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DOVE IMC Campaign

Case Study: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty
Unilevers Dove brand was launched in the market as a cleansing bar soap in 1957.
The soap was based non-irritating cleaner and moisturizing component. By
1970s, Unilever had enhanced the soap into a beauty bar, which was milder and
promised women of moisturized skins. The popularity of the soap at this time
soared, and Unilever started expansion into the global market and by 1996, the
brand was selling in over 80 countries. Between 1995 and 2001, Unilever
expanded the range of products under the dove brand to include moisturizers, face
creams, deodorants, shower gel, shampoos, conditioners, among other wide range
of beauty and care products.
The key features and attributes of the brand such as its soft colors focused on
promoting it as a rejuvenating, calming and exfoliating product brand with
milder effects on the skin and high performance moisturizing abilities for dry
skins. As the Dove brand mainly targeted women, its dove logo and tagline
represent gentleness and softness at a higher sophistication in performance.
The Campaign’s Inspiration
In 2004, the Dove Brand commissioned a report “The Real Truth About Beauty:
A Global Report – Findings of the Global Study on Women, Beauty and WellBeing.” It is rooted in the increasing concern that representations of female beauty
in popular culture fed a definition of beauty that was both inauthentic and
unattainable. The Dove Brand theorized, resultantly that women are in this way
prevented from appreciating beauty in themselves. Furthermore, in a culture
women are so highly valued on their physical appearance, these standards have
the potential to negatively impact women’s self-esteem, happiness, and overall
well-being. Dove commissioned researchers from Harvard University, the
London School of Economics, and Strategy One to examine the relationship
women have with beauty, determine how women define beauty, learn the level of
satisfaction with women’s beauty and the impact beauty has on the well-being of
The findings were based on interviews with 3,200 women between the ages of
18-64 and were largely disheartening. World-wide, only 12% of women are
satisfied with their physical appearance.
No women described themselves as “gorgeous,” 1% of women described
themselves as “stunning” and 2% of women describe themselves as “beautiful.”
However there was a marked demand for broader, more inclusive definition of
beauty: 68% strongly agree that the media sets and unrealistic standard of beauty
and 75% wish the media did a better job of representing the broad range of
women’s physical attractiveness, including size and shape and age. Furthermore,
components of true beauty extend beyond mere physical attractiveness, to
happiness, kindness, wisdom, dignity, love, authenticity and self-realization.
With this in mind the management team at Dove saw a great opportunity. At the
time they were just introducing their line of beauty products.
Real Beauty Campaign
The campaign developed by Ogilvy and Mather, focused on interacting with the
consumers, with Dove branding itself not only as a beauty brand but also one
that cares about and reaches out consumer’s needs. Adopting a reality based
campaign using everyday girls in their advertisements; Dove not only enhanced
self confidence, but also showed that Dove provides effective, accessible and
affordable products that real women can confidently use to care for their skins.
Philippe Harousseau, dove’s marketing manager noted that the Dove campaign
sought to challenge the stereotypical beauty of young, tall and blond, and rather
change the way beauty is perceived by emphasizing the beauty of each woman.
In 2004, Dove launched the first phase of it’s campaign to combat the problems
revealed in their global study. They rolled-out a series of advertisements featuring
women whose appearances are outside of the stereotypical norms of beauty. The
Dove campaign recruited women recruited off the streets (at coffee shops,
bookstores, grocery stores, etc.) instead of professional models. The women in
the print ads are between the ages of 22 and 96 and a range across a variety of
sizes (from 6 to 12). The images were shot by in-demand fashion photographer
David Rankin. Dove guarantees the images in the campaign have not been
airbrushed in any way. The advertisements were places on billboards and bus
stops throughout New York, Chicago, DC, LA and other top urban markets and
asked viewers to go online to cast their vote: whether the models were “Fat or
fab?”, “Wrinkled or wonderful?”, “Grey or gorgeous?” and “Freckled or
In response to the news and media outcry that erupted after Spain banned overlyskinny models from runways in 2006, Dove expanded on this phase of the
campaign with three notable video ads: Evolution, Onslaught, and Amy. Each
one of these videos tells a little bit about their campaign.
Evolution is a video about the beauty industry’s efforts to change women’s
appearances into something completely different in the pursuit of publication.
The video starts with a woman walking in the frame and sitting on a stool. A man
can be heard shouting directions to some crew. The screen fades to black and then
words appear on screen “a Dove film” followed later by “evolution.” As the
woman comes back onto screen, lights begin to turn on and people start to
surround her, doing her hair and make-up. As music swells the viewer, the artists
transform an average-looking blonde woman into a creation filled with make-up
and hairspray.
The video is on time-lapse, so what likely took over an hour to complete takes
mere seconds to watch. After the transformation, the woman models for a
photographer, as noted by the flashing lights. A photo is selected and then placed
into photo editing software. Her neck is elongated, her hair expanded, her eyes
enlarged along with a myriad of other small details to alter the image. The camera
starts to zoom out and the viewer can see that the image is now on billboard
overlooking a busy street. Then “No wonder our perception of beauty is
distorted” appears on screen. The video ends with the Dove self-esteem fund
logo. This video serves as a way to inform viewers about the Dove fund and to
speak out against the rampant use cosmetics and technology in order to alter
women to appear as something they are not. They took a woman and made her
into something that she could never be, with features not physically possible, but
in a packaged way that made her seem normal nonetheless.
