Dove: “Real” Beauty Sells

Everyone seems to have their opinion on the new Dove ad. For those of you who haven’t seen it:

I have to admit that when I first saw the ad I got a little teary eyed. The [carefully edited] footage of women realizing how beautiful they are really tugs at the heart-strings.

But the ad also filled me with a simultaneous sense of hope and sadness, self-love and self-doubt. I felt beautiful, but I felt guilty about it, like I should have known how beautiful I was all this time. It shouldn’t take a campaign ad, or commercial, or a corporation, or a sketch artist to make me realize my beauty, my self-worth.

But then I thought, “Wait a minute. My beauty, my self-worth??”


At the time of this writing the Dove Real Beauty Sketches youtube video has more than 9.1 million views. About 98% of the nearly 60,000 people who chose to use the “like” or “dislike” function gave it a positive thumbs up. So while bloggers, critics, and journalists write articles about the crap that Dove is feeding us, the rest of America is eating it up like this is the biggest media related break through since Whitney Thompson [a plus size model] won America’s Next Top Model.

I’ve read numerous articles that identify the main problems with Dove’s campaign. A Slate article brings up the point that “this ad is the latest in Dove’s long-running campaign of using a faux representation of “real” women.” Zebra Garden’s, The new Dove ad: not buying it?, hits us with the realization that these women might just be actors.

But I think the real message here is that this ad worked.

If I’m being completely honest, watching this video made me feel beautiful. It soothed the inner voice [the one I assume many women have] that tells me “you have things to work on.” This ad plays on the very insecurity that lies somewhere hidden in the back of my mind, far beyond rationale and reason: “you could be more attractive, if only you worked a little harder.”

Dove’s official twitter account indicates that “Dove is committed to help women realize their personal beauty potential by creating products that deliver real care.” This campaign attaches their brand to the notion that beauty [outward physical beauty] is present in everyone. We just can’t see it in ourselves. Dove is here to say, “you’re more beautiful than you think.”

Well, what I really think is that their marketing team should win an award because they have subtly, yet successfully, delivered the ultimate message: Buy our product and we’ll show you how the world sees you, and that’s beautiful.

Put more simply, Dove wants us to buy their product. But isn’t that what all ads, campaigns and promotions aim to do? Sell products? I don’t think we can entirely fault Dove for their innovative new techniques. They’re doing what all advertisers aim to do. They’re just doing it better.

Do I like the ad? No. Do I think it is harmful to young women? On some level, yes I do. But I think the most harmful thing that young women face is the reality that Dove is wrong. Beauty [outward physical beauty], according to its current societal formed definition, is not present in everyone.

In fact, the ideal standard of beauty is rarely achieved. The real message should be that true beauty shines from the inside out. True beauty isn’t achieved when the world doesn’t notice your protruding chin, freckles or rounded face. True beauty is achieved through kindness, charity, love, genuine attempts to do good, learning and a host of other quality attributes.

I wish that Dove would proclaim physical appearance as irrelevant to being truly beautiful, but let’s face it. An ad campaign that depicts women listening to a recording of others describe how smart, giving and genuine they are probably wouldn’t sell as much soap. And I’m pretty sure that has much more to do with the consumer than the advertiser.

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