visiblecare’ range. And, in 2015, there were calls to boycott the brand over Dove’s Summer Glow lotion which was described as being for people with “normal to dark skin.” All this begs the question, could Dove’s repeatedly poorly executed campaigns be deliberate? Maybe! As pointed out in an article on The Drum, this level of exposure, of social followed by traditional media coverage, is the equivalent of at least £100m in advertising.

Deliberate or not, the Dove ad controversy highlights the power calling out brands on social media can have; the hashtag #BoycottDove reached over 7 million. So, what can we learn from Dove’s mistake? Social should not secondary. A clip or an image used on social should be considered as important as those shown on TV, in magazines or on billboards. They are still a representation of the brand and should be well thought through, well executed, and be in line with the brand’s values. At Viral Seeding, we understand the impact of a well thought through digital campaign and can help get people talking about your brand for all the right reasons. If you want information on how to use social media to help your campaign, get in touch.