Onslaught is similar to Evolution in that it also targets the beauty industry and
how they make an attempt to change women or tell them to change. Onslaught
also starts with a black screen and then the “a Dove film” and “Onslaught” appear
on screen. A young redheaded girl appears on screen. Cheery music starts in the
background, but transitions to more of rock music with the words “here it comes”
repeated five times each time heightening the anticipation of the viewer. The final
repetition is joined with the little girl disappearing and images of ads with small
women taking her place. The ads are shown for less than a second each, not
enough time to actually see what they are advertising but enough time to notice
the often poorly dressed women.
The montage of plastic surgery–everything from plastic surgeries to rhinoplasties.
The ad then flashes to a few young girls walking across the street. “talk to your
daughter before the beauty industry does” appears on screen right as the young
redhead crosses the street looking at the audience. The ad finishes with the Dove
fund logo. The name of the video is quiet telling about what Dove is trying to say.
The little girl is meant to be a symbol of innocence and purity, she has not be
affected by outside influences, yet. She soon will be noticing images everywhere,
an onslaught in fact, that will be influencing her perception of the ideal body.
Dove is urging parents, mothers specifically, to warn their daughters about how
companies advertise and to have them get their confidence from internal sources
rather than external ones.
Amy: Amy again starts in a similar fashion to the other two videos. The video
shows a young boy, roughly 12 in age riding his bike to a house. He sits outside
saying, “Amy” repeatedly. He looks disappointed that she is not appearing. After
it is clear that he has been waiting a while, “Amy can name 12 things wrong with
her appearance.” Preceded by a pause, “He can’t name one” then flashes followed
by “Sent to you by someone who thinks you’re beautiful” and the Dove fund logo.
Amy is supposed to be a young girl who has been affected by the beauty industry.
She is self-conscious and is likely seeing problems that others don’t actually see.
The Campaign’s Effect
The campaign received free advertising space from media coverage on national
television shows that reached 30 million viewers.
The Oprah Winfrey Show aired the campaign daily for a week straight.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, The View and CNN also featured
the campaign.
Over the following year, profits from these advertisements increased dramatically
and the campaign returned $3 for every $1 spent which is encouraging because is
suggests that making profits and promoting ideas of positive beauty aren’t
mutually-exclusive goals. In her book, Enlightened Mindsm, Susan Douglas
writes that the year that Dove started the Campaign for Real Beauty, their sales
rose 12.5% and 10% the year after, hardly something to ignore. Clearly women
were responding to their ad campaign. Women flocked to the company that were
putting real women in their ads.
This campaign was powerfully moving for many women who were extremely
relieved to see everyday diversity of feminine beauty celebrated by a prominent
beauty company. Stacy Nadeau (one of the six Dove Beauties, now a public
speaker and promoter of self-esteem in young girls) gave a lecture at Colgate in
2010 during which she told a story about a public appearance the six of them
made shortly after the unveiling of the 2nd phase. One middle-aged woman
approached the group, crying and holding a Dove advertisements and a picture of
her daughter, who was recovering from anorexia. She said her daughter’s
prognosis was extremely dire until the launch of this advertisement campaign at
which point these photos became an inspiration for her daughter. In an emotional
moment for all, still openly crying she thanked the women for saving her
daughter’s life.
As a whole, Dove’s campaign for real beauty was a pioneering attempt to
challenge the conceptions of beauty that are so limiting and harmful to women.
Campaign Critiques
In a world that is inundated with images that give women a narrow view of what
the ideal body, the Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is a refreshing change. It
opens up the conversation about how young women are influenced by the media
and how the media can distort images to give unrealistic expectations. However,
the Dove campaign also falls victims to some of the old tricks such
as consumerism and individualisingization as means to empower women. Critics
voiced concerns about the authenticity of the brand’s movement, their parent
company’s questionable associations, and the actual product the ads are selling.
As previously mentioned, the campaign generated double-digit growth for Dove
in the second quarter of 2005. As evident in Dove’s case study, which is very
blatantly focused on the economic advantages of this campaign, women influence
or buy 80% of products sold, thus marketing to women is crucial for Dove’s
success. Author Jonah Bloom remarked, “ You think Dove hatched ‘Campaign
for Real Beauty’ because it cares about women’s self-esteem? No, it simply
wanted to play to the pack-following newsrooms all over the country that it knew
would give the campaign more media coverage than it could have bought with a
decade’s worth of marketing.”
But, by going and buying these products, women were, and still are, falling victim
to consumerism. Dove’s campaign is giving women a means to overcome the
stick figure expectation. But, they must purchase their products to do so. In order
to break free of the pressure from some companies, they buy products from
another. Assumed power and control is only given through consumerism.
The Dove Brand’s parent company is Unilever which owns many off-shoot
brands including AXE, Slimfast, and Fair and Lovely. AXE commercials depend
heavily on mindst stereotypes and overtly individualising women to sell their
product. Slimfast is clearly in direct contradiction of the message of Dove
campaign as it’s products perpetuate the same body-insecurity problems Dove’s
is trying to fight. Fair and Lovely is a skin-lightening product that is marketed to
dark-skinned women across the world. This product reinforces the stereotype that
light skin and beauty are somehow related. While the creators of Dove’s
campaign for real beauty may not be in the position to directly influence the
actions of these other products, the mere association is enough to slightly tarnish
the image of the campaign.
1. What was the theme around which the DOVE campaign was
2. What was the inspiration around the campaign?
3. Can you elaborate the videos that were designed?
4. What impact did the campaign have on the world?
5. What criticism followed the campaign?
6. Would you have designed it differently or added anything to the