Summer’s Eve has removed its three “Hail to the V” commercials from its web site and YouTube channel, AdWeek is reporting, in response to a national backlash. The jive-talking black hand depicting an African-American vagina did not sit too well with the feminine products market. Nor did the saucy misrepresentation of a Latina vagina. Both reinforced racial stereotypes that ad executives assumed would be entertaining. Summers Eve in reality did a lot of offending, and ended up being mocked by “The Colbert Report.” Now that’s good branding.
AdWeek details the latest moves of Summer’s Eve as it tries to backpedal from this disaster:
Under pressure, agency and client stood by the videos last week, with agency founder Stan Richards saying they were meant to be “relatable,” not stereotypical. But on Wednesday, Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go.
“Stereotyping or being offensive was not our intention in any way, shape, or form,” said Barnett. “The decision to take the videos down is about acknowledging that there’s backlash here. We want to move beyond that and focus on the greater mission.”
Agency and client had expected the campaign to be provocative, Barnett said, but for its frank talk about female anatomy, not for any racial issues. [...] “We do not think they are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it’s a subjective point of view,” said Barnett. “There seems to be an important perception out there that they may be, and we would never want to perpetuate that.”
It’s utterly maddening that these culture creators could be so blithe about the perceived nature of what is stereotypical. Their complete ignorance of these issues allowed such offensive ads to make it into the public arena, harming their client and disturbing audiences. Barnett is not in a position now to call the ire they stimulated “subjective.” These opinions came from the audience they claim to want to educate. In actuality, this audience is educating The Richards Group ad firm, which made this mess, on what stereotyping is. Perhaps its leaders should shut up and listen.
Another good idea: clearly apologize to women of color, hire more people of color in decision-making positions at this firm, and keep it moving.
As I pointed out in my previous essay, the stream of skewed portrayals of black women in ads stems from the fact that virtually zero people of color work in the industry in powerful capacities. The defensive and dismissive words of this ad group’s PR exec illustrate the need for integration. If those who are still in control of the main apparatus of cultural production can’t tell what a stereotype is in the 21st century, they need to hire some help.
No, not “The Help.” No more background servitude, secretly empowering the master. Ad firms need to hire well-paid managers of color who can raise a red flag about race issues current leaders may never understand. Otherwise, racism in advertising will continue, perpetuating the same crap in a new century.