One of my all-time favorite commercials is the Dove “Evolution” spot by Ogilvy & Mather.
It’s just one of those advertisements that you can’t look away from. It’s mesmerizing. You literally watch someone’s face transform from an everyday woman into a billboard-worthy model. Nowhere in the spot do they try to sell soap–it’s not even mentioned.
The ad, in a fantastic zoom-out reveal, demonstrates society’s obsession with Photoshopping ourselves to perfection. This obsession reflects badly on self-esteem, which Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign looks to change by targeting every age and race.
However, there have been some dampers on Dove’s success with the campaign, throwing the parent company Unilever’s values into question.
First of all, Unilever also owns Axe–a brand known for its generalization of women’s sexuality and desires. Here is an example of Axe’s lovely marketing strategy.
That pretty much speaks for itself. The Axe commercials portray women as sex objects–modelesque, perfect-looking women running in slow motion with no ounce of fat jiggling anywhere but the key areas. But wait…isn’t this the exact image that the Dove Real Beauty campaign is trying to protect its audience from being influenced by? That it is.
A second backfire that affected Dove Real Beauty was an information leak that revealed questionable tactics in creating the advertisements. While calling for models for Dove’s next ad, they asked for “flawless” women with “naturally fit” bodies that are “not too curvy or athletic.” Not exactly giving off the right message with that one, Dove. This blunder caused horrific backlash against the campaign, calling into question Dove’s motives.
Do these factors change Dove’s intentions? Or are they simply doing the “advertising equivalent” of showing real people? Would we respond more positively to an ad featuring flawed skin or “perfect” skin? They are a skincare brand, after all. Do we expect perfection from them even when they’re showing “real women”?
But this is advertising. We’re not simply trying to sell soap–we’re creating a brand persona. If Dove’s brand persona is that they are backing real beauty, they need to stick to that concept. Throw some imperfection in there, it’s human!