Dove steps up its stand against systemic racism

Capturing images from protests in a new campaign and expanding CSR efforts, the brand wants to show it is serious about getting it right.
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Dove’s latest campaign aims to expand its work against systemic racism beyond the health and beauty categories it sells in.

As part of the campaign, Dove published a minute-long spot called “America the Beautiful,” which launched on Juneteenth, a day that recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The spot shows images from recent protests against anti-black racism, as a recording of Ray Charles’ 1972 live performance of “America the Beautiful” plays.

The campaign was developed as part of a collaborative effort by Ogilvy Canada, Ogilvy UK and Uniworld Group as a part of WPP’s Team Dove, who dispatched six Black photographers to four U.S. cities to capture the images themselves. A 30-second cut is airing on TV, with digital assets being shared on its global channels.

The new creative comes alongside a wider effort by the brand to address systemic racism. Dove is elevating the work of its CROWN Coalition, a national alliance established by Dove with the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The coalition was founded to help fight race-based hair discrimination, where Black people are denied opportunities when having their hair in braids, cornrows and dreadlocks on the basis that they are “unprofessional,” despite being natural. The coaltion is now expanding its scope to address other elements of systemic racism, engaging in legislative and societal advocacy for things like creating and implementing unconscious bias training programs in workplaces and in schools.

Dove is also creating the new CROWN Fund, pledging $5 million to effect change and work with organizations to create new programs that support Black women and girls. The brand will also amplify Black voices on its social channels and increasing Black representation both in front of and behind the camera, via a commitment of at least 25% of its influencer budget toward Black content creators. It is also continuing to support Project #ShowUs, a stock photo collection created by women and non-binary individuals.

“Dove has long called for more equity, inclusion and diversity in the beauty industry,” says Sophie van Ettinger, global brand VP for Dove. “These commitments are genuine and long term.”

However, Dove has run into some marketing and communications issues related to race. In 2017, the brand had to issue an apology for an ad it posted on its Facebook page that showed a Black woman turning into a white woman, by removing her top after using Dove body lotion, which many saw as enforcing a racist trope of the white woman being “cleaner.”

Following the removal of the ad from Facebook, Dove expressed its regrets saying it “missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully.”

“We recognize that we have not always gotten it right in our past marketing, particularly for Black women,” van Ettinger tells strategy now. “We have learned from this and have strived to do better in serving the Black community. We do not condone racism or injustice and believe that we must use our platform for good.”

The brand’s parent company Unilever has also faced scrutiny for its Fair & Lovely “fairness” cream, a skin-lightening product sold in India. Last month, Unilever announced it will be removing the use of words relating to fairness, whitening or lightening from packing and communications across brands.

The brand hopes that putting its money where its ads are will help show that it truly wishes to get its work with the Black community against racism right.

“Our actions to help achieve racial equity are genuine, and we’re in this for the long-term,” van Ettinger says. “The purpose of this campaign is not to address a business challenge or need, but to use our voice to bring vital awareness to a human rights issue that needs to be addressed immediately.”