A friend sent me this link to a petition to Unilever criticising Fair & Lovely and asking (I think) that they stop equating fairness with beauty in their advertisements. The petition reads:
This is a petition to Unilever to recognize the socially detrimental impacts of obsession with physical fairness. Unilever currently markets a product called 'Fair and Lovely' which in its advertising and product information equates fairness with beauty. Even if the product reflects an already existing social belief among people that fairer skin is an indicator of better physical appearance, a company making a product supporting such a notion and making money out of it is socially irresponsible, and treading a racially discriminatory line. If the product should continue to be sold, it should desist from comparing fairness with goodlooks overtly in its title. In fact, a company of Unilever's international range of products and revenues should not be selling such a product at all.
You can go sign it here.
Personally, I have my reservations about the petition. The idea that fairness somehow equals beauty is one that I don't understand, and I recognise the quasi-racist attitude that underlies that assumption, but I'm not sure that this petition makes too much sense.
First, attacking Unilever for prevailing social attitudes is a little like attacking the cart because it led the horse down the wrong road. While it's probably true that Unilever's advertising contributes to the strengthening of the perceived importance of fairness, it's hardly the root cause of that attitude, and if we start attacking advertising that is 'socially irresponsible' because it uses social attitudes that we disapprove of to sell its products, then we'd pretty much have to shut down 80% of ads on TV. And do we really believe that if Unilever stopped advertising Fair and Lovely the way it currently does, the market for such products would die? It feels unfair to be penalising Levers for doing a good job with a sales campaign. 
Second, even if Unilever is contributing to the propagation of a socially harmful message, why shouldn't they? They're not forcing anyone to buy anything. They're not spreading pollution or destroying the environment. They're not selling a product that is toxic in any way. Ideas, however unattractive, are not crimes. Who, exactly, is being harmed by Unilever's campaign, and how? It's not Unilever's job to reform social values, it's their job to make as much money for their shareholders as they can, and that's what they're doing.
Third, I'm not sure why Fair and Lovely is so much worse than any other cosmetic product in the market. If we are protesting something, why wouldn't we protest the idea that physical appearance is a valid measure of human worth - that good looking people (women) are somehow better than those who are less beautiful. If it's okay to emphasise the importance of physical beauty, and create products that glorify stereotypical images of what 'beautiful' is, then I don't see why making fair skin a part of that description is such a bad thing. Why is it okay to argue that redder lips make you more beautiful, but not that fairer skin makes you lovely? How is Fair and Lovely any worse than eyeliner or lipstick?
Fourth, I don't know why we would want to control an individual's subjective opinion on physical attractiveness. If people choose to believe that fair is beautiful, that's their loss. I don't know why we, as a society would want to force a politically correct aesthetic judgement on them. The line between discrimination and opinion is a thin one, but there is a difference. I have the right to decide who or what I find beautiful and why; though I don't have the right to discriminate against people on the basis of this in a professional space. I'm welcome to think my fair-skinned co-worker is really ugly, as long as it doesn't affect how I deal with her at work.
Fifth, what is the petition actually asking for? It seems to demand that Unilever sell the product without equating fairness with beauty. I'm not sure how this is to be done. For one thing, the brand name itself connects fairness to beauty, and I can't imagine Unilever giving up a brand like Fair and Lovely just to send a more politically correct message. Also, even if they were to make the message less explicit, who would they be fooling? Suppose they said "use our cream and it'll make you fairer, not lovelier, necessarily, just fairer". Would that really help? What other reason is there for buying a bleaching cream, except to (supposedly) improve your appearance? If the argument is that fairness should not be considered a positive quality at all, and that we as a society should attack companies to make this attitude go away, then the logical way is to argue that bleaching creams themselves be made unavailable, not that their advertising not talk about beauty and fairness in the same breath.
Don't misunderstand me. I agree whole-heartedly that the preference for fair skin is shockingly bad aesthetics and that Unilever's participation in supporting that attitude is despicable. But there's a difference between having no respect for someone and accusing him of doing something wrong. Unilever's error is one of taste and 'decency', not one of ethics.
 It's rare enough that they do this. Take the Sunsilk Gang of Girls promotion. Can anyone think of a more clueless marketing strategy? Were these folks asleep in 2000 when all these 'Websites for Women' popped up and went bust in a matter of months? And even if the Sunsilk folks manage to create a community of giggly teenagers online, why would this lead to higher sales of Sunsilk products? How many people actually participate in online communities (is it really a significant portion of their target market)? What do consumers look for in picking a shampoo brand (is 'this brand has a cool lifestyle portal' really a key criteria)? Who in the household makes the purchase decision (is it really the teenager sitting on her computer chatting away about boyfriends)?