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Dove Ad Campaign for Real Beauty Essay

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Updated: Sep 7th, 2021

The 3-minute advertisement of Dove launched in 2013 is a part of the company’s Real Beauty campaign. Dove is a beauty product company, a division of the FMCG giant Unilever. The advertisement named Dove Real Beauty Sketches is a video edited film of 3 minutes of an experiment that the company did. It invited a forensic sketch artist to draw the women. This artist sat is a separated space where he could not see the women (see figure 1).

The advertisement begins with a piece of soothing instrumental music. The sketch artist introduces himself. Then a female voice, presumably that of one of the participants, say that when they enter the hall, they can see someone sitting with a drafting board. Another participant informs the viewers that neither they nor the man can see each other. First, the women described themselves, and then strangers, who had been acquainted during the experiment, were asked to describe their new friends.

The result was similar in almost all cases. Women were most critical of their appearances, and others felt they were beautiful. This advertisement went viral in 2013 and has become the most viewed advertisement of the year. The ad is a part of the company’s Real Beauty campaign, which was made to develop the complete Dove brand, which makes beauty products for hair and skin. Dove makes soaps, creams, and shampoo for women. The target customers of the advertisement are, therefore, women, of varied age group.

Further, women shown in the advertisement are mostly women from the middle-class economic background, of age group varying from mid-twenties the to late fifties. The target customers are usually women who feel that they are not beautiful enough and have issues identifying themselves as good looking. The advertisement was an effort to boost the self-concept of women. The ad aimed to increase the self-esteem of the target customers. This essay analyzes this advertisement. The advertisement was shot in San Francisco (Vega). The loft where the video was taken is an open space with almost no furniture except for a sofa for the participants, a white curtain dividing the space between the artist and the participant, and a chair and easel for the sketch artist.

A snapshot of the advertisement with the artist one side of the curtain and a participant on the other (Vega).
Figure 1: A snapshot of the advertisement with the artist one side of the curtain and a participant on the other (Vega).

Research shows emotion plays an active role in the decision-making process of consumers (Kemp, Bui and Chapa 347). Often consumers consider feeling as part of their product-purchasing phase. Positive emotions are shown at the end of the advertisement often demonstrate a positive attitude towards the ad and to the brand (Kemp, Bui, and Chapa 349). They create a form of hedonic rationalization, which mitigates the consumption of products associated with the brand. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketch advertisement aims to create an emotional association of its beauty products with the consumers, increase product recall, and the create a hedonistic rationalization process that mitigates the guilt feeling women at time feel while purchasing beauty products.

Emotion has been an integral part of all advertisements. Emotions are successful in grabbing the attention of the viewers and create interest among viewers regarding the product, which leads to the desire to acquire it (Poels and Dewitte 19). These three things lead to action. The primary aim of the advertisement by Dove was to grab the attention of consumers towards its products and associate its products with self-worth through the use of experimentation, emotional appeal, music, and white curtain.

The association is essential in understanding the effectiveness of the ad. Emotions and instant feelings evoked in the consumer play an active role in steering the judgment that viewers create about the ad, the product, and the brand. The advertisement is a mediator in explaining to the viewers that mostly women forget their physical and emotional self, and become overly critical of themselves. Such self-boosting ads create a sense of bonding among women, and a realization towards them; they are not the only one who is hard on themselves.

Mostly women feel that they are not good looking, and that is how they describe themselves. The ad very tactfully appeals to a preexisting feeling among the target group and helps to regulate the motions of the consumers. For instance, the participants are women whom Dove directly wants to target as consumers of their products. They show these women addressing themselves as less beautiful than what they are. A forensic sketch artist puts their self-description to effect. When others describe these women, they describe them as what they see in them, and their description always turned out to be more accurate and beautiful.

Then ad, in the end, captures the emotions of the women who see both the pictures and realize that what they have described themselves is highly critical. Some of them know that they are still beautiful, even if they do not want to express it to themselves. The women demonstrate heightened emotions, and the ad ends with comments of participants. Dove being a hedonic product, had appealed to the senses of women and elicited a desire in them to look after themselves. Women tend to overlook their own needs and forget themselves in the humdrum of familial responsibilities. This ad appealed to the lost urges in women to feel beautiful. This emotion is a powerful and complex emotion incited by the ad. The ad aims to associate a complicated feeling with their product.

