Dove set off a firestorm with its ‘racist’ soap ad, but they’re not the only ones

A scene from an ad for Qiaobi detergent by the Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Ltd.Co. The company apologized for the ad, which showed a black man transformed into a light-skinned Chinese man
Mark Schiefelbein | AP

Dove this month attracted criticism and was accused of racism for an ad on Facebook that showed a black woman turning white after using one of its body washes, with one Twitter user saying it looked "like a vintage racist soap ad."

The Unilever-owned brand was quick to apologize via Twitter, saying it regretted the portrayal.

But Dove isn't the only brand to have attracted criticism for the way it has shown people of different skin colors in an ad. Here are seven more ads that got it wrong.


Qiaobi detergent


This strange ad for Chinese detergent Qiaobi from March 2016 showed a black man being pushed into a washing machine by a Chinese woman and being "laundered" into a light-skinned, young Chinese man, who emerges from the machine. The tagline was: "Change, it all starts from Qiaobi laundry detergent pod," prompting one Twitter user to tweet "Maybe the most racist ad I've ever seen. They literally wash the Black off him."

Parent company Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Ltd. Co. apologized in May that year, saying: "We express regret that the ad should have caused a controversy. But we will not shun responsibility for controversial content."

"We express our apology for the harm caused to the African people because of the spread of the ad and the over-amplification by the media," the company said. "We sincerely hope the public and the media will not over-read it."

Nivea: White is purity advert


Earlier this year skincare brand Nivea ran a deodorant ad with the headline "white is purity" and the words: "Keep it clean, keep bright. Don't let anything ruin it, #invisible." Parent company Beiersdorf removed it, saying: "That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologize for that."

Cadbury's Naomi Campbell controversy

A bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate
Getty Images

In 2011, British chocolate brand Cadbury ran an ad comparing its Dairy Milk candy bar to supermodel Naomi Campbell. "Move over Naomi, there's a new diva in town," the headline said, next to a Dairy Milk Bliss bar.

Campbell complained that it was racist, saying: "It's upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me but for all black women and black people. I do not find any humor in this. It is insulting and hurtful." The company, now owned by Mondelez, apologized, saying it was "not our intention that this campaign should offend Naomi, her family or anybody else and we are sincerely sorry that it has done so."

Sony PlayStation Portable: White is coming


When Sony introduced its PlayStation Portable (PSP) console in different colors back in 2006 it decided to use a poster featuring two women to advertise the launch. A white woman with an aggressive expression held the face of a black woman, and the line "PlayStation Portable White is coming" featured. The ad was deemed racist.

The ad was pulled and the company said: "Whilst the images used in the campaign were intended solely to highlight the contrast between the different colors available for the PSP, we recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising."

Benetton breastfeeding


The Italian clothing company has long been known for its controversial advertising. A 2011 ad featured former U.S. President Barack Obama appearing to kiss former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, while back in 1991 a poster of a newborn baby covered in blood attracted protests in Italy.

And it has not shied away from featuring different skin tones in ads: a 1989 poster featured a black woman breastfeeding a white baby. But it caused uproar in the U.S. and had to be withdrawn.

Nicofresh taboo


The e-cigarette industry has developed from nothing to being a highly competitive market. Back in 2014, Nicofresh created a campaign showing a young black man embracing an older white woman, with the line: "No tobacco. No taboo."

The poster ran in Belfast, Northern Ireland but was banned by the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority because it said consumers would believe that the ad presented mixed-race and age relationships as socially unacceptable. Nicofresh said in a statement at the time that the ad conveyed an "entirely positive" message.

Home Office go home


In 2013 the U.K.'s Home Office (the Interior Department) ran an advertising campaign on vans driven through six London boroughs. "In the U.K. illegally?" it asked. "Go home or face arrest," it said, with a stamp device stating: "106 arrests last week in your area."

The ad was banned, though not for causing offense, rather the ASA ruled that the arrest statistic was misleading because it actually applied throughout a larger part of London.