October 27, 2006

Pictures have long been used by companies to convey different messages to consumers. A photograph of an open field for instance, can convey a sense of serenity and peace – perfect themes for advertising things like vacation getaways, spa services and bath gel.

A more effective tool in print and television advertising however, is the human model. Some people can better visualize themselves using a product if an ad captures an experience, i.e., someone interacting with the product. In 1950s America for example, a typical ad for a laundry detergent would often feature a housewife at home using the product and marvelling at its wonderous post-usage effects.

This t.v. housewife however, was usually far from typical, with her perfectly coifed hair and dress, an impeccably tidy house and a flawlessly beautiful face. Real housewives did not look that way, but I am sure that the image on the screen, representing perfection, introduced feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy into the collective psyche of American housewives. Suddenly, they was no longer a good enough housewife, if they didn’t look like or maintain a house as tidy as the television housewife.

Unfortunately, the image-reality conundrum has only become more complicated with time. Today, more than ever, the proliferation of the media into all facets of life has blurred the line between real and fake. Children and teenagers, who tend to be the most impressionable and the most receptive to advertising, are not always able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. These days, advertisers are finding ingenious ways in which to promote their product, – creating profiles on popular youth Web sites like MySpace and Facebook or creating special YouTube commercials – making it even more difficult to assess credibility.

Magazines for teenage girls came under fire for their sexually charged advertisements. They were also being criticized for featuring ads with too-skinny girls. Soon, people started talking about the effects of misleading ads on body image and how real women had curves, etc., etc. (check out this article on the relationship between advertising and body image, it’s very very interesting)

……But, in 2005, Dove launched a revolutionary new ad campaign that featured real women. According to a USA Today article called, Ad campaigns tell women to celebrate who they are, the ad campaign featured real women sans airbrushing to promote their products with “a message of “real beauty” by encouraging women and girls to celebrate themselves as they are — while using the products, of course.”

Good for you Dove…but is this campaign really working?

I guess so, because I found this on YouTube today. It’s another commercial supporting their campaign for real beauty and it’s pretty cool. It’s called Evolution (and guess what, it was made especially for YouTube! although you can find it on their website too)



  1. trinirocker Says:

    I’m not sure Dove’s campaign is as revolutionary as you give them credit for. I admire the message the ad campaign appears to convey, and that commercial is pretty cool, but the fact is that they are trying to sell “firming” lotion and their ad’s target demographic is any woman who isn’t waifish.

    It’s really the same old “you’re too chunky” song masquesrading as some kind of feminist pitch. They’ve spun the more frequent version of this ad that tells you “you’re too fat so buy our product to be less fat”, into “you’re fine the way you are so buy our product to be less fat.”

    Also, there is no such thing as a firming lotion. That part of the pitch is pure snake oil.

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