Dove received a notable amount of criticism. Dove’s parent company Unilever also produces products like Axe and Fair and Lovely where they project women in a sleazy, sexist and grave manner. The brands promote a message through their advertisements which are contrast to what Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is all about. Example: Fair and Lovely is a fairness cream and it targets women with dark skin to crave lighter skin. The ads depict that women with dark skin do not get the job of their dream despite their talent and calibre. After using the cream the model gets the job of her dream, achieves positive body image and it also boosts her love life. People start noticing her.
Axe is a body deodorant for men that depicts women as sexual objects of desire and sexualization of women is quite prominent in all its ads. The ad depicts that men can attract any woman if they wear deodorant. The Dove campaign was also criticized by the general public where they found it difficult to believe in the Real beauty campaign intentions and authenticity. Dr. Susan Linn – Director and Co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) said, “The Axe campaign makes clear that any concerns Unilever has about girls’ well-being take a backseat to their desire to exploit stereotypes for profit. With Axe, Unilever is creating the same toxic environment addressed by its Dove campaign.”
Hence Unilever was criticized and viewed as hypocrite trying to capitalize and cash in on the social issues of the physical appearance of women in society and extreme self-criticism and low confidence in their physical appearance.
Critics said that Dove’s cosmetic products feed into women’s insecurities.
Jennifer Pozner – Executive Director of Women in Media and News and author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV believes that Dove’s message is at odds and in contrast with its products, the company is capitalizing on women’s poor body images.
Pozner quoted, “These products could not possibly exist if women actually as a demographic believed the principles at the campaign’s core, Cellulite cream would not exist if women believed they were beautiful and enough as it is.” She also expressed her surprise that Dove had not made any changes in the products contradicting the Dove Real Beauty campaign message within Unilever – its parent company.
But what is worth knowing is despite its fair share of mixed responses and criticism the Dove campaign was successful. Dove went beyond rebranding; somewhere it knew it may receive criticism as well before the launch of its campaign.
Sharon MacLead – VP Unilever North America Personal Care said, “We were thinking, we have to walk the talk. We can’t just be getting people stirred up; awareness and conversation aren’t enough. We have to do something to change what is happening.”
Dove went ahead and created a fund in 2004 with multiple organizations such as Boys & Girls of America, Girl Scouts, and Girl Inc. It formed activities and discussions regarding online bullying, it undertook photography projects that capture the beauty of things around girls they find attractive and beautiful.
Dove feels it also has to play a role in ongoing discussions of beauty and body image of women and girls.
MacLead further quoted, we’re going to try to change a generation. You have to wait until they grow up to see what happens.”
Some excerpts and facts are taken from:
HuffPost – Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How A Brand Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty by Nina Bahadur
PRWeek – How Dove’s real beauty campaign won and lost at the same time by Olivia Zed –
The Inquisitive Mind – The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty by Angela Celebre and Ashley Waggoner Denton
News Generation – A PR Case Study: Dove Real Beauty Campaign by Kiley Skene –
PR Week – The 20 best PR campaigns of the past 2 decades by PR Week Staff
Dove – Real Beauty Sketches
– Nafisa Jalal
Nafisa Jalal was a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with Ketchum Sampark, Mumbai.
She completed her graduation in Psychology and Sociology majors from Sophia College, Mumbai University. Then started her career with Human Resources in a generalist profile for 6.5 years. She wanted to venture in an industry that lets her work on business closely, provides an opportunity to learn and meet new people and at the same time is also dynamic. PR is one such industry. She has good command over her communication skills and she enjoys writing, few traits that a PR professional must possess.