April 17, 2013 by Tamara Piety
Back in 2009 I published an article (here) discussing a Dove viral video campaign called “Onslaught.” In the article I discussed why this campaign, which purported to be about warning parents to “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does” was misleading both because Dove itself is a brand that is part of the so-called beauty industry it purported to warn parents against, but also because it was a brand within a larger corporate home at Unilever which included products like Slim-Fast which the video suggested helped to create the problem. I argued that these contradictions illustrated why it was appeals such as this which try to frame a brand as some how socially responsibly are misguided.
Well, it turns out that they are at it again with a new piece called “Real Beauty Sketches” in which young women talk to a police sketch artists about how they look, the artist draws a picture based on their self-representation, then draws a second picture based on the description from a second person who has met the first woman. The two pictures are placed side-by-side and it emerges that the second picture is more attractive. The point seems to be to build self-esteem by saying, “You are more beautiful than you think you are!”
Just one little problem (actually, a whole bunch of problems but….). The ad still fundamentally constructs beauty as a critical thing for women to be worried about. This may be fair enough if it is merely reportage. But of course it is not. Dove has some product to move. And so the whole bit is imbued with some subtle and some not so subtle assessments of what “beauty” looks like and, not surprisingly, it is, among other things, thin, young, and mostly blond and blue-eyed. For a full critique and to see the original videos read this bit from the blog Little Drops. Couldn’t have said it better.
Addendum: This issue showed up on The Responsible Marketing Blog.