When it comes to advertising, the majority of companies producing beauty products have the same MO: show youthful, super-thin models or celebrities looking beautiful while applying Product X to their already perfectly unblemished & unwrinkled (aka, photoshopped) skin. In 2004, Dove challenged this perception of “beauty” with the launch of their Campaign for Real Beauty.
Dove released a series of web, TV, magazine, print, and billboard ads across the nation featuring real women (not models) without any photoshopping in an effort to change how women see themselves, and to brush off the stereotype of “beauty” in media. Based on the general cost for these kinds of paid advertising, this campaign was likely a multi-million dollar endeavor. The parent company, Unilever, is said to have spent billions on advertising that year. Add to that the long running time of the ads (multiple years), the dollars add up quickly.
In 2006, Dove created a video of a woman getting a makeover who is later photoshopped for a billboard ad (“Evolution”). This video quickly went viral, and some sources say it likely generated more ROI than a superbowl ad spot would have. This was a creative way for Dove to extend the campaign and reach a huge audience with their message. This innovative ad also generated lots of earned media, as reporters and bloggers took a lot of interest in the message and the way it was conveyed. In addition, Dove held workshops and events, and collaborated with organizations like Girl Scouts of America to promote their Movement for Self-Esteem.
Within the first 2 months of launching this campaign, sales of Dove’s firming products (featured in the ads) increased 600% in the U.S. and over 700% in Europe, with global sales passing the $1 billion mark that year (2004). Statistics on the campaign show a $3 return for every $1 spent on advertising. With their Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove has not only endeared women to their brand (and encouraged them to take good care of themselves by using Dove products), they have promoted self-esteem in these “real” women and sparked a widespread debate about typecasting of women in the media and our distorted view of what is beautiful. Even if there hadn’t been a substantial financial gain, I would still deem this ad campaign a huge success.