Examining The History Of Racial Themes In Advertising

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
Liu Tao  

The beauty brand Dove is drawing ire over a commercial critics are calling racially insensitive. Our guests include an anthropologist and a marketing strategist. Both women say the Dove Body Wash ad was misinterpreted but is one example of a larger problem in representing people of color thoughtfully in the media. They examine the history of racial themes in advertising and provide guidance to help professionals avoid marketing pitfalls.

Dove has pulled the advertisement and clips that sparked the controversy. The video depicts a black woman removing her brown t-shirt to reveal a white woman in a cream-colored top. That woman does the same to show a third woman who is Asian. Critics say the production portrays the black woman as “before” cleansing and the white woman as the “after” image. Dove leaders apologized for the implication, saying it does not convey their message that real beauty is diverse.

Some analysts argue that social media plays a specific role in people’s interpretation of the commercial. They argue a short clip shared presents viewers a starker message than the longer, more nuanced advertisement.

Lola Ogunyemi is the black model featured in the commercial. She pushes back against the theory that she was a victim of a racist ad. What are your thoughts? Do you think this outrage is an overreaction or is justifiable? Do you think accurate portrayal of people of color in the media matters?

Weigh in on WPR’s Facebook page for The Ideas Network, tweet @WPRMornings, or email your perspective to ideas@wpr.org.

Episode Credits

  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Nyajai Ellison Producer
  • Shalini Shankar Guest
  • Sonia Thompson Guest

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