Let us find out what the public thinks? Shall we?

First, like any good researcher, I hit the streets to get a little information from my peers about what they thought about the campaign. While data and information other researchers have done is great to read and put into a blog like this ( which of course will appear later), it is, in my opinion, cooler to hear right from the consumers/audience what they thought about the campaign.

I gathered together 10 women of different races from the ages of 18-38 and asked them all the same questions. The 7 women from 18-21 were in different colleges across the United States, and two of the three older women had graduated college. While I thought it would be interesting to see if there were any variations in opinion in respects to age, race and college degree I was most interested in the overall response to the campaign.

Here are the questions.

1. Did you like the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty?

2. What was your very first thought, if you can remember, when you saw the first ad?

3. How did you think others would respond to it?

4. Do you think Dove was/is manipulating women into purchasing their product? By this I mean do you feel as if Dove is exploiting the bad beauty standard to sell products?

At this point when I gave out this survey I was undecided whether I thought Dove was exploiting or manipulating the market so the results helped shape my feelings a little. Of the the women polled, 8 liked the campaign, the other two (Caucasian college students) had no feelings about it, all 10 women’s first thoughts were something like “surprise or shock”, 9 women believed others would respond “well” to the campaign while one ( Caucasian college student) didn’t think others would care, and only one ( Caucasian college student) believed the campaign was actually orchestrated to solely (I say solely because all campaigns are created to make money) generate revenue.  I’ve inserted a poll for you to take if you’re interested ! Enjoy !

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Let’s talk about Unilever the company… Shall we?

One of the first problems that arose when I began researching Dove and it’s Campaign for Real Beauty is the fact that Unilever owns both Dove and Axe. For those of you not familiar with Axe it is a male oriented brand that sells hair products as well as other hygiene/ bath & body products; however, Axe is not only famous of their products but because of their racy over sexed campaigns. Axe has been continuously criticized for being sexist, they ads often depict women half naked climbing over some guy that uses the Axe products- pretty demeaning stuff. The reason why Dove has been dragged into this is because the company Unilever owns them both. Many believe Dove has no right or is hypocritical for using this campaign for real beauty when Axe is doing probably the opposite- making women into sex objects and demeaning them.

Unilever defends both advertising strategies saying, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a serious campaign that is trying to evoke change in society while the Axe ads are simply spoofs and obviously nothing to take seriously or to heart.

While, it is impossible to not see the level of contradiction between the two campaigns, it is important to remember that while they are both owned by Unilever they are still somewhat separate entities.

My personal opinion is that you cannot discount or disregard the import message Dove is presenting because another branch of products owned by the same company is dictating something different. Should Dove truly be held accountable for Axe advertising? While the ads are in contradiction to each other does the Axe ads completely override or blemish the positive message of the Dove ads? No, it shouldn’t. Simply because the brands are owned by the same company does not mean they have to or should have the same brand image. The two brands are also marketing to two very different groups of people- Axe would take a huge financial loss if they went to route Dove is going right now. The young girls being exposed to the Dove Self esteem are not the target audience for the Axe ads.

Check out these videos…

This video uses the same opener that one of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ads, but places in the ads from Axe’s commercials instead of the content seen in the original commercial which is seen below. It has a point, but how good of a point?

This is the original ad from Unilever, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty showing all the negative body images girls are bombarded with.

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So, what’s the campaign all about anyway?

So you must be wondering what this campaign is all about aren’t you… lets take a look…

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a Worldwide marketing campaign that the minds of Ogilvy & Mather Toronto marking agency and Edelman Public Relations and Harbinger Communications created in 2004 that not only involves print and commercial ads but viral videos, sleepover events, a book and a “Self Esteem fund.”

The ads themselves feature normal looking women, not models, but real women usually naked or in underwear. The campaign was to challenge the beauty norm and western beauty standards. The real women were found through newspaper ads, opposed to the traditional modeling agency.

This is the Dove philosophy, “At Dove, we believe that it is time to help all women and young girls around the world embrace their beauty and their potential by developing a more inclusive definition of beauty. Real beauty is the confidence to be yourself. Honest and open-minded, beauty comes in every shape, size, colour and age, including yours. That is what you told us. And we agree. It’s time for a change. The Campaign For Real Beauty is our commitment to broaden narrow definitions of beauty. To challenge stereotypes. To celebrate the diverse, the healthy, the real, the truly beautiful. We hope you’ll take part.”

Interesting no? Why is a company that is supposed to be selling products that improve your appearance telling us that we are perfect the way we are? Well, that’s the thing they are- selling a lot of products. On youtube one of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty videos has received over 3 million views ! The campaign has stimulated more buzz than any one in a long time. Why? Check out these facts.

* Only two percent of women would refer to themselves as “beautiful”

* Sixty- three percent of women “strongly agree” that society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness.

* Forty- five percent of women feel women who are more beautiful actually have more opportunities in life.

