When Advertising “Misses the Mark”

By: Cali Magdaleno

Editor: Divya Thirunagari

At this point in time, it’s pretty hard to deny that the media we consume can potentially affect our viewpoints and the culture we live in.  The presence of media in our lives has increased substantially in recent years, so it’s no shock that, not only is there a higher emphasis on public relations, there is also greater public criticism if something is not executed properly.

Cultural sensitivity is one factor that should be taken seriously when putting something into the public sphere.  Sometimes it seems ridiculous that we have to be constantly reminded that that is important because it should just be something we know and act on without a second thought.  There are some people, however, who think it’s “beating a dead horse” to reinforce such ideals.  But that can’t quite be the case when controversies continue to arise — the most notable of this year being the Pepsi commercial that essentially trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement.

While the Pepsi commercial gained considerable notoriety, it’s not the only one of that nature we have seen this year and, unfortunately, it was not the last.  A few weeks ago, Dove came out with an ad that, in their words, had “missed the mark” — a phrase too often used that just barely takes any responsibility.  

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The ad was for body wash and showed a black woman in a dark shirt, who then removes her shirt, only to reveal a white woman in a light shirt underneath.  It’s hard to know exactly what Dove was trying to get across with this ad, but that doesn’t necessarily matter because the outcome outweighs the intention. Naiveté can’t be an excuse anymore when the goal of public relations is to gain as much attention from the maximum amount of publics.

According to Dove, they did not intend to misrepresent women of color, but that is what ended up happening.  And not only that, this was a mistake they also made in 2011 with a similar ad.  However, this clearly isn’t something that can change in the industry overnight.  It’s something that we have to continue to be reminded of, and work towards, because even those who consider themselves socially conscious can often be found doing the exact same thing.

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