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A Closer Look at the Campaign for Real Beauty

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 5 months ago
Background on the Campaign   

Dove has created a worldwide advertising campaign that it calls “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”.   According to Dove, the ads were inspired by a study they commissioned in 2004 (Dove, Campaign).  Dove provides some background on the motivations for the study: “It had its genesis in a growing concern that portrayals of female beauty in popular culture were helping to perpetuate an idea of beauty that was neither authentic nor attainable. Dove was concerned that this limited portrayal of beauty was preventing women from recognizing and enjoying beauty in themselves and others. The company was also aware that – in a world where female beauty is highly valued – this situation could also impact women’s well-being, happiness and self-esteem” (Dove, White Paper 2). The study asked 3,200 women from ten countries series of questions about beauty. The study found some fascinating statistics: Only 2 percent of women would describe themselves as “beautiful”. Most would describe themselves as “natural”, 31 percent, or “average”, 26 percent (Dove, White Paper 9). When asked if they felt society expected them to enhance their physical attractiveness, 60 percent of women agreed and 59 percent of women agreed that physically attractive women are more valued by men (Dove, White Paper 25). One of the most interesting statistics was that 81 percent of American women believed “The media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve” (Dove White Paper 28).   According to Dove, “ The study validated the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable, as if only thin, young and blond was beautiful” (Dove, Campaign).
The Campaign Begins                         

Based on the information gathered in this study, Dove created its Campaign for Real Beauty. The purpose of the campaign is to support Dove’s mission “to make more women feel beautiful every day by widening stereotypical views of beauty” (Dove, Campaign). The campaign involves many aspects besides marketing. Included in it is The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which gives money to the Girl Scouts to help build self-esteem in girls (Dove, Campaign). The Campaign for Real Beauty website also has discussion boards and self-esteem tips for women. Dove has also created two self described “viral” films called Evolution and Onslaught. The films were created to support Dove’s image as a company who is trying to widen the idea of what is beautiful.
                                                     Evolution                                                                                    Onslaught

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The ad campaign itself started in 2004 when Dove invited the public to vote on the appearances of several women. According to Dove, the women were “outside the stereotypical norms of beauty” (Dove, Campaign). By logging on to Dove’s website the public could vote on how they perceived the women. While Dove very proudly describes this aspect of their campaign on their website there is no information as to the results. I sent an e-mail to Dove requesting additional information about this aspect of the campaign and received only a standard reply thanking me for my interest. The lack of information about the voting results, coupled with Dove’s apparent unwillingness to provide any additional information leads to the obvious question of why not? Possibly the standards of beauty are more deeply ingrained than Dove thought. Very likely the voting public ruled that the women were unattractive and that led Dove to re-think their approach.

 The Second Phase

The second phase of the ad campaign started in 2005 and this time featured six “real” women. The women have “real bodies with real curves” and Dove says they developed this approach “to debunk the stereotype that only thin is beautiful” (Dove, Campaign).

These images from an article by Seth Stevenson in Slate.com.  http://www.slate.com/id/2123659?zsacategory=58343/

Two details in this ad need to be examined more carefully. The first is the women themselves. These women are markedly more attractive than the women used in the first phase of the campaign; perhaps as a result of negative feedback from the voting public. While these women are not typical lingerie models they are certainly not unattractive. They show no signs of cellulite, stretch marks or wrinkles.  It is also interesing that the women are shown in their underwear.  This cetainly draws attention to the ads and portrays the women as objects of sexual attraction.  The second detail is the product being sold. The “real” women “with real curves” are being used to sell firming lotion. After all of Dove’s emphasis on “real beauty”, they tell "real" women that they need firming lotion. 
The Third Phase

Starting in 2007, Dove began its newest phase of the Campaign, this time targeting women over 50. “The campaign celebrates the essence of women 50+- wrinkles,age spots, grey hair and all” (Dove, Campaign). The ads are selling a comprehensive group of products all aimed at women over 50. The products are designed to “revive and renew skin and hair” (Dove, Pro). Three components of this ad need closer examination. The first is the target age of the consumer. The campaign is based on the premise that once women reach the age of 50 they suddenly need new products to retain their fading beauty. What made 50 the magic age of women to target? The answer is Baby Boomers. Consider these facts: Over 40 million women were born between 1946 and 1964; people born between those years spend $10,000 more every year on consumer goods than younger generations (Brown and Osborne 18). And most interesting is this, women between 45 and 54 have the highest disposable incomes of all women (Brown and Osborn 20). By selecting 50 as the target age Dove has positioned itself to capture the peak of women's disposable income.

Dove Pro Age Skin Care: Mary Dove Pro Age Skin Care: Diana
 http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/Mary.preview.jpg http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/Diana.preview.jpg
These images are from Ads of the World. Copyright, 2008 Jupitermedia All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://www.internet.com.
The second component of the campaign to examine is once again the models. Dove claims to portray the women with wrinkles, age spots, grey hair and all” (Dove, Campaign). The women in these ads do have grey hair, other than that they look like any other model in Dove's campaign.  Once again Dove has selected the most attractive models that fit their message. There is little evidence of wrinkles or age spots.  Dove is claiming to support older women and embrace the physical changes that accompany aging.  They show their support for aging by selling products that are designed to combat it. 
A Final Look at the Campaign

Dove has created a very positive image for themselves through their campaign.  Their donations to the Girl Scouts and using "real" woman as models are attempts to appeal to their target group of consumers.  The appeal is based on the idea that Dove is a "good" company and that they really care about their consumers. They have based an entire ad campaign on the idea that they really care about women. This may very well be true, however it is important to remember one key fact. Dove is a huge company who is selling products in order to make a profit. Dove features “real” women in their ads but they have chosen the best “real” women. Susan Douglas refers to “curves, bulges, stretch marks and wrinkles” as physical evidence of “pretty full and varied lives” (12).  The women in these ads show little of this evidence, there is no cellulite and no strech marks. After all of their talk about expanding the idea of what is beautiful, Dove presents a vary narrow spectrum of beauty.  Dove claims to embrace reality while selling products that conceal it. Their ads are very similar to typical ads for cosmetics. Take a look at these two ads. Both are for anti-aging products, Dove has a catchier ad but both send the same message. Looking younger is better. 
Dove Pro Age Skin Care: Daniela Olay: 42
http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/Daniela.preview.jpg http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/Olay42.preview.jpg
This image from Ads of the World. Copyright, 2008 Jupitermedia All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://www.internet.com This image from Ads of the World. Copyright, 2008 Jupitermedia All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://www.internet.com.
By claiming that their models represent "real" women Dove is saying just that, these women are real.  What if you don't look like these models?  If you are skinnier or fatter, have more wrinles or fewer, does that make you less real or beautiful?  At their core, these ads are no different than any other ad that objectifies or targets women.  The effect is the same,  "The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. . . the publicity image steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product" (Berger qtd in O'Donohoe 81).  
Dove Pro Age Skin Care: Mary Playboy: Hot
 http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/Mary.preview.jpg  http://adsoftheworld.com/files/images/PlayboyHot.preview.jpg
This image from Ads of the World. Copyright, 2008 Jupitermedia All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://www.internet.com.
Some of Dove's ads use nude women, which few other ads do, and this simply increases the visual impact of the ads.  By using older models Dove is able to use nude women while claiming to combat stereotypes about women.  Of course there is nothing wrong with nudity, it is the most natural state of being.  But the interesting part is how these two different ads are perceived.  Both of these ads have nude women in them for the sole purpose of drawing attention to them.  But for some reason the Dove ad is more acceptable than the one for Playboy, however the only difference is the product being sold.  There exists a key difference between Dove and Playboy.  Playboy never claims that the women in their magazine represent reality while Dove does.  Few people look at a Playmate and assume that she is a reflection of reality.  However, Dove presents their models as just that, while in fact their images are altered.  On the main Dove website there is a link to a page that says "A Word on Our Images", on this page Dove admits that they make corrections to the photographs that they use.  They say that the corrections are minor and are needed to meet quality standards but the fact remains that they alter reality to fit their needs and to better sell products (Dove, A Word).  The two films that Dove released in support of the ads also have contridictory messages; both of these films can be viewed at the top of this page.  The film called Evolution has a young model who is attended to by a team of professionals who ensure that her hair and makeup are perfect for a photo shoot; the resulting photograph is digitally altered before being used on a billboard.  The video ends with the line "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted", this is especially ironic considering Dove admits to altering their images.  The second video has a little girl being bombarded by images of women receiving plastic surgery as well as attractive women in lingerie.  This video ends with the line, "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does".  Considering that Dove is in the beauty industry and they use attractive women in lingerie as part of their advertising, the message rings a little false. 
Dove has created a brilliant advertising campaign that claims to combat stereotypes about women while at the same time perpetuating them.  They tell their consumers that their bodies are imperfect and need to be improved.  In turn they offer a product that promises to make the needed improvements.  This does not necessarily make Dove a bad company.  They are simply resorting to the same advertising tactics that their competitors use and they are proven to work.  As long as these tactics are recognized they loose their power.  By viewing advertising for what it is, instead as a reflection of reality, consumers can exert their independence and aviod being influenced by it.          
Joshua Fisher 12-9-2008
Works Cited 

Ads of the World.com. 2008. Jupiter Media Corporation. 07 December 2008 <http://adsoftheworld.com/>.
Brown, Mary, and Carol Osborn. Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer-the Baby Boomer Woman. New York: American Managment Association, 2006.
Douglas, Susan J. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Three Rivers Press,1995.
Dove A Word on Our Images. 2008. Unilever. 24 November 2008 <http://www.dove.us/#/CFRB/arti_CFRB.aspx[cp-documentid=7614677]/>.
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. 2008. Unilever. 24 November 2008 <http://www.dove.us/#/CFRB/arti_cfrb.aspx[cp-documentid=7049726]/>.
Dove Pro Age. 2008. Unilever. 22 November 2008 < http://www.dove.us/#/products/collections/proage.aspx/ >.
Dove White Paper. 2006. Unilever. 14 November 2008 < http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/supports.asp?id=92&length=short§ion=campaign>.
O'Donohoe, Stephanie. "Women and Advertising: Reading the Relationship." Marketing and Feminism: Current Issues and Research. Ed. Miriam Catterall and Pauline Maclaren and Lorna Stevens. New York: Routledge, 2000. 75-93.
Stevenson, Seth. "When Tush Comes to Dove: Real Women. Real Curves. Really Smart Ad Campaign." Slate.com. 1 August 2005. 7 December 2008 <http://www.slate.com/id/2123659?zsacategory=58343/>.

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