|By Brian Morrissey on Mon Jul 19 2010|
The great thing about the Web is that it's truly worldwide, as the name suggests. That can be a problem for marketers, though, with campaigns that might fly one place but not so much elsewhere. Take Unilever's skin-whitening product marketed under the Vaseline brands. These creams are popular in India but it's safe to say would horrify many people in Western countries. That's why it's hard to be shocked that Vaseline's "Transform Your Face" Facebook app, created for Unilever by Omnicom, has elicited a touch of consternation in some quarters. The idea is rather obvious: You can lighten the skin tone on an uploaded photo, which is then plopped on the body of a dude in a white tuxedo. There is something jarring about hitting the "Lighten my skin" button. I'm rather pasty to begin with, so I couldn't get it do much. A Wall Street Journal reporter with a darker complexion gave it low marks on effectiveness. Needless to say, a mini mob is forming on the Vaseline Facebook page demanding that the brand remove what critics are calling a racist application. The problem, which isn't unique to social media, is that the application is simply a reflection of the product. If Vaseline were to admit that a skin-lightening app is offensive, what does that say about the product?