Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty

The  personal care company Dove,  a subsidiary of parent corporation Unilever, launched the  Campaign for Real Beauty  in 2004  with  a stated  mission to widen the  definition of beauty. In tandem with  this  advertising campaign, Dove  markets  products such  as lotion, body  wash,  deodorant, firming  cream,  shampoo, and conditioner for skin and hair; it has also created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, the Dove Global  Study,  and the U.S. Dove Report  with the goal of putting perfect media  images  of beauty  into  perspective and  revealing  the  artifice of touched-up perfection on television and in magazines.

One  aim of the Dove  campaign is to cut through what  the campaign refers  to as “a world  of hype  and  stereotypes” by portraying real women in advertising in lieu  of professional models. Real women of varying  height, weight,  and  ethnicity appear  wearing  only  undergarments in  print  ads  for  products such  as the Dove  Firming line, which  includes a body  wash,  lotion, and  cellulite gel-cream, all of which  serve  to  reduce the  appearance of cellulite.  The  purpose of using real  women in  advertisements, according to  Dove,  is to  provoke debate about dominant beauty  ideals. A video  on  the  Campaign for Real Beauty  Web  site entitled Evolution Film also sends  the message that  contemporary beauty  ideals are distorted. The  video, which  contains no  dialogue, portrays the  process of applying makeup, hair  product, and  then computer alterations to the  face of a model, which  is then used  as an advertisement on  a billboard. As part  of the  campaign, this  video suggests that  the  unrealistic beauty  ideals  created by such  images  are damaging to women’s self-esteem.

Self-esteem is the  primary concern of another of the  campaign’s projects, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. The  Dove campaign states that beauty  pressures make it hard  for girls to keep  up, resulting in low self-esteem and  introversion; thus, the goal of the  fund  is to create  change and  to educate girls about a wider definition of beauty. A primary recipient of funding in the United States is the Girl Scouts of the USA, and specifically a venture called uniquely ME! that  uses activity booklets, exercises,  and  hands-on activities  to  build  self-esteem in girls ages  8–14  in the United States  and Puerto Rico. The  concerns of the program include recognizing one’s strengths and best attributes, the power  of positive  thinking, and the effects of relationships and  stress.  The  Dove  Self-Esteem Fund cites statistics that  suggest  an  increase in self-esteem problems in girls and  young  women, which  the campaign links to distorted beauty  ideals that  are reinforced by the media.

More  recently, the  Dove  Campaign for  Real Beauty  has  included a Pro-Age line, which  stresses the message that  “beauty has no age limit” with commercials depicting artfully posed  nude women, often with gray hair or wrinkles, and the tag line, “too  old to be in an anti-aging ad,” followed  by, “but  this  isn’t anti-age, this is pro-age.” This  line  is accompanied by products such  as pro-age body  lotion, hand cream,  and  face care. The  Dove  campaign’s message of female  empowerment  has  been  very successful as a marketing tool,  garnering positive  attention from  mainstream media  sources, but  it has also been  critiqued by some  as hypocritical  for promoting inner beauty  and  pro-aging while marketing products that reduce blemishes and signs of aging.

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