New York Times
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 19, 2013
The latest commercial for Dove seems to have gone beyond the skin and touched a nerve.
An online video, presented in three- and six-minute versions, shows a forensic sketch artist who is asked to draw a series of women based only on their descriptions.
Seated at a drafting table with his back to his subject, the artist, Gil Zamora, asks the women a series of questions about their features. "Tell me about your chin," he says in the soft voice reminiscent of a therapist's.
Crow's feet, big jaws, protruding chins and dark circles are just some of the many physical features that women criticized about themselves.
After he finishes a drawing of a woman, he then draws another sketch of the same woman, only this time it is based on how someone else describes her. The sketches are then hung side by side and the women are asked to compare them. In every instance, the second sketch is more flattering than the first.
"I've come a long way in how I see myself, but I think I still have some way to go," says one of the women as her eyes fill with tears.
The video, shot in a loft in San Francisco, has become a sensation online. The three-minute version has been viewed more than 7.5 million times on the Dove YouTube channel, and the version that is twice as long has been viewed more than 936,000 times.
More than 2,000 people "liked" the video on the Dove Facebook page and more than 1,000 have shared it.
The video also has caught fire on other websites. An article on Mashable about the campaign was shared more than half a million times in 24 hours; on Buzzfeed, it was one of the top 10 items on Thursday.
The video is part of Dove's campaign, beginning in 2005, that focuses on what the brand, which is owned by Unilever, calls "real beauty." Dove executives said the campaign resulted from company research that showed only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful.
The mission of the campaign, said Fernando Machado, the global brand vice president for Dove Skin at Unilever, is "to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety." The campaign was created by Ogilvy & Mather Brazil, part of WPP.
Brenda Fiala, a senior vice president for strategy at Blast Radius, a digital advertising agency, said Dove was trying to create a sense of trust with the consumer by tapping into deep-seated emotions that many women feel about themselves and their appearance.
"It hits on a real human truth for women," Fiala said. "Many women undervalue themselves and also the way they look."
Fiala compared the strategy to a campaign that Procter & Gamble released during last summer's Olympics that focused on the relationship between mothers and their athlete children. "It's emotion that drives brands you feel like you can trust and brands you want to bring close to you and your family," she said.
The campaign certainly has generated a wealth of emotion online. On his Facebook page, the actor George Takei acknowledged that the video was an ad, but said "it brought tears to my eyes through its powerful message." More than 29,000 people have "liked" Takei's post.
Russell Glass, the chief executive of Bizo, an advertising technology company, sent a Twitter post on Wednesday saying that the ad had made him think of his daughters, who are 4 and 2. "I started tearing up," Glass said in an interview. "One day they might have this perspective when they look at themselves in the mirror."
Audrey Olive, a stay-at-home mother in Phoenix with two sons, ages 9 and 11, said she saw the video on a friend's Facebook page and shared it with more of her friends. "As women we are so hard on ourselves physically and emotionally," Olive said. "It gets you to stop and think about how we think of ourselves."
Both Glass and Olive said they were not bothered that the video that has tugged on the emotional heartstrings of so many is, in fact, marketing for Dove.
"I think they are promoting the idea that women need to take a step back and not be so critical of themselves," Olive said. "If they end up selling more products, great."
Glass said the video balanced out many of the negative portrayals about women that he said are often found in advertising.
Fiala at Blast Radius said that when consumers go to the store to buy toiletries, they will remember the warm feelings they have associated with the brand. "If you have to choose between one deodorant and the other and you see Dove and you'll think, ‘That's the brand for me,"' she said.
But not everyone was as moved.
Jazz Brice, 24, saw the campaign online and decided there was something about it that made her uncomfortable. After watching the video a few times she wrote a post on her Tumblr site, which has become the dissident voice toward the campaign on social media. In a telephone interview, Brice took issue with the tag line for the ad, "You're More Beautiful Than You Think."
"I think it makes people much more susceptible to absorbing the subconscious messages," Brice said, "that at the heart of it all is that beauty is still what defines women. It is a little hypocritical."
While Brice praised the quality of the ad and said she did not want to "demonize" Dove or the ad, her mixed feeling lingered.
"What if I did look like that woman on the left?" she said, referring to the less flattering sketches of the women. "There are people that look like that."