There’s been a big stir recently over allegations that Dove’s “Real Beauty” models were airbrushed. There have been a few different stories floating around, so let’s clear a few things up.
Here’s what Dove has to say:
The “real women” ad referenced in recent media coverage was created and produced entirely by Ogilvy, the Dove brand’s advertising agency, from start to finish and the women’s bodies were not digitally altered.
Pascal Dangin worked with photographer Annie Leibovitz (Ogilvy has never employed Mr. Dangin on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty), who did the photography for the launch of the Dove ProAge campaign, a new campaign within the Campaign for Real Beauty. There was an understanding between Dove and Ms. Leibovitz that the photos would not be retouched – the only actions taken were the removal of dust from the film and minor color correction.
I actually thought Ad Age’s Jonah Bloom had a better idea for how Dove could respond:
Here was Dove’s statement as I imagined it: “We’re sure our consumers are smart enough to know that photos that are going to be blown up to the size of a billboard may have to be retouched. For the sake of the women themselves, there are certain things — a pimple, a stray hair — that might be airbrushed. The idea here was to use models of various shapes and ages, not to unduly expose them. We think we’ve made a point. But, we’ve also tried to raise women’s awareness of the issue of retouching and ask whether, when taken to extremes, it can create an unrealistic notion of beauty. If this New Yorker piece reopens the debate, that’s a happy coincidence for us, and something we definitely want to hear consumers’ views on it.”
However you feel about Dove or the Campaign for Real Beauty — it has sparked a conversation — a very real, very passionate conversation. And Dove continues to back it up with efforts outside of advertising, like the recent opening of a play in Canada “Body and Soul,” featuring real women talking about their feelings about aging.
But here’s the thing…
I know I’m going out on a limb here (move over, squirrel), but I don’t think Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has anything to do with beauty. I don’t think women suddenly feel beautiful because of these ads. I think this goes to something deeper. I think this campaign has generated so much interest and success because it touches on a universal need for almost all women: approval.
Are women saying, “Oh, Dove thinks I’m beautiful”? Could be. But I think it’s a lot closer to “Dove thinks I’m OK the way I am. They approve of me. ” In today’s world, that approval is a lifeline.
Stay at home with your kids and you are judged because you’re not working.
Go to work and you’re judged for not staying at home with your kids.
Whether it’s an advertising industry that surrounds women with images that tell her she’s not good enough (check out this video by Dove appropriately named “Onslaught“), or a corporate workplace where you lose points if you behave too much like a man or you loose points if you behave too much like a woman.
Women get it from all sides; they’re judged by men and they’re REALLY judged by other women. (I am appalled at the way some women treat each other.)
So when a brand comes along and does NOT judge. When a brand says, “We don’t care what other people say, we think you’re beautiful. We’re going to celebrate you for being you.” Do you know how powerful that is?
Then stand up for her. Approve of her. Lock arms with her and walk a few miles in her shoes.
You can go the aspirational route; “Buy our product, THEN you will be approved and worthy.” Lots of products have had success with that formula.
But if you want to stand out from the crowd, if you want to create fanatical loyalty, try the Dove route. Try approval. There is SUCH A THIRST for it right now.
If you have a few minutes to spare, check out “A Girl Like Me.”
About the Author: Holly Buchanan is co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth: Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys. If you’d like to meet Holly and judge her in person, join her on June 2nd for FutureNow’s Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar in Manhattan. Not only will you learn techniques for attracting customers online, you’ll get a chance to schmooze over hors d’oeurves and cocktails at our “Happy Hour with the Experts” reception.