Dove Pulls NJ 'Armpit' Billboard in Wake of Criticism
In a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, Unilever has dropped a planned Dove billboard that referred to New Jersey as "the Armpit of America."
The advertisement was created as part of a campaign for a new deodorant line called Dove Advanced Care. It featured a smiling blond woman in an underarm-revealing white tank top alongside text that read, "Dear New Jersey, when people call you 'the Armpit of America,' take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Dove." To which the Garden State essentially replied: who are you calling the Armpit of America?
Following a New York Times story about the billboard, which was on tap to run in July, Dove found itself on the receiving end of a barrage of complaints from offended New Jersey residents, some of whom even called for a boycott of the company's products.
Related: How to Admit When You're Wrong
Unilever, which also owns brands such as Ben and Jerry's, Lipton and Axe (a product that's no stranger to controversy) calls New Jersey home -- its North American headquarters is in Englewood Cliffs. And In its most recent response to commenters on its Facebook page, Dove wrote:
"We take feedback from our community very seriously and have decided that we will not be running this billboard advertisement. We did not wish to cause any misunderstanding and apologize for any offense. Our intent with the “Dear New Jersey” billboard, which was one of many ads for our campaign, was to call attention to the fact that armpits can and should be considered beautiful and ask women everywhere to accept this as something that is okay. As a New Jersey-based company and longtime supporter of many charitable organizations in the state, we will instead be donating this billboard space to one of them."
The company, known for its "Dove Campaign for Real Beauty," also recently released a commercial titled "An Open Letter to the Armpit." So, while the premise behind the Ogilvy & Mather campaign is certainly admirable, in this case, it simply caused a stink.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.