Tuesday, 11 June 2013

a reaction to dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches'

Something a little different from me today... This is a post I've been meaning to write since last month when I was writing an essay for my PR & communications module at uni. I used Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches' as a case study of a viral advertisement and I had a lot of different thoughts about it (unfortunately completely unrelated to the topic of my essay!). It is described as a 'compelling social experiment that explores how women view their own beauty in contrast to what others see'; at the time of writing it has had over 50 million views on youtube, you have probably all seen it floating around facebook. The video shows a forensic artist drawing women; first according to how they describe themselves and then again according to a stranger's description. If you haven't seen it yet you can watch it here

Women as they described themselves on the left and as described by a stranger on the right.

The Good...

When I first saw it posted on a friends wall I loved it, and I think it's obvious why it has been received so positively. Beauty standards and self-perception are a really popular topic at the moment and the video is really emotive. Dove have got in touch with women's attitudes and their increasing apathy towards beauty standards which is partly what makes this campaign so effective; they are in effect standing up against their own industry which again helps them to get on side with their target audience. The ad does display some good points, mainly that women can be their own harshest critics and their self-perceived 'flaws' are not as prominent as they may believe. It supports self confidence by showing the women watching that even random strangers would describe them as beautiful.

The Bad...

However, Dove's integrity is somewhat questioned when you realise that their parent company is Unilever. Unilever run various other brands such as Lynx, who's provocative adverts have a very different message... and are perhaps perpetrators of the very same beauty standards Dove is apparently trying to shun. When you think about it a little more you realise that this advert supports narrow beauty standards itself - the main qualities that were seen as more desirable were being thinner and younger. While this may not be too shocking, other attractive features described were blonder hair and bluer eyes... Though African-American and Asian women were involved, all of the properly featured participants are white, and three of those are blonde with blue eyes! It doesn't really celebrate any sort of diversity in beauty.

The Ugly...?

The women are happier when they realise they are seen to look like the pictures on the right.... But what about people who really do look like the women on the left? Are they not beautiful too? Surely beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The message of the ad is 'women: you're more beautiful than you think' but who are Dove to say that  there is definitely a preferable way to look!
Another thing this ad does is elevate the importance of beauty... is being generically attractive the most important thing for a woman to be? What about other qualities such as being kind, strong, giving, or intelligent?

I would love to know what your thoughts are on this topic!

further watching & reading: 

01. Another boots campaign 'Onslaught' from a while ago showing a young girl being bombarded with images from the beauty industry; tagline: 'talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does'. And here is a parody showing the same video but all the images are from 'Axe' (Lynx in the UK) which another company Unilever run.

02. A great reaction piece on the Jazzy Little Drops blog.

03. An interesting discussion on wether beauty is important/whether it is objective in this vlog from karakamos; 'On Being Ugly'.



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