Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a worldwide marketing campaign launched by Unilever in 2004 that includes advertisements, video, workshops, sleepover events and the publication of a book and the production of a play. The aim of the campaign is to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves. Dove's partners in the effort include such marketing and communications agencies as Ogilvy & Mather, Edelman Public Relations, and Harbinger Communications (in Canada). Part of the overall project was the "Evolution" campaign.
The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was conceived in 2004 after market research indicated that only 2% of women consider themselves beautiful. The campaign's mission is to "to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety." It was created by Ogilvy & Mather Brazil.
The first stage of the campaign centred around a series of billboard advertisements, initially put up in the United Kingdom, and later worldwide. The spots showcased photographs of regular women (in place of professional models), taken by noted portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz. The ads invited passers-by to vote on whether a particular model was, for example, "Fat or Fab" or "Wrinkled or Wonderful", with the results of the votes dynamically updated and displayed on the billboard itself. Accompanying the billboard advertisements was the publication of the "Dove Report", a corporate study which Unilever intended to "[create] a new definition of beauty [which] will free women from self-doubt and encourage them to embrace their real beauty."
The series received significant media coverage from talk shows, women's magazines, and mainstream news broadcasts and publications, generating media exposure which Unilever has estimated to be worth more than 30 times the paid-for media space. Following this success, the campaign expanded into other media, with a series of television spots (Flip Your Wigs and the Pro-Age series, among others) and print advertisements ("Tested on Real Curves"), culminating in the 2006 Little Girls global campaign, which featured regional versions of the same advertisement in both print and screen, for which Unilever purchased a 30-second spot in the commercial break during Super Bowl XL at an estimated cost of US$2.5M.
In 2006, Ogilvy & Mather were seeking to extend the campaign further, by creating one or more viral videos to host on the Campaign for Real Beauty website. The first of these, Daughters, was an interview-style piece intended to show how mothers and daughters related to issues surrounding the modern perception of beauty and the beauty industry. It was during the production of Daughters that a series of short films entitled "Beauty Crackdown" was pitched to Unilever as an "activation idea." The concept was one that art director Tim Piper, who proposed to create Evolution with the budget left over from Daughters (C$135,000), pushed. It was originally intended to get people to the Campaign for Real Beauty website to see Daughters, and to participate in the workshops featured on the site. After Evolution, Ogilvy produced Onslaught and Amy.
In April 2013, a video titled Dove Real Beauty Sketches was released as part of the campaign. It went viral attracting strong reactions from the public and media. In the video, several women describe themselves to a forensic sketch artist who cannot see his subjects. The same women are then described by strangers whom they met the previous day. The sketches are compared, with the stranger's image invariably being both more flattering and more accurate. The differences create strong reactions when shown to the women.
Individual ads caused different reactions - some positive and some negative. Evolution won two Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards. Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Katy Young called Real Beauty Sketches "[Dove's] most thought provoking film yet ... Moving, eye opening and in some ways saddening, this is one campaign that will make you think, and hopefully, feel more beautiful."
The campaign has been criticized on the grounds that Unilever also produces Fair and Lovely, a skin-lightening product marketed at dark-skinned women in several countries. It was also widely noted that Unilever brand Lynx's advertising campaign would seemingly contradict the sentiment of the Campaign for Real Beauty. Moreover, Unilever owns Axe hygiene products, which are marketed to men using overtly sexualized women, and Slim Fast diet bars. Writing for Forbes, Will Burns called such criticism "totally irrelevant". He explained: "No one thinks of Dove as a Unilever brand, for starters (nor should Dove) ... But more to the point, does Dove’s idea mean teen boys don’t still want to smell good for the ladies? Or that people who are overweight don’t want to lose a few pounds? These are different brands solving problems for completely different audiences."The criticism has also been justified from others that state their concerns with the fact that the images that Dove portrays in their ads are supposed to be unedited and "real" however there has been comments made stating they have in fact been photoshopped to smooth the appearance of the women's skin, hide wrinkles and blemishes, fix stray hairs, etc. Photo retoucher Pascal Dangin, who works for Box Studios in New York, told The New Yorker he made edits to the photos, “Do you know how much retouching was on that?” he asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”  The women who are targeted by these ads have mixed reviews as well. Some women were turned off by the fact that Dove was in essence telling them they knew the insecurities they felt and what all women felt. Social networking sites such as Facebook became an outlet for women to express their praise and criticism.  While the reactions from viewers came with mixed criticism there is one thing for certain; it started a large public conversation on the power of media, advertising, and the views of women and beauty.
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