Summer’s Eve, owned by Fleet Laboratories, recently launched a multimedia campaign for its feminine hygiene products titled “Hail to the V,” an effort met with accusations of sexism and racism, especially online.
The campaign included a redesign of the Summer’s Eve website and two series of ads. The first was a three-part set of spots featuring feature a black, white, and Latina talking hand (meant to represent a woman’s vulva). The second series focused on historical female archetypes, such as Cleopatra and Helen of Troy, and included both video and print ads.
Shortly after the July 2011 launch, Summer’s Eve pulled two of the videos in response to accusations of sexism and racism. Many criticized the “talking hands” for perpetuating stereotypes about black and Latina women and both series of ads for reducing women to sexual objects.
Although Stan Richards, founder of The Richards Group, the Texas-based agency behind the ads, first defended the campaign, the ads were later pulled.
Much of the criticism Summer’s Eve received on the ads occurred online – on blogs, Twitter, on the wall of the Summer’s Eve | Hail to the V Facebook page and in a Change.org petition entitled “Tell Summer’s Eve to End its Sexist & Racist Ad Campaign”. However, the company has little to address this issue via social media.
After the ads were pulled, Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett said in a statement to Adweek, “The decision to take the videos down is about acknowledging that there's backlash here. We want to move beyond that and focus on the greater mission.” She added, “We do not think they are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it’s a subjective point of view. There seems to be an important perception out there that they may be.”
A link to this article was posted by the official Summer’s Eve Facebook page, but no other official mention appeared on the company’s website or anywhere else online.
Negative comments on the Facebook page have not been answered, while the account continues to post filler like “High heels or sneakers?” and “What’s your favorite new trend for fall?”
Summer’s Eve also came under fire last year for an advertorial in Women’s Day that suggested that starting off every day using feminine hygiene products was the first step to getting a raise at work.
In response to criticism, Summer’s Eve pulled that ad and created a Twitter account @Eve_Cares to field complaints. Eve_Cares was deleted this July, shortly after Twitter users started directing complaints about the new campaign to the account.
Their other official Twitter account (@FleetSummersEve) has sat unused since last summer until it apparently was taken over by spammers this August.
The California Milk Processor Board also pulled a series of controversial ads in July 2011, but unlike Summer’s Eve, they took full advantage of the benefits of social media.
The Milk Board replaced the campaign’s original website with GotDiscussion.org and offered a “representative sampling” of comments made about the campaign. The site also encouraged people to “join the discussion” both on Facebook and on Twitter under the hashtag #gotdiscussion.
By ignoring social media, Summer’s Eve has ultimately missed out on the opportunity to positively spin this scandal.