Dove Real Beauty Sketches: Going Viral


Love it or hate it, no one can deny the success of nearly 60 million YouTube views.

Debuting on April 14, 2013, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches web commercial — a part of Dove's ongoing "Campaign for Real Beauty" — went viral in less than three days.

From a public relations perspective, the ad is brilliant. It generated extensive national and international media coverage for Dove, including 121 print features and 484 major broadcast news and lifestyle segments, and became the most watched video advertisement OF ALL TIME.

So what's so special about it?

Simple — it evokes emotion in the viewer.

Capitalizing on the common human truth that people are their own worst critics, the video shows a criminal sketch artist drawing women first as they describe themselves, and second as other people describe them. The artist then reveals the two different sketches to each woman. The differences between the two sketches are obvious and point to how women tend to describe themselves as less beautiful than they really are. 

The video is clever, believable and beautifully shot. But does everyone buy into Dove's messaging?

Of course not. People are always going to find the bad in even the best campaigns, including this one. Negative feedback is something a communications team is trained to manage. 

In this case, it's relatively easy to sift past the slew of favourable media stories and rave reviews to find plenty of people dissing the video for playing into the very beauty stereotypes Dove claims to be trying to dispel.

"What's wrong with how the way the women look in the first sketches? There are people in the world that look like that," one woman commented.

"The majority of the women in the ad are thin, white, and have blond hair and blue eyes. Only a small sub-set of women are being depicted," said another.

But perhaps the most pointed criticism is aimed at the hypocrisy of the ad's central message.

According to New York Magazine columnist Ann Friedman, "The ad still upholds the notion that, when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. The goal shouldn’t be to get women to focus on how we are all gorgeous in our own way. It should be to get women to do for ourselves what we wish the broader culture would do: judge each other based on intelligence and wit and ethical sensibility, not just our faces and bodies."

As for myself, I like the video enough, but there's no ad Dove could create that would make me forget that they are owned and operated by the same company as Axe, which continues to run campaigns based entirely on objectifying women.


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