London (AFP) - Personal care brand Dove has apologised for a body wash advert that showed a black woman removing a top to reveal a white woman underneath, following accusations of racism.
The three-second video clip appeared in the United States on the social networking site Facebook.
Dove said on Twitter that it had "missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully" and deeply regretted any offence caused.
The ad showed a black woman removing her top, revealing a white woman underneath. She then took off her t-shirt, showing a third woman with a darker skin tone underneath.
"Ready for a Dove shower? Sulfate free with 100 percent gentle cleansers, our body wash gets top marks from dermatologists," the advert said.
The Dove brand, owned by Rotterdam-based food and consumer products giant Unilever, which is listed on the London and Amsterdam stock exchanges, apologised after several people on social media deemed the advert racist.
"As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a three-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page," a statement said.
"This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened.
"We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused."
- Social media storm -
The advert on Facebook triggered a storm of outrage on social media.
Oscar-nominated US film director Ava DuVernay said on Twitter: "You can do better than 'missed the mark.' Flip and diminishing. Deepens your offense. You do good work. Have been for years. Do better here."
Social media users posted a previous Dove advert featuring a black woman standing in front of a "before" close-up of dry skin and a white woman standing in front of an "after" picture.
They also re-posted pictures of a Dove self-tanning lotion labelled "for normal to dark skin".
Twitter user African Child said: "Don't these brands know that it's 2017 now. People are woke people have a say and people are allowed to boycott products."
Meanwhile Toya M. Jones said on Twitter: "Don't buy Dove soap, shower gel or lotion. Perhaps if we #BoycottDove and all Unilever products they will learn to RESPECT #blackwomen."
Unilever was slightly down in a stable market at the opening of the London stock exchange on Monday.
The Dove page on Unilever's website begins: "Dove believes that beauty is not one dimensional; it is not defined by your age, the shape or size of your body, the colour of your skin or your hair.
"We will continue to use ad campaigns as an opportunity to redefine beauty, challenge stereotypes and celebrate what makes women unique," it said.