Bad PR: How to go from Pro-Women to Pro-Rape in a day.

PR is a wondrous and magical tool at the best of times; we’ve seen companies, CEOs and Marketing Directors rise and fall in its name, but even with some recent hiccups like Burger King’s ’employee-standing-on-lettuce’ fiasco (the ones you have less control over) to KitchenAid’s tweet about Obama’s dead grandmother (the ones you do have more control over – and yep, that happened), none have polarised the PR thermometer quite the way Dove have in the latest scandal of #FBDoveRapeGate.  Yep, I just coined that one.

I thought Dove were all about loving women?

Whilst they have been busily readying a stream of imagery that has been blasted at us from every angle possible about the ‘real woman’ and comparing themselves with the like of Victoria’s Secret – who obviously market their product at a slightly different demographic –  the campaign has been so emphatically-PC, you’d be forgiven for thinking that its cause was actually for a political party.

So, you might wonder how a brand that has slowly procured an image of societal-integrity and forthright might shoot itself in the foot overnight?  The answer is simple: poor oversight of their public relations.


The ironic twist and Dove’s unwitting link to Facebook-‘Rapism’

It all started with an open letter to Facebook by The Huffington Post, which renounced Facebook’s refusal to remove images and memes that promoted domestic violence and other genderist-type media from their site.  This led to an army of Facebook-activists contacting advertisers that appeared next to such media urging them to revoke their advertising spend.  Brands contacted have been reported to include American Express, British Airways, Sky, Nissan and, of course, Dove.


Interestingly, Nissan – who you might argue would be less influenced by such a demographic of crusaders – have been quick to pull their ads and state that they are obviously completely against domestic violence.  A standard PR retort and an easy swerve.

Dove on the other hand decided to take a different approach; instead, they’ve decided to initially comment by saying that they will try to avoid targeting of the problematic pages on Facebook, instead of pulling their ads altogether.  What. A. Bad. Mistake.

This is beginning to go somewhat viral and an attack-en-masse has pursued with ironic quips, comments and flames being targeted towards the brand.


Clearly, Dove were far too scared to pull this marketing channel as their brand campaign must have been fairly successful after connecting with users on the platform.  Unfortunately for them, this latest twist in the story has gone some way – and will probably continue – to destroy the hard work and undoubtedly, millions spent, on pushing the ‘Pro-Women’ campaign.  To top this off, they will most-likely end up pulling the Facebook ad spend anyway to begin damage control once this begins to spin a little more over the next few days and weeks.

The moral of the story is that the epically thin line between good and bad PR really needs to be monitored like a hawk by all companies – especially those working so hard on their brand. This kind of work can be shattered in a moment.

I’m not sure what their PR consultants advised on the matter, but if they didn’t suggest revoking the ads from the get-go, then they really should be fired.

This post was inspired by Matthew Woodward’s recent Social Media post about a company that featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.