• As the world was recently outraged at the latest Dove campaign; Sheila Afari from South Africa and Anyiko from Kenya weigh in on the conversation around how Dove handled their crisis management.  Tackling the conversation with differing opinions but ending up with the same conclusion, read a South and East African perspective on why Dove handled their crisis management very well.

SAPR Blog: What were your initial thoughts on the Dove campaign?

Sheila Afari: I was very confused. I picked up on the trending conversation on social media and knew there had to be a different narrative other than the blatant message that seemed to come across from the screen grabs circulating.

Anyiko: My initial thought was – I think this looks interesting and I could immediately see what they were trying to achieve with the transition of colour and skin.

SAPR Blog: Has your perspective changed since first viewing the campaign? If yes why?

Sheila Afari: Yes it has. I am no longer confused as I searched for the full ad in question and also looked up Dove’s explanation of the ad. I understand where they were trying to go with the messaging.

Anyiko: Not my personal perspective but my perspective on how messages can be easily misread and misunderstood.

SAPR Blog: Do you think that Dove handled their Crisis Management well? If yes why? If no why not?

Sheila Afari: Yes I believe Dove handled their crisis management very well. I believe there are three essential pillars to handling a crisis: a) a timely response b) taking ownership of the crisis by apologising c) providing a remedy or recourse. Dove ticked all three boxes in my opinion.

Anyiko: I think they did because they immediately accepted their mistake and apologized immediately.

SAPR Blog: Many people globally have voiced on social media that they reject Dove’s apology. Do you think Dove should make a second attempt at publicly handling this crisis or should they continue the conversation internally to avoid this crisis in future? Please expand on your answer.

Sheila Afari: Race issues are a sensitive matter globally. I believe Dove handled their crisis well from the start and should avoid getting caught up in what could be a race snow ball effect that hardly ever resolves in a win win scenario. In the statement Dove released, they mentioned that they would be re-evaluating their internal processes for creating and approving content to prevent them making this type of mistake in future. I believe they should just stick to that.

Anyiko: I don’t think they should put out another apology but they should strive to explain what their products are about and how they benefit people of all colours. It would be wise to also try explain the thought process behind their campaign and strategy. I think this article by the black lady in the Ad was very nice to try explain the situation and also pour water on the crisis. Here is the article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/i-am-woman-racist-dove-ad-not-a-victim

SAPR Blog: Do you think there’s anything Dove could have said or done that would have been acceptable for the public? If yes, what would you recommend Dove have said or done from the get go?

Sheila Afari: Because the Dove ad in question had racial undertones, I don’t think there’s anything they could have said or done that would have been satisfactory to everyone. Even an extreme act such as firing a person or agency responsible for sign off on the campaign may have not been enough.

Anyiko: The best thing is an apology, which they put out. After that they must try bring back the faith in their consumers by at least having subtle communication that is more for the masses so unisex and irrespective of colour.

SAPR Blog: Do you think it’s important for all brand campaigns, regardless of how large or small, to be scrutinised by the PR team beforehand? Or should the client be solely responsible for sign off once final product has been received from the advertising agency?

Sheila Afari: Advertising campaigns shouldn’t be approached from a place of needing PR “policing”, so no, I don’t think it’s important for all campaigns large or small to be scrutinised by PR beforehand. That is not the role of PR.  The backlash Dove has received however, is a reminder that the public perception of an end product will always be greater than the intended message of the said product. Also with the rise of technology and the different ways in which we consume data, it is important for advertisers to look at their ads in smaller parts to see if they still convey the intended message especially when dealing closely with sensitive topics such as race and diversity.

Anyiko: This is very important and not just the PR Team but an external team that can have very different opinions. The client should be solely responsible for signing off on these campaigns but before it gets to them, it should have passed focus groups, research and a proper PR team which should prepare a plan to manage crisis in case that arises.

SAPR Blog: Any closing remarks you would like to add?

Sheila Afari: Although Dove released their statement timeously; their statement wasn’t rolled out on social media uniformly which was very surprising as the crisis was birthed on social media. Their first social media apology appeared on their Twitter account on 7 October 2017. 140 characters is never enough. They should have included their full statement image with that post, because the initial tweet on its own came across as not sufficient. The full statement was released on Facebook on 8 October 2017, on Twitter on 9 October 2017 and on Instagram on 10 October 2017. This staggered approached lost Dove some time in taking ownership or at least providing a different narrative for the conversation on social media. Not everyone was going out of their way to read media publications that may have received Dove’s press statement, and were only working with what they saw on social media.

I do however have to commend Dove for graciously acknowledging their short comings and apologising for their mistake. It’s very easy for people/brands/organisations to go on the defensive and try prove why they aren’t in the wrong. Dove could easily have fallen into this trap because their ad was taken out of context due to the specific screen grabs used, but they chose to be bigger and will definitely come out stronger once the dust has settled.

Anyiko: Everyone should read this article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/i-am-woman-racist-dove-ad-not-a-victim and not be so fast to term campaigns as racist or look at things like that… I did not judge the Ad the way most people did. I did not find it offensive, my only question would be why the lady in black was transitioning to white and not vice versa or like in Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video.

About Contributors 

Sheila Afari, Managing Director – Sheila Afari Public Relations

Sheila Afari Public Relations is a proud African bespoke PR agency operating from Johannesburg, South Africa. We pride ourselves in keeping abreast with the changing nature of public relations and tailoring the services we offer each client. Holding a firm reputation for being a premium service provider to our clients; we have serviced clients in territories such as the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Anyiko Owoko, Founder & Creative Director – Anyiko PR

Anyiko PR is a creative PR driven collective based in Nairobi, Kenya with creative professionals spanning across Africa. Team Anyiko PR spotlights and nurtures genuine and authentic talent. We pride ourselves in creating and providing quality content and brands to local and international media, platforms and forums to represent Africa’s robust arts and culture scene. Anyiko PR prides itself in the making of stars representing African stars across the continent. Our clients have included Sauti Sol, Vanessa Mdee, Navio, Adekunle Gold, Seyi Shay, Runtown, Stella Mwangi. Top projects include Temple Management East Africa and Africa’s biggest music show: Coke Studio Africa.