Avon apologizes after criticism mounts over anti-cellulite marketing campaign

The company said it ‘missed the mark’ with a print ad that disparaged cellulite on women’s bodies. Is the apology enough to satisfy angry consumers?

Avon has issued a mea culpa following backlash over a recent ad that many categorized as “body shaming.”

Time reported:

The advertisement was for Avon’s Smooth Moves Naked Proof product, a cooling gel that is meant to reduce the appearance of cellulite. “Dimples are cute on your face,” the advertisement reads. “Not on your thighs.”

The Drum reported:

The campaign appeared in a brochure for Avon’s North American customers. The series of ads promoted its ‘Smooth Moves Naked Proof’ anti-cellulite cream as a tool to combat the condition that causes lumps and bumps over the body’s surface.

The beauty brand has been accused of capitalising on people’s insecurities by presenting cellulite as a defect, rather than a normal body feature, which between 80-90% of women will experience in their lifetime.

Though many consumers lashed out at the marketing message, including New Zealand blogger Kris Fox, the ad was thrust into the spotlight after model, activist and “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil called out Avon in a series of tweets:

Independent reported:

Jamil’s post was liked more than 48,000 times and prompted hundreds of people to share their support for her message.

“I just want to say thank you for being a positive and strong advocate for women,” one person wrote. “Advertisements like this are so damaging, and we need to teach women to just be happy in their skin.”

The Hill reported:

Jamil, who last year launched her “I Weigh” campaign to promote body positivity, wrote in a tweet that “everyone has dimples on their thighs” and urged the beauty company to “stop shaming women.”

Jamil previously criticized a different ad in the same marketing campaign for Avon’s “Naked Proof” products:

Yahoo News reported:

A second ad in the campaign reads, “Every body is beautiful,” but then contradicts that statement by highlighting products to “reduce cellulite, firm skin and soften stretch marks.”

 

Avon Insider responded to Jamil’s tweets by admitting it had “missed the mark” with its messages. It pulled the ad.

 

The next day, Avon USA’s social media team tweeted an apology:

Avon UK quickly distanced itself from the online ire with a statement, reported by Metro: “Avon UK has insisted that ‘Naked Proof is not an AVON UK campaign and will not appear across any of our materials.’”

Jamil applauded Avon’s decision to pull the ad:

The incident is not the first time a brand has received backlash for offending consumers with its messages.

A judge on British TV show “Dancing on Ice” was recently criticized by many following derogatory remarks made to an overweight contestant. In September, fashion company Revolve scrambled after being accused of body shaming women with a controversial sweatshirt.

The issue of body shaming has grabbed many headlines as more celebrities have spoken out about it. Most recently, country singer Carly Pearce and actor Dean McDermott responded to fans’ negative comments.

Brand managers would be wise to examine PR and marketing materials—even those made to be “light-hearted”—lest they provoke anger among target audiences.

To combat the negativity, some organizations, such as Allure and Ulta, are making body positivity a corporate social responsibility initiative.

On Jan. 4, Allure reported:

At the end of the day, we believe there is no one definition of beauty, and perfection doesn’t exist anyway. In that vein, we partnered with Ulta Beauty in our brand new series, See Yourself, See Each Other, to share stories on representation, skin, hair, and identity, to showcase the beauty and humanity in all of us, and encourage people to fully embrace themselves, and others, just as they are.

Like our hair and skin, no two bodies are exactly the same. We come in all shapes and sizes, have different abilities, and no one body type is better than another. That’s precisely why we support the body positivity movement, which is founded on the belief that everyone deserves respect (from oneself and others), regardless of their physical appearance.

Others have promoted positive messaging, such as when Insider published a list of Instagram accounts to follow to inspire body positivity.

So, brand managers can do more than avoid marketing pitfalls in this area. You can also garner positive PR and boost your brand image by providing solutions and partnering with those who fight body shaming, which is a particularly smart move for organizations that have similar audiences to Avon’s.

What do you think about Avon’s mea culpa? What steps would you take to avoid such a misstep?

(image via)

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