* 68 percent of women strongly agree that ” the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most woman can’t achieve.

* 78 percent wish female beauty was portrayed in the media as being made up of more than just “physical attractiveness”

* 75 percent went on to say that they wish the media did a better job of portraying women as “diverse physical attractiveness, including shape and size”

So, why wouldn’t a campaign giving women everything they’ve specifically asked for fair well? This leads many to ask whether or not Dove is exploiting women’s desires or women’s fears to gain profit.

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Simply Dovely

This commercial/viral video has become one of the most talked about and viewed commercials.. ever… It struck such a deep cord with people because it is true. We all know now that the models seen in magazines are photoshopped, yet society still tries to reach this impossible, and fake standard of beauty. Dove highlighted this sort tricky and skewed view in this video.

This is the “pro-age” line, instead of the “anti-aging” they chose to call it “pro-age”, not to stop aging, but to soften to blow sort of speak. The shock effect of course got people talking.

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Even more controversy for Unilever…

As previously discussed Unilever, the company that owns Dove, has fallen into hot water regarding the sexist advertising for its male customer based Axe products; however, even more controversial are the products for skin lightening and skin bleaching that Unilever produces. While the message Axe is putting out there is very contradictory to the that of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the target market is completely different, they are advertising to a different niche of people, but with the skin lightening products Unilever is marketing to the same group. This means while Dove tells women they are beautiful the way they are, other products such as ” Pond’s Pinkish white” skin lightening cream and “Fair & Lovely” tells women their skin is too dark to be attractive. No, seriously this is exactly what the ads say, take a look…..

This ad basically, very contradictory to the Dove Campaign for real Beauty ads, tells young girls with darker skin in order to success you must have lighter skin. While, some creams are arguably to lighten dark spots such a blemishes or scars, they really are to make women appear lighter and more desirable- according to the ads anyway. Here is an ad for  Pond’s ( owned by Unilever also) “Pinkish white”

This ad offers a date with a famous hunk if your results from using the lightening cream are impressive. What have women and young girls learned from these two ads? If you use the lightening creams not only do you find success you also land the hunk… very contradictory to the Dove’s real beauty message.

This is a more serious, and arguably more offensive ad for “Fair & lovely”

In this ad a girl is seen with her father, she is ridiculed by the fair skinned woman at the receptionist’s desk, to which her father does not teach her she is beautiful as is but rather takes her to show her “secret” mixture of things ( Fair & lovely) that will lighten her skin and make her happy.

Both products are owned by Unilever, these products are marketed to the same women that Dove products are market to, the same women who are being told by Dove they are in fact beautiful the way they are, only for “Fair and Lovely” and “Pinkish white” to come and tell them they are too dark.

In 2007 Hindustan Unilever was banned from making television for “Fair & Lovely” because their tactics were becoming so extreme, “Pinkish White” however has signed on many famous Bollywood stars they have even signed former Miss World Priyanka Chopraas their new spokesmodel.

These skin lightening products are primarily marketed to Asian women and Indian women, where in their cultures it is seen as more desirable to have fairer skin. This makes me question is it more desirable because products are marketed so aggressively to say “fairer is better”? Is advertising a mirror to society? Or is society a mirror to advertising? I have to say a little of both, it is an on going cycle.

My stance on this is while of course skin lightening and any kind of skin bleaching is sad, sad because it means people do not feel comfortable even with their skin tone, and perhaps even sadder is the fact there is actually a market to lighten skin, but at the same time I must understand business. If there is a market for it, there will be some company willing to produce and market that product. Because Unilever is a World wide company it must produce products that are in demand, unfortunately skin lightening is in demand, maybe not in America, but in other places, I do not think this or the Axe campaign  take away from the positive message of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. I think of it this way, Dove is the sister of “Fair & Lovely” and Unilever is the mother, Dove cannot be punished for the actions of her sister “Fair & Lovely”, the analogy isn’t that great but that’s how I see it.

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So, how successful was the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty?

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was pretty successful. According to statistics for each dollar Dove spent on advertising they received 3 back in revenue. Here are some interesting facts….

• In the summer of 2005 the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty clocked in almost four hours of broadcast time. 

• In that same summer The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was discussed on 62 national television programs including: The View, Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Oprah, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Early Show and The Jane Pauly Show.

• According to Dove, sales for the products featured in the ads increased 700 percent in the U.S and Europe.

• In June 2005, more than 1 million visitors had logged onto http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com and shared their thoughts about the campaign.

While the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has generated lots of buzz and sales, it was not without it’s criticisms or controversies. Now, I am cynical enough to say, of course, the campaign was created to generate money, and yes maybe Unilever and Dove manipulated us a little pulling at our soft spots to sell us products. But at the end of the day their message was a good one, at the end of the day they did open up The Self Esteem fund, which has teamed up with really positive organizations like Girl Scouts, and they have stimulated an important dialogue about “real beauty” and the beauty standard, Dove has done some positive changes- for that I commend them.

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