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Dove’s campaign for real…profits?

A few years ago, a well-known soap company launched a revolutionary campaign that caused heads to turn, and wallets to…

By Lucy Gotell , in Blogs You Expect Me to Buy That? Issues in Media Marketing , on January 21, 2008

A few years ago, a well-known soap company launched a revolutionary campaign that caused heads to turn, and wallets to open.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty based itself on the premise that women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors should feel beautiful. For many feminists and, surely, for many women who were tired of the ceaseless proliferation of chopstick-thin waifs clogging the TV advertising world, this was a welcome change.

But a painful question lurks beneath the feel-good atmosphere of “normal” looking women strutting their curvy stuff in granny panties and sports bras: does Dove really believe what they are peddling, or is it all just a brilliantly disguised scheme to derive profit through one of our most sensitive of female issues: our physical appearance?

Understandably, people wonder how much trust to put into a beauty company’s claim that their main purpose is to make women feel good about themselves. When you look at the issue a bit deeper, though, maybe the real question is whether we should we even care. The fact remains that media stereotypes have, and do, cause women to hate themselves to the point where anorexia and other eating disorders are claiming more victims than ever before. Dove, despite any ulterior motives, has given many women reason to look in the mirror and smile at what they see.

The company has even started The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which, according to their website, “develops and distributes resources that enable and empower women and girls to embrace a broad definition of beauty” and to provide “needed resources to organizations that foster a broader definition of beauty.”

In June of last year, a film created for the fund entitled “Evolution” won the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Advertising awards in France.

Now I’m fully aware that this topic is an onion whose layers could be continuously peeled to reveal even more important social issues. For instance, the fact that this campaign continues to base a woman’s worth solely on her physical attractiveness, and to depict women in bras and panties instead of more respectable garb.

Unfortunately, these larger issues may be too much for a mere soap company to tackle. So, should we not give kudos to Dove for at least going against the grain of virtually all other beauty companies and putting a positive message out there for women? After all, maybe it doesn’t matter why they’re doing it, so long as it’s being done.