Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why I Still Love Dove (Despite the Beauty Sketches)

Dove's Beauty Sketches has been criticized to death. A common argument is the hypocritical nature of Dove's parent company Unilever, also promoting Axe. But Dove and Axe each have their own brand managers and agencies. Sharing a parent company doesn't mean much when the majority of packaged goods are owned by the same ten companies.

A more valid concern is that the ad blames women for being self-conscious, rather than blaming society for creating strict beauty standards. Dove's Evolution spot communicates the latter perfectly, depicting exactly why women have a skewed perception of beauty. But Sketches merely highlights the difference between how a woman describes herself, and how someone else might. 

So essentially, the entire "experiment" is measuring social behaviour, rather than perceptions of beauty. Not even Jessica Alba would describe herself as "drop dead gorgeous." Social etiquette prescribes us to be humble about our appearances, so the premise of the blind sketch artist is flawed. This is especially true for women, since (as the parody suggests), many men are perfectly comfortable comparing themselves to George Clooney.

Dove's most recent spot, Selfie, tells young girls that the power to redefine beauty is in their hands. The tone is somewhat inspirational and guilt-free compared to Sketches, but is nowhere near as poignant as Evolution. It lacks real insight. But instead of being disappointed, I want to praise them.

I love Dove because they put the conversation on the table. They challenged the status quo regarding women in advertising. They opened the door for other brands to create even better ads. According to Adweek readers, the most inspiring ad campaign for women in 2013 (with 35% of the vote) was:

In second place was this spot for Pantene, which highlights the most frustrating double-standards that women are faced with every day. One of my favourites this year, this ad is worth watching:

Dove's Beauty Sketches received only 8% of the votes. But I still want to thank Dove. For recognizing that the world is ready to question our current perceptions of women.

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