News & Views

Dove / Real Beauty Sketches

by Contagious Team

Body care brand challenges the perception that beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The latest iteration of Dove's ongoing Campaign for Real Beauty involves an experiment featuring former forensic composite artist Gil Zamora. He sketches behind a curtain as women describe themselves and then embarks on an additional sketch based on a description of the same person given by someone who met them for the first time earlier that day. 

Via Ogilvy & Mather Brazil in Sao Paulo, a six minute film summarising the experiment has clocked up nearly three million views on YouTube alone since being uploaded on 14 April - just three days ago. It's a fascinating film: The women involved are harsh on their own looks, drawing attention to facial features they don't like and emphasising the negative, while a more objective view brings much more positivity and gentleness. 

The film ends with the emotional women wiping away tears and realising that they have 'work to do' on themselves or that they 'still have a long way to go' in terms of their self-esteem. 

Unsurprisingly, the Real Beauty Sketches website, where the films can be viewed in more detail, has attracted 48 comments so far, ranging from glowingly positive thoughts about the sketches and the concept which spawned them to incredibly critical statements, claiming that all the women who were used were already beautiful.

Contagious Insight   
These sketches are a powerful way to refresh the Real Beauty idea and offer potential that could be explored further: Considering that Real Beauty has already spawned a play and various workshops across North America (for instance, write a letter to your younger self, example here) this execution offers a new format that could be adapted if the brand wanted to execute the concept on a local level. 

However, it's the controversy that's the really interesting part here. Dove's brand positioning is all about encouraging women to improve their self-esteem and recognise that they're beautiful. While no right-thinking person would have a problem with this concept in its own right, any Real Beauty executions have never failed to whip up controversy about Unilever's own choice of models. But surely, by the very nature of the campaign, whoever Unilever selects to be the 'star' of its communications efforts is going to attract some criticism for not being white/black/fat/thin/tall/short enough?

That's the interesting part about this experiment and the broader Real Beauty strategy: The executions themselves are a springboard into discussion and debate about our own impressions of what constitutes beauty. And the suggestion in the comments section that got us most interested was the one which wondered what the same experiment would uncover if it was done on men instead. After all, Dove has a men's range in North America too...

Real Beauty Sketches

This story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact