I had a chance to speak with Guy Gould-Davies, one of the planners who worked on the hair care part of the Dove campaign. He told me that as the manifesto for Dove was being formed and the UK executions were going out in front of the public, the team at Ogilvy in Chicago was given the task of creating a campaign for Dove hair care products.
Unaware of the background of the "Real Beauty" campaign, I had thought that the creative from the UK was modified for the US. But Gould-Davies told me that Ogilvy was given a worldwide collective challenge- in which several offices were briefed to incorporate the information from the global study and to figure out how do beauty standards and expectations differ through cultures. Their main goal was to give the master brand a clear statement and create a unity of overall brand of beauty existing beyond the product, which could then be used for different products and executed in specific regions.
Gould-Davies said, " The idea is that aspiration comes from you, not a bottle.Women want to celebrate more aspirational views but never were allowed to embrace them because of bombardment by Hollywood/media images. Every brand falls into the trap to define beauty and take away self-determination of beauty."
"With all manifesto going on at same time- we knew of the idea overall and took the idea of stereotypes in beauty and applied it to hair. We asked what hair stereotypes can we push from that idea?"
"Women in the US were not as embracing to showing women with more weight like in the UK. Europeans are more confident and embracing of variation in standards of beauty.We had to show that hair was inspirational- from past experiences with skin care ads in Europe featuring scars and birthmarks, which didn't translate well to US audiences. The overall embracing of "defects" is higher in the UK than US. So we had to translate it to US audiences who are not as evolved in embracing a more extreme expression of alternatives."
"The "Wig" work parodies the fantasy but we had to be careful when revealing the Dove hair so that by contrast it was still natural and beautiful. Women's reaction to natural hair was that it was too messy- so we had to find a middle ground. We have to recognize women's hair and face is not broken and there is beauty in every woman's hair and face. The product works to fit it and help to enhance women's beauty not change it, so we are empowering beauty not changing or turning it into something else."
"Wig" campaign print - top image in post.
"From the study only something like 2-3% of women feel they are beautiful- it’s a travesty that so many women feel bad about their hair. In our research I spoke to women whose definition of defining beautiful hair was smooth and sleek. They couldn’t imagine an alternative way to describe beautiful hair. Only what was set as fantasy, even though they realized it was fantasy. But what could replace that fantasy is equally beautiful and gratifying. We know we can't compete with type of beauty shown by Pantene. We had to recognize that and start with product and extend from there how to show hair in ads as natural but beautiful."
As the research was done globally, I was curious if will some of the same ads would be seen in different countries? Gould-Davies told me that the "wig" campaign was tested in Japan and it tested well there. Even though unlike the US there are not stereotypes for blond hair, Japanese women still rejected the conformity idea and were able to see beyond the blond hair.
I told him that the idea seems so obvious. His response was "I think that’s a great marker of strategic thinking. We looked to heritage of the brand for embracing and empowering women." It was this heritage of the brand that brought them "to change the rules of the game- using the realism in the brand."
"We realize that we've identified a powerful way of looking at women and beauty. We might see some deliberate tampering by competitors with executions to try to steal the idea to give the impression that they aren't all about a fantasy world but I don't think that they would use it as a branding statement as it wouldn't be right for their brands."
In Gould-Davies’ last 2 1/2 years working on Dove there has been an absolute mandate that any product Dove comes out with goes back to the basics of the Dove bar- 1/4 moisturizers. Moisturizers are the base of the Dove brand- so it does more than just clean- it enhances and elevates. It’s this brand heritage that requires differences that make it real so it's not really a parity product. "The company culture of Unilever won't accept the norms and wants to exceed on functionality."
As the ads broke in last quarter, when I spoke to Gould-Davies, there had no yet been any sales data from the US campaign. But they are expecting to see a lift. If the campaign is anywhere near as successful as the UK campaign has been, we might see some big numbers.
Gould-Davies said that it was "gratifying from a planner perspective that a brand will not just accept norms but wants to go beyond. You need to go the whole 9 yards with idea you believe in."
Dove's latest hair care ads feature famous female cartoons, Wilma Flintstone, Velma Dinkely, Jane Jetson, and Marge Simpson. The Unstick Your Style Campaign is running in magazines like Marie Claire, Shape, and Real Simple.
Overall, I'd give Dove and Ogilvy a massive gold star for these campaigns. The fact that advertising doesn't have to be degrading, reinforce old stereotypes or make women be ashamed of who they are is refreshing and hopefully a sign of things to come.