“We deeply regret the offense it caused.”

That was Dove’s Twitter apology, which followed widespread criticism over the weekend deriding the beauty giant’s latest advert as “racially insensitive”.

The company came under fire when screenshots of a three-second video surfaced on Facebook, depicting a dark-skinned black woman peeling off her t-shirt and transforming into a white woman. The full GIF sees the white woman then remove her own t-shirt to reveal a third, non-white model — but the video has educed backlash nonetheless.

Lola Ogunyemi, the black model featured in the campaign, defended Dove, saying the clip was taken out of context.

With high racial tensions in the U.S. blistering over immigration policies, neo-Nazi protests, Confederacy statues and police brutality, perhaps Dove’s timing here was everything.

“If I had even the slightest inclination that I would be portrayed as inferior, or as the ‘before’ in a before and after shot, I would have been the first to say an emphatic ‘no,’” Ogunyemi said.

But the reality is this isn’t the first time the soap company has faced criticism for what customers perceived as “racist” content.

 

Back in 2011, Dove faced backlash for another advert that featured three women of different ethnicities standing next to one another. From left to right, each woman’s skin becomes lighter than the model standing next to her. Behind the women tower two images: the “before,” looming behind the black woman farthest on the left, features dry and cracked skin. The “after” poster, floating behind the towel-covered body of the white model, pictures healthy and moisturized skin.

“You’ll see visibly more beautiful skin in just one week,” the ad boasted.

Then, in 2014, the company’s Dove Summer Glow moisturizing lotion also set social media alight when customers noticed it was marketed as being for “normal to dark skin.”

Even Dove’s parent company, Unilever, found itself in hot water as early as 2010 when people started denouncing the skin whitening cream it sells in India.

For many, Dove’s blunder seems to be the latest addition to a history of racist marketing, evoking a longstanding racist trope that has permeated the beauty industry for decades.

Dove swiftly removed the video from the Internet and apologized for “any offence it may have caused,” ensuring they would review their internal processes to prevent comparable content from being released in the future.

With high racial tensions in the U.S. blistering over immigration policies, neo-Nazi protests, Confederacy statues and police brutality, perhaps Dove’s timing here was everything.

“I don’t feel it was racist,” said Ogunyemi.

Dove assured customers it is committed to a mission of highlighting the diversity of beauty and representing women of colour thoughtfully. For some, like Munroe Bergdorf, a model and trans woman of colour who was fired from l’Oréal following her comments about white privilege, “diversity” can often feel like a buzzword.

 

“I don’t know if the advert is racist,” said Munroe Bergdorf, the trans woman of colour who was fired from l’Oréal early last month following her comments about white privilege. “It’s definitely racially insensitive.

Advertising companies need to be much more mindful when they are creating these adverts. They need to think about having a diverse workforce, not just a diverse cast.”