Real Beauty still only skin deep?

A few days back a new campaign for Dove by Ogilvy Brazil began doing the rounds online. I am not going to feed the frenzy by describing it but its been wildly popular and has women sharing it to no end, upholding it like it’s the most liberating thing since the Bra Burning Movement of the 60’s. What this ad appears to give women is a sense of reassurance that they are more beautiful than they think. Typical Dove consumerist speak, nothing new there.
Earlier today I chanced upon a blog that put into words a nagging feeling that the video stirred up in me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The morally questionable aspects of this ad have been summed up well by the blogger. From an advertising perspective, the whole construct is on shaky ground.

A good insight that women are their own worst critics but the ad takes on a misleading execution. What about women being their own worst critics with their talents? Or with their careers? As a friend said to me “I generally feel very uncomfortable when people talk about beauty to describe only a person’s looks. So a whole ad about it feels very strange. I’d like to know more about her, you know?”  

What if Dove stood for empowering women to feel beautiful about themselves as a whole package? Why is beauty even being restricted to describing blonde hair and blue eyes? What this video did bring to light is how thick the smoke has become in this smoke and mirrors game. Our collective notions of what “beauty” is has been reinforced over the years, to a point where advertising is given a free pass to tell you that you’re actually an 8, not a 3 on this ‘beauty’ yardstick. And we clap for joy and feel empowered.

It raises some questions for the communications industry at large. In our efforts to dial-up the cause in cause marketing, are we sending out shallow messages wrapped in philanthropic outer wear? That video wasn’t created to push product, so no reason why it couldn’t push the boundaries. Have we lost our true north to craft communication that inspires and challenges obtuse thinking? Discovering a strong consumer insight is important, using it in an evocative and responsible way,crucial. There are brands that play within the boundaries of the Zeitgeist and brands that attempt to positively remould it; it would have been a thing of (real)beauty to see Dove do the latter.

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