How does a woman describe herself? Unsecured of her physical attributes, she portrays herself with broad chin, mousy hair and a wide forehead. She has forgotten her gorgeous eyes, rosy lips and addictive smile. Believing in the philosophy of Confucius that “Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it”, Dove has created a campaign titled ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ that shows women that they are more beautiful than they think. The campaign is based on the insight that women are their own worst beauty critics and only four per cent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. In a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety, Dove conducted this social experiment to enhance the self-esteem of women.
The commercial made its debut in mid-April and is a part of Dove’s ongoing ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. In the spot, a forensic sketch artist draws several women, based only on the descriptions given by them. Later he draws a different portrait of each woman based on descriptions by strangers. When both the sketches are displayed side by side, it is found that the portraits created with the help of strangers are far better than the women’s versions of themselves. The campaign ends with a tagline: ‘You are more beautiful than you think’.
Scores the digital test
The campaign is a web hit with the video being viewed more than 33 million times on the Dove YouTube channel. Many people love the ad and the web is brimming with positive descriptions such as, “The one and only ad I didn't skip”, “I cried. This was amazing. Thank you Dove”, and “Its Dove paying to make us feel better about ourselves. Faith in humanity. Faith in corporation. Restored”.
However, critics of the campaign feel the films are too melodramatic and the video only focusses on a small set of women whose beauty is judged just by faces and not intellect. Critics also feel that it’s unbelievable for a brand such as Unilever to respect women when the Axe campaigns always show scantily clad women clinging to men.
The campaign also has a parody video in which guys test their looks. At the end, the portraits reveal that men see themselves as George Clooney or Brad Pitt and the video concludes with, “Men, you’re less beautiful than you think”.
Will the beauty connect work?
Dove has struck the right chords by touching emotions of women and it is a brilliant marketing trick. Women will support this campaign because it goes beyond the selling motive, with the product not even talked about once throughout the ad.
Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults said, “Decades ago, Body Shop ran a similar campaign that had hoardings in buses plastered with nude women who were not necessarily super models with the tagline that there are only four super models in the world and the rest of them are like you and me. I think Dove is going on the same path with non-model looking women. They are speaking the truth as the products are used by real people. It also ensures that women are more confident about them and are much more beautiful beyond the regular advertising beauty.”
He added, “I loved the campaign as it has bytes of reality in it. People who have criticised are brutes and I do not agree with them. It’s a great genre of advertising and it simply says that let’s get realistic. It is a great campaign idea that can run across different formats, age groups and profiles.”
Chraneeta Mann, Executive Creative Director and National Creative Head at Rediffusion Y&R said, “I think the ad is an extremely clever extension of the Dove Real Beauty platform. What it really does smartly is hit an extremely powerful insight where women are concerned ‘they can never be beautiful enough’. The most minor of flaws can overshadow everything else as far as a woman is concerned. So I would say in terms of relevance, the campaign is bang on. The social experiment nature of the campaign adds to the plausibility of the whole exercise and makes it so much more effective. I think it uses intrigue and then revelation of the motive behind the exercise extremely well. It is only in the end that we realise what was the purpose of the whole exercise and that is what adds to the ‘wow’ factor of this campaign.”
On the Indian connect, she added, “In India, the notions of beauty are diverse—although there are common themes that run across; for instance, most people in India evaluate fairer complexions (for better or worse) as more attractive and desirable. So in that sense, this ad may actually miss the point in some aspects, because features like skin colour will play a determining role in the assessment of beauty in a country with a diverse palette of skin colours. Yet on a more generic level, the insight holds true in India as well.”
According to her, women that have been used as subjects in this ‘social experiment’ are of average or maybe slightly better than average beauty as well. While that does fit Dove’s profile of real beauty, it doesn’t answer the question that if a woman was unattractive or had some feature that she believed was genuinely unsightly, would an absolute stranger perceive her to be better? Maybe strangers would exaggerate an unattractive woman’s flaws. So I think that is a point to consider when one thinks of the efficacy of the campaign.
However, it makes every woman take a good hard look at herself and realise that she behaves true to this format. It doesn’t matter how perfect she might be, a woman will find a feature to rue about. It’s funny, yet it is an uncomfortable truth about what women are. So if Dove’s agenda is to tell every woman she is more beautiful than she thinks...then that agenda is well met.
“But on a funny note, what increases self esteem in women even more is the spoof on men that is doing the rounds. At least women question their beauty; men find it within themselves even when it is not there,” she concluded.