Is P&G’s new “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign actually groundbreaking?

by guest contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

From Advertising Age:

The campaign’s goal is to make all black girls and women feel that way regardless of skin tone or origin and, of course, forge a closer relationship between P&G brands and their black consumers in the process.The campaign obviously bears some resemblance to the idea behind a globally lauded effort by one of P&G beauty’s key competitors, Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” from Unilever. The formula for both: Find a group that feels slighted by popular culture, then position your brand(s) squarely on their side.

But there are some key differences in origin, society and company that make the P&G push groundbreaking and potentially powerful in its own way.

Potentially, that is, because quite uncharacteristically for P&G, this thing isn’t fully thought out yet. Ms. Reid took a hiatus from maternity leave to unveil the concept at the National Association of Black Journalists meeting in Las Vegas earlier this month, where it generated keen interest — particularly from black anchorwomen, Ms. Reid said — but so far relatively little coverage.

P&G’s Always and Tampax have established a $50,000 grant, and the company is in talks with women’s organizations to develop a series of community discussions on the issue, with booklets likely to be distributed by Essence, but that’s about it so far.

It’s nice to see Advertising Age attempt to enhance its editorial content with diversity. It’s also disturbing to see the continued cultural cluelessness demonstrated by the supposed industry experts.

For starters, calling P&G’s “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign groundbreaking shows a definite unfamiliarity with minority marketing. While this well-intentioned effort may have broad reach, it’s hardly unique. Additionally, comparing the initiative to Dove’s “Real Beauty” bullshit is inaccurate—particularly since the Dove perspectives remain primarily White. Vaseline recently ran a campaign for its lotions celebrating Black skin (the skinvoice.com website appears to have vanished). Hell, virtually every health, beauty and fashion brand targeting Black women—including many P&G products—has adopted a “My Black Is Beautiful” stance at least once in their respective marketing histories. On abstract levels, there are numerous corporations wooing minorities with such tactics. Mickey D’s hypes the “365 Black” campaign, designed to honor Black History past February, and a host of advertisers have created identical year-round propaganda. Other minority segments undoubtedly feature similar semi-patronizing concepts.

That aside, there’s a bigger related story receiving zero press coverage. A few years ago, P&G kicked off plans to distribute more assignments to minority agencies. It’s unclear how successful this scheme has been, although the White agencies maintain political and financial strangleholds on the accounts (e.g., Grey Advertising allegedly produced commercials introducing Pantene’s Black hair care products, despite the fact that a capable minority shop is on Pantene’s agency roster). If they really wish to exhibit diversity innovation, P&G should award total control of any brand to a minority firm. Unfortunately, it looks like “My Black Is Beautiful” does not apply to the mega-advertiser’s minority partners.

Finally, Advertising Age is correct in recognizing race and ethnicity limit diversity discussions. But the truth is, minorities have never charged that it’s just a racial and ethnic thing (minorities, incidentally, is not a term labeling people solely based on their skin color or land of origin). Rather, the issues revolve around the global offenses of discrimination and exclusivity—which go way beyond race and ethnicity. In the end, it’s impossible to hold diversity discussions when all the involved players don’t come to the proverbial roundtable.