What Dove did

It’s pretty interesting, but best if you look for yourself. (Thanks, Mr Jender!)

Update: As a lot of people have compellingly argued in comments, this would be *much* better if not coming from a company that (a) engages in a lot of this stuff itself; (b) is a mega corporation pretending to be some sort of outsider activist; (c) was actually targeting the people who decide this stuff rather than the art directors.

I still maintain it’s interesting, but in rather a different way than that which was intended.

16 thoughts on “What Dove did

  1. And yet, they do the exact opposite with their Axe commercials (same parent company: Unilever). Pretty epic hypocrisy, if you ask me, and everyone thinks that Dove is such a great company.

  2. It’s nice but we must keep in mind that it is just an angle that Dove is working, something that makes them stand out and that resonates with a part of their target audience (young women). They’ve used this angle before. I think we are never justified in assuming that a big company like Unilever would actually care about women and body/self esteem (or any other thing). To use an analogy: if a bigname food company has a range of organic products, that doesn’t mean they care about the environment.

  3. Jender, that’s certainly true. The issue I’m raising here, though, is that sometimes bad companies do good things for bad reasons (or, “the wrong” reasons qua ethics). Certainly, if they just care about maximizing profit, this is a very effective strategy.

  4. I agree with all of this, and I’m grateful for your pointing it out. But that which they did still does some good in the world, even if the intentions behind it are not good. Compare: ‘Ms’ turns out to be a really useful title for lots of good feminist reasons. But it was originally introduced to make marketing by post easier.

  5. Does anybody else feel like what they did was a violation of privacy? I thought it was really creepy.

  6. I call bs. Dove says, “oh it’s the graphic art designers that manipulate our perceptions with photoshopping. How do we get *them* to stop?” Uh huh, and of course these are all rogue designers, right, and not getting explicit or implicit instructions from their bosses to retouch photos? And of course Dove itself has never hired anyone to retouch a photo?

    So instead of putting pressure on the people PAYING to have these photos retouched, they play a small prank on the people doing the grunt work.

    Not impressed.

    (Also, the whole thing seems like they’re trying to mimic a small-time, grassroots, hactivist vibe, except that’s what people do when they don’t have the resources to do more. A corporation has those resources. So any corp. insinuating that the best they can do is upload a single file to the web is going to get a healthy dose of side eye.)

  7. The video is posted by Ogilivy Toronto — an ad agency — and this discussion validates the ad method it is using. Marketing strategy in the digital age turns on getting people’s attention — and so getting them involved, and active participants in getting the product out there. Is the ad on tv? Or just going viral through you tube? An ad’s going viral and generating discussion gets people talking about Dove, for better or worse. Personally, I would rather have this kind of activity based sales technique than the traditional passive kind.

  8. I think Stacey called it perfectly. And what would have been the point anyhow? If they actually did this, then graphic designers would be annoyed because they would see the image they had already worked on revert. And? They knew what it looked like to start; how is this some big consciousness raising moment for them? And it’s not like the public is going to see the reverted image somehow. Which we don’t. It hink it’s both bs and pretty incoherent.

    Notice, what is this commercial supposed to do for us? The overwhelming bulk of the time is shown on images of computers, boasting about how cool Dove is. At the very end we see a girl’s disembodied bits ‘fatten up’ with a click of the mouse. This is the same girl we saw being clicked down to size that the start so this isn’t any kind of reveal. Nor is the ‘fattened’ version made especially attractive in any particular way.

    Plus I agree with L.J. that if they really did this (which I see zero evidence they did) then it would be hugely creepy.

  9. I had exactly Stacey Goguen’s reaction; Dove is pretending it wants to “speak directly to those responsible for manipulating our perceptions” and “raise the stakes” by playing a trivial prank on graphic designers, who’ll just tap Ctrl+Z and go ahead to complete whatever job Dove and Unilever are paying for? What a transparent and despicable attempt at misdirection.

  10. You know, I’m totally won over now. Good thing all I said in the post was ‘interesting’.

  11. Looks like there’s a few reactions here: (1) a larger corporation or parent company acts in a way inconsistent with the ad’s message, (2) they don’t *really* care because they are not motivated by doing good per se but successful marketing by doing good, (3) the actual thing they did wasn’t all that great and was creepy etc. Let’s ignore the last point for a moment. The first two complaints surprised me.

    When a company benefits economically from doing good, this is because it is rational to do so, and this is when other actors such as consumers reward the company for its expressed positions and actions (e.g., by passing along ads, endorsing the company, buying products, …). But academics and many other people with the best intentions react with disgust at these attempts because they fall short in some way. Thus any attempt to be green or pro-feminist is received with a frown that is accompanied by calls for a revolution in the company’s total infrastructure (that would be irrational for the company). In my view Dove should be applauded and rewarded for these efforts. It is only when a company receives its economic fuel from consumers that are sensitive to such issues as being green, healthy body images etc that its other actions will follow suit. This means rewarding behavior in the right direction. Rejection just shows that the company would be better off directing its resources elsewhere. If your complaint is (1) or (2), these are good points, but these recommend supporting the company.

    Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a knock-down argument or anything, and more could be said and so on, but something to consider along with the rest of the above reactions. Also these are iPad comments and probably only sort of coherent,.

  12. Astonishing that someone at Dove (presumably) greenlit Ogilvy’s distribution of grayware/PUPs as part of an advertising strategy.

  13. Clearly they as a company are doing this for gain…but doesn’t this point to the start of a shift in the discourse? The fact that they think that this will give them an edge is on some level encouraging. Maybe? Or am I idealistic?

  14. Nicolle: Nah. People have liked the *idea* of ‘natural’ beauty being better all along. That is a piece of toothless ideology going back at least to the 18th century. Of course people are willing to go along with “photoshopped bad/’natural’ good,” at the level of rhetoric As I mentioned above, it’s not like the ad actually dwells on any unphotoshopped images.

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