Dove's "Armpit of America" Campaign Doesn't Sit Well With New Jersey, Unsurprisingly
Oh, Dove. When will you learn? We don’t need you teaching us how to take selfies in the name of “Real Beauty” — and we certainly don’t need you referring to certain geographical areas in unflattering terms as part of a remarkably misguided ad campaign.
Last Thursday, the skincare company unveiled a new billboard they intended to launch in New Jersey this July. The ad for their new deodorant line Dove Advanced Care featured a typical, happy-looking Dove model in a white tank top, her left arm raised and resting behind her head, alongside the words, “Dear New Jersey, when people call you ‘The Armpit of America,’ take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Dove.”
Unsurprisingly, the people of New Jersey did not take it well.
Now — and I say this as someone who actually lives there — New Jersey kind of is the armpit of America. It's earned the moniker over the years thanks to things like its numerous instances of government corruption and the unpleasant aromas that have emerged from its industrial activities. But to be honest, it's not all that bad: Once you get out of cities like Trenton and Newark, it actually does live up to its official title, the Garden State. The farmland areas in the western parts of the state are beautiful; the seaside is gorgeous (as long as you stay out of Jersey Shore territory); I've even got a nature trail literally right outside my door. It's awesome. And as an added bonus, the cost of living is way less expensive than it is in New York.
Of course, attempts to explain this rather questionable advertising choice just made matters worse: Matthew McCarthy, the senior marketing director for antiperspirants and deodorants at Dove’s parent company, Unilever, told the New York Times, “I don’t expect that there will be a lot of people who misunderstand, but to the degree that they do, we’ll be open about what we’re really trying to say. The message that we want to get out there is that the armpit is not a bad thing, and that we stand for caring for the armpit”; added Nancy Vaznonis, the Ogilvy & Mather creative director who handled the campaign, “It was a very conscious decision because people view ‘armpit’ as a dirty word. We wanted to change the preconception of it as dirty.”
Way to tell New Jerseyites that people view their home state as “dirty.” Good job, Dove.
What appears to be the entire state of New Jersey banded together over the weekend, calling for a boycott of Dove products in response to the billboard; accordingly, Dove backpedaled furiously, canceling the billboard entirely. While this is a step in the right direction, I can’t help but feel that this is yet another mistake for the brand — and one that could really cost them. A word of advice for all would-be advertisers out there: Don’t insult anyone in your campaigns. It should be a no-brainer, right?