Sunday, October 07, 2007

It Must Be Dove, Dove, Dove...

I'm sure the marketing team at Dove think they're on the brink of saving the world. They're not. The latest advert shows a (very pretty) young girl with wide "innocent" eyes, then a stream of "negative" media images and messages - thin models, dodgy diet pills, cosmetic surgery - then has the slogan "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does". And then the link to the Dove "campaign for real beauty" website.

Now I suppose you could argue we should be grateful that they haven't just gone for Lily Cole lying in a puddle with an axe in her head, which as we all know is what really sells moisturiser. "Treat your corpse to softer, suppler, younger-looking skin ... before rigor mortis sets in." Media recruitment agencies need not call.

But I just refuse to participate in the "campaign for real beauty". I'm rather preoccupied with the campaign-for-women-not-to-be
-judged-on-their-appearances-in-the-first-place. The campaign
-for-the-public-unimportance-of-unattractiveness-in-women. The campaign-for -appreciation-of -women's-intellect,-strength

Secondly the whole "talk to your daughter" - and tell her what? "Listen sweetie, there is a massive multi-billion pound global industry out there trying to tell you that you're unattractive and trying to sell you products on that basis, but you don't need to buy face cream cos Mummy loves you anyway..." That'll make all the difference. Wouldn't we be better off if Mummy didn't have to tell her kids that, if instead the beauty industry just backed off a bit, now it's impact is starting to be so frighteningly obvious? And how is a quick chat with (uncool) Mum going to balance against the hundreds of negative images kids see every day?

Anyhow their images of "real" beauty might include a nominal amount of slightly larger, slightly older and (shock-horror) non-caucasian women but actually they show mostly really very attractive women. OK, they're not models but they're not over 300lbs, there's no-one with a disfiguring disability, and I don't see anyone who looks over about 60. They're a lot better looking than if you went out in the street and just stopped the first women you saw.

The website itself doesn't seem to be much help. On the kids (girls, of course) page it suggests inviting your friends round and holding a fashion show - because only your best friends will tell you those white boots might be "mod" but they're just not "you". Yes have your friends come round and criticise your dress sense! Then you get to print out the self-esteem certificate... Seriously!

A beauty product company - and one which in the past has offered such "confidence boosting" products as “Intensive Firming Gel-Cream: for specific problem areas like thighs" - simply isn't the one to be telling us all how to manage our self-esteem issues. If they believe a word of what they say they would close down and re-open as a women-only go-karting and dry-slope skiing centre. In any case Dove is simply one of hundreds of products made by Unilever. How many of the following Unilever-owned brands have signed up for the "campaign for real beauty":

Slim Fast (yes, the fast-diet milkshake crap)
Lynx (spray more, get more nubile semi-naked bikini-clad models chasing after you)
Sunsilk (website quote: Want hair like Paris Hilton, Nicole Kidman or Posh Spice? )
Pond's (website quote: If you're worried that your face isn't as firm as it used to be, then you don't have to just grin and bear it)
Timotei (advertised by gorgeous super-thin young-looking models in white dresses wandering about a meadow)
Sure (advertised by super-athletic muscular semi-naked models)
Lux (website quote: We all like to look gorgeous and enjoy that confidence which makes us feel like anything’s possible)
Axe (Men's body spray, website boast: Our award-winning ads and marketing are equally adventurous. In Colombia, for instance, a female Axe Patrol visits bars and clubs, frisking guys and applying body spray ... How good will I feel about my "real beauty" while my boyfriend is being frisked by glamorous models in a Columbian nightclub?)

And Unilever are so keen for you to celebrate your naturally beautiful body that here's what they want you to rub on it (this is the Extra-Sensitive Cream Bar):

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Aqua (that's water btw), Coconut Acid, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, CI 77891.

Mmmm, mmmm, just reading that's making me feel beautiful already huh? Some of those are just posh words for products derived from palm oil and coconut, others are a little more sinister like: Tetrasodium EDTA - Synthetic preservative - can be irritating to the eyes/mucous membranes. And Cocamidopropyl Betaine which has been claimed to cause allergic reactions in some users.

The truth is advertisers don't give a stuff about little girl's self-esteem or older women's real beauty. They care about getting products off the shelf. Here's what Unilever's website says about Dove:

Paragraph one: "
Dove is committed to widening the definition of beauty for women because we believe real beauty comes in all ages, shapes and sizes. To help you enjoy your own brand of beauty, Dove provides an extensive range of cleansing and personal care products that make a genuine difference to the condition and feel of your skin and hair."

Paragraph two: "Dove is now the UK’s top cleansing brand with an amazing 35% of the population having bought a Dove product in 2004. And it doesn’t end there: 7.2 million women use Dove every week in the UK."

Are we all really THAT stupid?

(The image up top by the way is not the Dove advert - it's a copy-cat by Bigmoves - a larger dance troupe appearing near you - if that's New York, Boston, Montreal or San Francisco - soon...)


Anonymous said...

I may be naive, but I think talking to your daughter before the beauty industry does, or even just the way you raise her, and the things you talk about with her in general, could have an impact and make her less susceptible to the low self-esteem these images and messages produce in young girls.

Of course, Dove are completely the wrong people to tell us this, being part of the beauty industry themselves, and I do find the message a little patronising too. But then I have a problem in general with parents/carers being told how to speak to their children/what about etc.

I like the ad, it's just coming from the wrong people.

