In addition to its 60-second anthem spot, Summer's Eve released three other videos this week featuring talking hand-puppet vaginas, as part of its new "Hail to the V" campaign. The campaign is meant to be about empowering women and rejuvenating the brand following last year's disastrous print ad telling women to douche before asking for a raise. But these three ads have created a new controversy, with some saying the voice work in the African American and Latina versions promotes racial stereotypes. The black woman is "Pam Grier and Lil' Kim all wrapped in to one," writes MoxieBird, while the Latina woman opens with the cry, "Ay-yi-yi." Everyone from Consumerist to the Daily News has weighed in on the withering critiques.
Watch for yourself below and decide. The larger problem for Summer's Eve is that many women see douching products themselves, and any marketing of them, as anti-woman—i.e., creating a feeling of shame around the issue of cleanliness, then selling the antidote to the shame. Casting the process as female empowerment, it seems, is particularly galling. Given the hangover from last year's ad, the racial element of the new spots is just one more thing to get upset about, if you're already opposed to the brand.
For its part, The Richards Group is defending the campaign. Agency founder Stan Richards offers this statement to Adweek: "We have a wonderful client that recognizes no matter what they do, marketing in the feminine hygiene category is going to provoke a reaction. After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer's Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences. We are surprised that some have found the online videos racially stereotypical. We never intended anything other than to make the videos relatable, and our in house multi-cutural experts confirmed the approach. The more important mission is to get women talking about taboo topics and we hope these negative sentiments don't overshadow that effort."