Embracing Real Beauty (Updated)

Soap. It's considered a parity product. But Dove doesn’t see itself as such. "In 1957, Dove® Beauty Bar was born. What made it different from other soap cleansers? It really wasn't soap at all. It used mild, non-soap ingredients, plus 1/4 moisturizing cream, so it didn't dry our skin like soap. This was a unique combination and the first of its kind." This Dove bar brand heritage was the basis for the Dove mandate, which started about 2 1/2 years ago- that as the company started to create new products (deodorant, hair care, etc), "any product Dove comes out with must go back to the idea of the Dove bar".

In 2002/2003, Ogilvy, Dove's ad agency, started on a mission by Dove and Unilever to define the brand and incorporate the mandate in a way that would resonate on a global scale. The idea- beauty and Dove empower and embrace women's beauty- a concept to change the rules of the game in the beauty category.

"We want to challenge the definition of beauty," says Dove's marketing director Philippe Harousseau. "We believe that beauty has become too narrow in definition. We want to defy the stereotype that only the young, blond and tall are beautiful." (link)

For years beauty brands have anchored images in fantasy and illusion. Beyond showing the possible effects of what the product could do on models that have no real reason to be using a majority of the products, there is an attempt to sell the idea that you cannot be beautiful with what you have. Women have to modify their appearance to what beauty editors, Hollywood, and advertisers claim means to be beautiful. The concept of thin women with perfect skin, perfect teeth, and smooth, shiny hair has become the norm that most woman cannot live up to. Usually the idea behind this approach is that if women are shown the ideal, they will think that by using Brand X they will be able to become the model they see in the ad, who is usually airbrushed within an inch of her life.

Victoria's Secret- Tell Me (2004) - Skinny, perfect hair, and cellulite free

Skyy- Thighs as small as our ankles, bronzed skin, abs of steel

Jergens- A very distorted perspective, emphasizing long legs and svelte body, and lush hair.

Olay- Again, thin thin thin, almost no hips, and cellulite free

Estee Slim- perfectly thin and perfectly airbrushed

Ads like these demonstrate the way in which women are nudged into seeing these beauty stereotypes as what is expected of them in the real world. Even if they are completely unattainable.

So how did Ogilvy end up at this "Real Beauty" creative direction? The concept stemmed out of a global study, The Real Truth About Beauty, of 3,200 women in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Britain and America. Just two percent of the women in the study considered themselves beautiful. Only five percent feel comfortable describing themselves as pretty and nine percent feel comfortable describing themselves as attractive. Research also showed women were concerned models in beauty adverts did not actually use the products they were promoting, and they felt better about themselves when seeing women in ads that had figures similar to their own. Sixty-eight percent agreed that "the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve."

The first ad campaign using this creative direction broke in London on March 29th, 2004 and featured a curvaceous woman in white underwear, for Dove Firming Lotion. This ad and the ads that followed caused sales of the lotion to increased by 700 percent in the UK. Not one of the women in the ads were professional models. They were found on the streets and through ads in Time Out magazine looking for 'positive women who enjoy their curves'. Joanna Cook, Coralie Rose, Sylveste Molyneaux, Stella Page, Emma Darwhish, and Linda Di Maria appeared in white underwear in print and TV ads throughout Europe.

Inspired by the public’s reception of the ad, the women behind the ad campaign did a poster of their own which ran on a billboard outside their office in Kingston, UK.

Daryl Fielding, of Ogilvy & Mather, said it was possible to seek to do social good while keeping the goal of selling products firmly in sight. She said: "Other advertisers tend to feature pin-thin women who are 20 if they are a day. We know from research with consumers that they find those images ridiculous." (link)

In the Spring of 2003, Dove asked well-known female photographers to participate in their Beyond Compare Photo Tour. The photographer's task was to submit a photo they felt best represented the real face of beauty as well as answering the question "what does beauty mean to you?" The results of this can be seen at www.dovebeyondcompare.ca.

Dove's latest piece of this campaign is called Campaign for Real Beauty. Their press release states that "The Campaign for Real Beauty asks women to give serious thought to a host of issues surrounding beauty, such as society's definition of it, the quest for "perfection," the difference between beauty and physical attractiveness, and the way the media shapes our perceptions of beauty." An idea it seems many women are embracing. Their latest ads, which launched in October, feature women whose appearance is far from the stereotypical ideal of beauty. Questions such as "Wrinkled? Wonderful?" and "Oversized? Outstanding?" are posed next to the woman- inviting the reader to check off the box they agree with, as well as directing them to the Campaign for Real Beauty web site. On the site, response totals are shown. Ads are running as banner ads, as well as billboards. And in Times Square, NYC, an interactive billboard featuring the "Wrinkled? Wonderful?" ad will keep a running tally of the votes submitted for that particular ad.

The women featured in the ads include: Irene Sinclair, 95, of London, England (Wrinkled? Wonderful?)

Merlin Glozer, 45, of London, England (Gray? Gorgeous?)

Tabatha Roman, 34, of New York, NY (Oversized? Outstanding?)

Esther Poyer, 35, of London, England (Half empty? Half full?)

and Leah Sheehan, 22, of London, England (Flawed? Flawless?)

Tabatha Roman, who wears a size 14, says the effort is an opportunity to get people talking about beauty. "I am fortunate to have a wonderful support system of friends and family who tell me that I'm beautiful the way I am," she says.

"I think it's a self-esteem issue created by media stereotypes. We're always unhappy with something. We see these images that are physically impossible to attain and think that we should look like them. I hope women realize that it's time for this to end."

Ms Sinclair, who was spotted by a casting agent after visiting a housing project for the elderly, said: "I got involved in this campaign to be an ambassador for old people and to affirm that we still have a lot to offer. I've never been beautiful in my life, but I feel I am beautiful now."

These ads and the Dove Firming Lotion were photographed by Rankin (John Rankin Waddell) and use no airbrushing or modification of the models. (Although recently there have been some rumors that there was airbrushing done on the Dove Firming ads which Ogilvy and Dove deny saying, "the six women who modelled for the press and television adverts for the Dove Firming range had "minimal makeup and styling".")

Beyond advertising, Dove has used panel discussions on a grassroots level and has set up The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, established to raise awareness of the link between beauty and body-related self-esteem in girls and young women.

(Read more- Go on to part 2)

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