Black is Beautiful, Dove is insensible
TO THE ordinary person, the word “dove” evokes an image of a bird, pure white, a symbol of peace.
But recently that word describing a cleansing agent hurt the sensitivities of many people through a racially depicted advertisement.
The ad was concocted by an agency that in trying to be creative produced an offensive segment.
The soap product was intended to appeal to people in a society where they are judged by the colour of their skins.
Skin colour and race are on the same side of the coin. From biblical times, white represented purity personified as an angel while black represented evil in the form of Satan. Up until recent times, when blacks achieved their liberation, this perception prevailed.
Many advertisements subliminally still subscribe to the stereotype. This is not the first time that a marketing agency offended people. Some time ago communities protested when religious symbols were used in a derogatory manner.
The offence in the advertisement is in the perpetuation of that belief rooted in prejudice. The beauty industry is a multimillion rand industry. It endorses our self-image that expresses our inner ego.
The marketing agency is merely responding to the “stimulus” of its consumers. One must honestly introspect how we are culpable in sending mixed messages regarding our perception of beauty related to the colour of the skin.
The product can neither wash away the pain and suffering caused by apartheid nor can the brand define our standard of beauty.
To restore our dignity, the slogan “Black is Beautiful” is promoted with a sense of pride.
The message acknowledges that the beauty in each of us both inwardly and outwardly is revealed in a variety of ways.
An axiom in marketing is bad publicity is better than no publicity. The soap advert attracted extensive media coverage where an international TV channel devoted a panel discussion for nearly 30 minutes on the racial issue of the advertisement. No company could have wished for a better exposure of their product. An apology is merely a slap on the wrist and is the weakest, convenient and easiest form of forgiveness.
Unless very strong deterrent measures are put in place that could take a variety of forms, companies motivated by profits would continue to act with impunity and nonchalantly.
The consumer could also help to convey a message of self-respect, to be judged “by the content of (our) character” and not to place emphasis on the colour of the skin as a criterion for success in life.
This would impact on the medium of the message.
Let us control the process and dispel the notion that is embraced by the industry.
DS RAJAH Musgrave