I am pretty sure we have all heard about or seen the Dove “Real Beauty Campaign”. Studies had been showing that women had lowered their self-esteem because of the image society had of “beauty”. It was not only a national but also international campaign that aimed to raise women’s self-esteem by using “real” women with real bodies in their advertisements.
The whole campaign started in 2004 and it consisted on breaking the stereotypical norms of beauty by showing these 6 women with normal bodies, not looking like supermodels at all. This led to the discussion of beauty issues in campaignforrealbeauty.com.
In 2006 they created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which had the objective of educating and inspiring girls and women about real beauty concepts. In 2007, the campaign kept running. A study was made that 91% of women ages 50-64 believed it was time for society to view women differently. The campaign praised wrinkles, spots, and grey hair. The campaign continues to run and Dove says there is more to be done.
Below is an example of Dove’s efforts of increasing women’s self-esteem in Australia.
Now let’s take a look at the complete opposite of this campaign. Axe is known for its unique way of advertising their product to young men by showing very attractive, almost unreal, women. Their main idea is that using Axe products will attract the prettiest girls to them. Their target market is to the guy who “has no clue what he’s doing, and things get awkward fast- the geeks and nerds” because they are the ones who the most help in getting women therefore they are easily persuaded. Axe has had huge success because of their targeting and marketing.
Axe advertises everything that Dove is trying to fight.
So what’s the problem?
Unilever owns Dove and Axe!
This makes us think, are Unilever’s values truly aligned or are they just trying to sell a product?
They have defended this criticism by saying that they have many different brands targeted to different market segments. After discussing with my group, we realized that the problem was that Dove was not trying to sell a specific product but instead it is a whole concept and Axe goes completely against it.
Laura Collins of the New Yorker reveled how Pascal Dangin, a famous photo re-toucher had worked on this Dove campaign, making the image of “real-women” false. But in an interview, Pascal Dangin said he does all kinds of work and not only retouches the images. He clearly states that all he changed was “colors and tone correction, the women’s natural beauty was not modified.”
Kelly O’Keefe, a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University AdCenter, said that Unilever was “playing with fire” by openly showing two completely different ideas.
My group and I think this controversy does indeed have a solution without causing a tremendous impact on Unilever, Dove or Axe. We think Axe should redirect their advertisements trying to keep focus on the fact that Axe will attract women but not objectifying them as much as they have been doing so.
For example, we would focus our commercials on how Axe can help a guy get through difficult times of this stage of life such as getting into college, meeting new people, meeting the girlfriend’s dad, etc. This way the attention would be more on the guy’s success and not just showing women as easy and vulnerable.
We believe this strategy will help keep both markets on top and still maintain Unilever’s values and image.