The ad creates a greater congruence of self-concept and brand image, which may imply that the ad increased product involvement. The ad does not talk of the product, except for in the end when it adds that the ad is by Dove with the brand logo. The complete absence of the product and product appeal by participants of an experiment increases the curiosity of the viewers. Further, the suspense that is retained until the end when the two pictures are revealed creates an association of the viewer with the ad. The viewers are engaged in watching the ad. Once they learn about the outcome of the experiment, they become curious. They also try to evaluate themselves based on the result of the test. This creates an association between their boosts in self-evaluation, positive, emotion, and association with the brand, Dove.

The real beauty ad campaign of Dove aimed to break the stereotypical image of women that ads create. Earlier ads of beauty products were celebrity endorsed. The aim was to create a perfect ideal for the consumers that they could achieve by using the product. However, in this campaign, Dove wanted to show its consumers that beauty was in all women, irrespective of how they felt about themselves. The viewers of the ad would associate the advertisement with a brand that appreciates the beauty of an ordinary woman rather than a skinny, adolescent supermodel.

The models that the Dove ad showed were not professionals but regular women. Their age range was a fit for the target customer group that the ad aimed at. The ad did not promote the brand but rather incited the self-image of women that they carry. It evoked an emotion of self-confidence and boosted self-assurance.

The other props that are used in the ad are music. It begins with a high note, to catch the attention of the viewers, and then, as the sketch artist begins to introduce himself, mellows down. Music in the advertisements is an instrumental composition. Absence of words in the music does not muddle the information provided through the ad. Music has attention gaining effectiveness in ads. The high note of the music played initially in the Dove ad successfully catches the viewer’s attention. Then the mellowed music that continually plays in the background is almost inaudible, but it helps in holding the attention of the viewers. The music in the advertisement is not very loud, which has a possibility of drowning the central message of the ad.

The placement of the curtain dividing the space of the artist and the participants’ describing them is something that instantly catches one’s attention. The flowing white curtain shows a psychological and emotional barrier that women have in expressing themselves and hence ends up being overly critical of their beauty. The curtain becomes the symbol of this barrier of self and the felt-self. When the participants are shown the picture, this barrier is removed, clearing their clouded self-concept.

The ad tried to re-create the self-concept of women through experimentation, music, curtain, and emotional appeal to create an association of the brand with the real beauty that is hidden in all women. The ad has tried to appeal to the emotional concept of their target demographics, creating an appeal to look for beauty within themselves. The ad deliberately breaks through the stereotypical idea of beauty. Dove has tried to make a more believable ad. The advertisement attempts to address the fear in women to accept that they might be beautiful. This might be because of a cultural and societal pressure that ordinary women face to remain pure.

One comment at the end of the ad from a participating woman states: “I should be more grateful for my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, the way we treat our children, it impacts everything.” (Dove) The comment shows that the experimentation has made the woman feel that she did not feel worthy or did not care for her natural beauty. She realized the worth of her natural beauty through the little experiment. The viewers of the ad, on the other hand, would be emotionally associated with this older woman and feel that they too are naturally beautiful.

Consequently, when they would associate a brand with their natural beauty is Dove. The ad points out that women tend to see themselves as objects that could be beautiful. They do not consider themselves important. However, the knowledge that they are impressive would make them assured in life and turn women into more confident individuals.

Works Cited

Dove. 2013 “Dove Real Beauty Sketches.” 2013. Dove Real Beauty Sketches.Web.

Kemp, Elyria, My Bui and Sindy Chapa. “The role of advertising in consumer emotion management.” International Journal of Advertising 31(2) (2012): 339-353. Print.

Poels, Karolien and Siegfried Dewitte. “How to Capture the Heart? Reviewing 20 Years of Emotion Measurement in Advertising.” Journal of Advertising Research 46(1) (2006): 18-37. Print.

Vega, Tanzina. 2013. “” The New York Times. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Dove Ad Campaign for Real Beauty." September 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dove-ad-campaign-for-real-beauty/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Dove Ad Campaign for Real Beauty'. 7 September.

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