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Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

3 Comments


Jon Hanson has written an excellent takedown of the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”.

Here are a few excerpts:

Several weeks ago, as part of its much lauded “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty,” Unilever released “Onslaught,” a video (above) examining disturbing images of women in beauty-industry advertising. The video ends with this admonition to parents: “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

But is talking “to your daughter before the beauty industry does” an effective solution?

It seems peculiar, therefore, that Dove would offer a film demonstrating the ubiquitous attack of the beauty industry that ends with the suggestion to parents that they are the ones to make a difference by simply talking to their kids. If the industry is the problem, it strikes me as odd that the parents are supposed to be the solution.

Hanson, makes a very interesting point, about parallels with Philip Morris ad campaigns.

Telling parents to talk to their children is not unusual as a public relations Philip Morris Talk to your Kids; They’ll Listen strategy. For instance, Philip Morris, among other companies, has long been pushing that message in its “public service” ads, particularly since the industry began to face a real threat of tort liability in the 1990s. The message seems public-spirited, but most industry analysts believe that Philip Morris is delivering, not a public-service message to parents, but a responsibility-shifting message to the public: kids smoke because of uninvolved or irresponsible parents, not because of anything that Philip Morris has done.


This has been a long-time pet peeve of mine. Whatever the negative messages of TV (or the media in general), the solution that is inevitably trotted out, is that “parents should just talk to their kids”.

There is some evidence that parents talking to their kids about what they see on TV does have a small ameliorative effect. But there is no evidence that such talk eliminates the many negative effects of TV.

Plus, watching a lot of TV with your kids and then continuously lecturing them the negative effects of the media seems like a case of mixed signals. Kind of like serving burgers and doughnuts for dinner (night after night), while at the same time lecturing on the importance of healthy meals.

A simpler, and more effective solution is to just turn-off the TV. For some reason this solution is rarely mentioned.

See also:

“Desperate Housewives and other TV soap operas may help make adolescent girls desperate for a thinness few can healthily achieve, new Australian research suggests.”

http://www.lifeclinic.com/fullpage.aspx?prid=526142&type=1

“A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070220005051.htm

Study Finds TV Alters Fiji Girls’ View of Body

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/20/world/study-finds-tv-alters-fiji-girls-view-of-body.html?sec=health

3 thoughts on “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have been following this DOVE campaign for five years now.

    Marketing and the free market. Definitely the beauty and the beast, and that is putting it extremely mildly.

    I am really mixed about the DOVE campaign, and their connective alter ego with UNILEVER and some of their other non-DOVE campaign for real beauty type of advertising. But I will say this, I definitely appreciate some of women issues friendly marketing thinkers in the DOVE organization for even allowing and starting the discussion on extreme obsession with unnatural beauty on the global advertising stage. Whatever their true motivation was with the campaign, it has now opened the proverbial door [Flood Gates] for some women, and men consumers to harshly question, and criticize the brainwashing agenda of marketing non-real images of beauty. There is now on some levels, no going back to ignorant consumerism acceptance of presented media ideals of beauty. That is a good thing, because as far as I am concerned, once this discussion got started, it will only grow and gain deeper validity for consumers. It may not seem like a lot on the grand scale of global phony beauty marketing, but it is there, the growing numbers disenchanted consumers calling all the fake breasts, botox laden, impossibly thin beauty images: B.S. And when that happens, consumers begin looking for alternate beauty products and manufacturers.

    Hmmmmmmm…..

    But, to be really cynical (my mean free market alter ego) and look for ulterior motives in this whole DOVE campaign thing, UNILEVER might have even conducted a marketing share study and found that it was in their best interest to target the market share of the female consuming audience that was put off by the onslaught of “perfect” models, and chose DOVE to facilitate that marketing demographic. If such, it was more of a shrewd move, rather than a humanitarian marketing act. UNILEVER, or DOVE, would not be conducting the “Real Beauty Campaign” if it were not ultimately in their best interest. If they had not done their campaign, they may have potentially lost a good percentage of their customers who are searching for more “Socially Responsible” product manufacturers. And, if this is the case, and consumers are watching the larger picture, these consumers are well on the road to becoming hyper-critical customers, and it may end up biting UNILEVER, and DOVE in the “A – -” big time because they are caught in what we call in the marketing trade: “Green Washing” their image. They are not really walking the walk, but want to sound like they are…?

    I was going to get all worked up and start writing about how disturbed I get about much of the really creepy, selfish and greedy ultra aggressive marketing industry, and get into how I railed on the cosmetic breast surgery beauty industry back in 1997 when I came across an article about how young pre-teen girls were saving their “baby sitting” money in order to get cosmetic breast implants… But instead, I will leave a link to one of my all time favorite illustrations, created by B. Kliban, that really sums up so much of my thinking about the dark truths about the advertising industry: “The Birth of Advertising,”

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6gBy1kGztSM/SbhjPAQIx0I/AAAAAAAAAeM/Fl5UwYPFDz4/s400/B.+Kliban+19.jpg

    http://tinyurl.com/yh5qlu4

    When I see this illustration, I laugh, but it is not a really deep hearted laugh, it is more of, “Yeah, this is a pretty sad truth, and we have some work to do help wake people up to their mindless programming done by a ruthless industry.” Which I often refer to as the media mafia in pressed white shirts and suits. Many, of whom are not our friends.

    • Hi Chris

      UNILEVER cynical manipulator or earnest humanitarian?

      Well I would certainly vote for “cynical manipulator”,
      but I would bet that a good portion of the people (women?)
      who designed the DOVE campaign really are earnest humanitarians
      hoping to do a good deed.

      Did they do a “good deed”? Yes, I would say a relatively
      good deed. I think that TV advertising is, by it’s very
      nature, the most powerful form of advertising, and thus
      the most effectively manipulative form of advertising.
      But definitely, a positive message is much better than
      a negative message. And an advert based on true facts
      instead of lies is a big step forward.

      “There is now on some levels, no going back to ignorant
      consumerism acceptance of presented media ideals of beauty.
      That is a good thing, because as far as I am concerned,
      once this discussion got started, it will only grow and
      gain deeper validity for consumers. It may not seem like
      a lot on the grand scale of global phony beauty marketing,
      but it is there, the growing numbers disenchanted consumers
      calling all the fake breasts, botox laden, impossibly thin
      beauty images: B.S. And when that happens, consumers begin
      looking for alternate beauty products and manufacturers.”

      I hope you are right. For now, it just seems like we are
      at the very, very beginning.

      I think the DOVE campaign does do a good job of pointing
      out the problem of girls being inundated with unrealistic
      images of women (their Impact commercial really is impactful).

      The problem I have is with their solution. Their solution
      just happens to be the same as pretty much all “media
      literacy” campaigns. That is, if people could just understand
      how the media manipulates, that that would somehow protect
      them from those very same manipulations. That is, as long
      as you understand media manipulation (having taken a course
      on media literacy) that that would mean that you could
      watch as much TV as you like and still be protected from
      any harmful effects through the magic of media literacy.

      It’s important to understand how TV and other media
      effectively manipulate. But to the extent that a Media Literacy
      class or book promotes the idea that as long as you understand
      how these manipulations work, then you are somehow free of their
      influence, then that is just plain wrong and destructive.

      P.S. “The Birth of Advertising” is sooo apropos!

      P.P.S. Baby steps – I was encouraged that Ralph Laurent was
      forced to apologize for extreme phototouching.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1219046/Ralph-Lauren-digitally-retouches-slender-model-make-look-THINNER.html

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