Does this Dove bottle make me look fat?

The beauty brand whose ad campaigns are usually celebrated for embracing body diversity has missed the mark with its latest stunt, experts say. Dove rolled out seven limited-edition body washes whose bottles are supposedly shaped like women’s bodies. “They’re one of a kind–just like you. But sometimes we all need reminding of that,” reads the controversial release.

Shoppers and marketers were quick to dump that logic down the drain. Seventy percent of adults ages 18 to 30 don’t like their bodies, and 80% of girls have dieted before they turn 17. Choosing between tall and thin plastic bottles, or short squat ones isn’t going to fix that.

“We need reminding of that? And a curvy bottle of body wash is supposed to serve as this reminder and bring me comfort in some way?” Sakita Holley, public relations strategist and CEO of House of Success PR told Moneyish.

“The genius way I would have spun this is to have released the images for the ‘body type’ bottles on April Fools Day and then the next day put out a statement saying “just kidding,” along with the real campaign video featuring beautiful women of all sizes talking about what their beauty and bodies mean to them in their own words,” she added. “This would have been more in line with Dove’s typically powerful ‘real beauty’ campaigns. But ‘ridiculous’ is the only word I can come up with to describe Dove’s ‘body type’ bottles.”

The bottle brouhaha caught many consumers by surprise considering how revolutionary many of Dove’s campaigns have been in the battle for body positivity, such as creating curly-haired emojis to be more inclusive to women who felt insecure about their crimped and sometimes frizzy locks. Dove also uses real women – not models – in its ads to showcase all sizes and skin tones. The brand even recently brought on Shonda Rhimes to tell women’s stories through film in its new Real Beauty Productions.

So where do “fat” and “thin” lotion bottles fit into that game plan? “I could be wrong about this, but this ‘body type’ bottle campaign feels like it was created by a team of all or mostly men,” said Holley. “That’s really the only way I can see this getting all the way through to not just production of the bottles, but to the public.”

Dove added that its recent Beauty and Confident Report revealed one in two women feels social media puts pressure on them to look a certain way.

But thanks to these bottles, now their drugstore shelf makes them feel the same way.

“It reduces you down to yet another label,” said Dr. Jayme Albin, The Cognitive Behavior Therapist NYC, who addresses body image and dysmorphia in her practice. “Even if I don’t have body issues, now I’m looking at these bottles and thinking, ‘Am I a pear shape? Am I an apple shape? What am I supposed to be?’”

Licensed therapist and clinical social worker Joanne Gerr from NY-NJ Eating Disorder Therapy also said the idea of celebrating women’s bodies by literally turning them into objects is a wash.

“The analogy seems bizarre to me. And then to just make it about women seems incredibly sexist,” Gerr told Moneyish.

“I don’t think this in and of itself will do any real harm to people struggling with body image issues, but it’s part of a cumulative toll,” she added. “Advertising sends women this message ad nauseum that even if we care about your brain, in the end, we’re still really objectifying you. And now your body is being compared to bottles of soap. The whole thing is ridiculous, and as an analogy for real women, this is not at all tasteful.”

Worse, the bottles have turned body image issues into a punch-line as social media has blown up with memes mocking the bottles.

 

“This is taking something very sensitive, and making it into a farce. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this as a sketch on ‘SNL,’” said Dr. Albin.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, was also bewildered by the tone deaf campaign. His patients tell him that they feel judged constantly about being overweight. The last thing they want is a plastic bottle figuratively pointing a finger at them too.

“I can’t imagine anybody would think this is positive. I don’t think that people are going to buy a short, stubby bottle of soap because they think they’re short and stubby,” he said. “This creates controversy where there doesn’t need to be controversy.”

Neither Dove nor its ad firm Ogilvy have responded to requests for comment. But backlash or not, Dove has built up too much good will over the years for some silly bottles to hurt their bottom line too much. Plus, the buzz is giving them advertising money can’t buy. Remember how half of millennials reported liking Pepsi more after its controversial Kendall Jenner ad?

“I don’t think this is an egregious enough offense for people to abandon the brand or stop buying it,” said PR strategist Holley. “I just think people were surprised that they would make such a misstep.

“I remember Dove being recommended by pediatricians for being very gentle on kids’ skin,” added Dr. Roslin. “And ‘trust your kid to Dove,’ resonates a lot more to me than matching your butt to a bottle.”