Cruella said...

Yeah exactly, why do we need a beauty product telling us how to talk to our own kids. And their campaign includes sending people in to schools to talk to kids too - no doubt people branded from head to toe with the Dove logo and armed with free samples, etc.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am with that tagline. "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does."

Apart from just the instant reaction if not liking being told what to do (and with your own daughter, like you wouldn't know to talk to her if Dove hadn't told you) - it actually sounds quite sinister, almost like a threat; as though there is some unsaid final line "or she'll be condemned to a lifetime of eating disorders and terrible body-image, and will never be happy." As if parents don't feel guilty enough already about, well, just everything!

And going into schools is completely out of order. If I had a daughter and they were going to visit her school like that I would have a thing or two to say about it to the Head. The whole thing's just pure hypocrisy on Dove's part.

Jennifer Ewing said...

It is sinister, not least because it sounds like they don't count themselves part of the industry. So what do they count themselves as, then?

And yeah, obviously going into schools is dastardly - thus making sure they talk to the kids before the parents do.

Anyway, great post. I have to say, I definitely wasn't prepared to see feminist support of the Campaign for Real Beauty. When I first saw the adverts on TV they stood out for me as some of the worst. After all, they're just doing the same thing as all other publicity campaigns, except with slightly different images. It's not the images that are important, it's what they're doing with them - selling beauty products, and all the other crap advertising does. Besides being about 1,000,0000,000,000 times more patronising than most advertising., by trying to be humanitarian about doing something that is the complete opposite to humanitarian. And basically pointing the finger at the consumers for something they do themselves.

All things considered, I'd rather have the ludicrous-looking models and obvious photoshop effects than this. That's bad, but at least you know where you stand with it, and it's just doing its job. Sell me some damn soap, don't stand all over my politics.

Stan said...

Great post - I'm a (happy!) fat middle-aged IT guy, so I don't get exposed to these kind of adverts in my day-to-day life. Thanks for adding to my list of worries ...

I think my daughter is already familiar with my views on the subject. I'm not afraid of the beauty industry getting to her, it's more the peer power of the "other girls" I worry about.

And "real beauty" ? I certainly don't need a beauty company defining that for me. Or feminists even. Size zero women and twenty-stone grandmothers can be extraordinarily beautiful, but it's never down to any choices they make at the cosmetics counter.

Jennifer Ewing said...

I'm not afraid of the beauty industry getting to her, it's more the peer power of the "other girls" I worry about.

I think the beauty industry act on that though. Hardly anyone believes the adverts literally, you couldn't, because the adverts never mean anything literally. So they appropriate people's language and impose their own, and work indirectly that way. They actually cause the peer pressure in the first place, or at least multiply it by several hundred.

Unmana said...

Unilever also markets the Fair & Lovely brand in India, which feeds on Indian's obsession with fair skin.

Anonymous said...

On top of Dove not being the right people to tell one anything about beauty...Dove does need to talk about why they continue to include dangerous chemicals in their soaps such as Quaternium 15, a carcinogen that has been shown to cause Cancer of the liver and birth defects in lab animals. Imagine what it does to people...

Now that's something DOVE may want to start talking about....

Cruella said...

It's weird how coming from someone else we react with horror to remarks like "pear-shaped", yet so many of us judge ourselves in much harsher terms.

Lauren said...

I rather Dove advertise its products showing women who look a little more human than be part of this horrible movement of the surreal, plastic, and impossible to achieve. Yes, maybe they are cold hearted and all they want is to sell their product but I do believe that the media affect girls, specially young girls, and tell them what is beautiful and what should be glorified. Im telling you from experience, Im 18 and perfectly exposed to what society asks of me. It is better to have at least one company showing real women than Dove just being part of the awful rest.

Miss_Independent said...

"Listen sweetie, there is a massive multi-billion pound global industry out there trying to tell you that you're unattractive and trying to sell you products on that basis, but you don't need to buy face cream cos Mummy loves you anyway..."

sure as hell does make a difference! I can't believe I was reading this and getting angrier at your i stopped and decided to say something. I think Dove is trying to make a difference in how products are being advertised. Who would you rather have the influence on your daughter? The media or you? Yes the media is in their face alot but what parents say sure as hell has a bigger imprint on them, their self esteem, and it matters to them that you think they are beautiful regardless of what they put on their face or try to cover up. I'm working with children, teens and families for the rest of my life - you can bet your ass it makes a difference.

Cruella said...

Yeah I've really noticed since those ads came out there's been a huge fall-off in eating disorders and demand for cosmetic surgery. ...oh no there hasn't!

Fact is Dove is not even a separate company from the rest of Unilever and all the other horridly-marketed products they make. It might be the "right" message but they don't mean it. They mean "buy our products". And they also don't really deliver the message. It's a total fake-up.

მარიამ ბლანკი¹³ said...

wow great post!!
you are right, I am in marketing industry but such things are killing me immediately.

but it is very difficult to do something very correctly, if you don't do such ads some of your cometitors will...
i understand you but also understand the company who have such ads

btw i don't like Dove ads :)

great post!!

courtney said...
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courtney said...
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Cruella said...

Courtney - I want to include your comments because you make some interesting points, albeit ones i totally disagree with. But your comments are full of abuse towards me and all the other commenters. I sort-of don't mind abuse aimed at me but I obviously can't leave up comments which are abusive towards other people.

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