Ethical Advertising: Dove

In a world dominated by constant advertising across multiple platforms, brands are under increased pressure to promote their products responsibly. This week we will be looking at the world of ethical marketing and a number of household brands who have proved that advertising and ethics can go hand in hand.

First up is Dove, a well-known toiletries brand owned by consumer goods giant Unilever that since 2006 has become renowned for its “Campaign for Real Beauty”. Their brand-wide strategy seeks to alter consumers perceptions of beauty and promote an ethical message to women.

Dove decided to launch the campaign after a number of key insights revealed a staggering portrayal of women’s attitudes towards beauty and their own self-esteem.  Dove found that only 2% of their respondents worldwide would be comfortable describing themselves as beautiful. Many felt the domination of “Photoshopped” women in advertising contributed to this perception.  This image of the ‘perfect’ woman- usually young, white and extremely thin- is easily recognisable to most living in the fast-moving and image conscious Western world. However, it is seen as creating an unattainable ideal and a narrow definition of beauty for ordinary women, and most worryingly, young girls.

The Campaign for Real Beauty

In response to this, Dove set out to create a long-running, sustainable and ethical advertising strategy. Their campaign that seeks to alter this image of beauty and aims to boost the self-esteem of women all over the world. According to Gabriel Verkade, the former assistant brand manager for Dove, “the Campaign for Real Beauty is based on a belief that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes, ages and that real beauty can be genuinely stunning.”

One of the first elements of the campaign saw 58 well-known female photographers answer the question – “what do you think defines a beautiful woman?” The responses gained showed women and children of all ages, sizes and ethnic backgrounds and were collected into an exhibition to raise awareness of the campaign.

Since then, the Campaign for Real Beauty has been translated across multiple platforms and transformed itself into one of the most iconic ethical advertising campaigns. The now easily recognisable image of six women photographed in simple white underwear against a white backdrop shows ‘real’, un-Photoshopped women. These women look happy, glowing and beautiful, and present a sharp contrast to most female-orientated advertising.

Find out more about how joy can connect customers to brands, here.

More recently, the Campaign for Real Beauty has released a number of digital and social media initiatives to further promote their campaign and to make a real difference to the everyday lives of women. In early 2013 Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign saw women asked to describe their own appearance while an FBI sketch artist drew them from the description they gave. The women then left the room and were replaced by a friend who described them from their perspective. The difference in images was then shown to the women to reinforce the message that women are often their own worst critic and that their perception of beauty is skewed.  The video went viral and demonstrated the continued success of the Campaign for Real Beauty and the resonation of its key message with women.

Dove Camera Shy

Likewise, the Dove Camera Shy video was launched in June 2013 which shows a wide mix of women hiding their faces when a camera is placed in front of them and compares them to a number of young girls who giggle and dance around when a camera is pointed at them. The video aims to highlight how digital photography makes women feel more anxious about their looks as they get older and tries to encourage women to embrace their own beauty and pass this lesson on to the younger generation of girls.

All in all, Dove has successfully transformed itself into an ethical household brand. They promote increased self-esteem in women and tries to make a real difference to the lives of its consumers instead of simply promoting its own products and brand image to the detriment of others. Dove hopes to continue its Campaign for Real Beauty to make it a decade long strategy. It’s a really admirable attempt to combat the negatively influential images that still make up the basis of beauty industry advertising.

If you missed these campaigns, follow the links below.

If you want to get help with your ethical advertising strategy, please get in touch. Our team of passionate creatives are bursting with ideas to transform your brand and drive your business.

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