What is Real Beauty by keara


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What is Real Beauty? A Contextual Analysis of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Julia Lee Mass Communications 10 Professor Ted Gournelos August 1, 2007

Lee 2 Dove commissioned a worldwide survey and found that out of thousands of women only two percent thought that they were beautiful. As a result, Dove initiated the Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 as a way for society to have a cultural discussion on how representations of the female body in the media contrast with real women’s bodies. In this paper, I will explore how Dove deconstructs the dominant image of the female body in the media with their Six Women ad. In addition, I will explore the cultural climate that stimulated this marketing campaign and the technological aspects that helped facilitate its transmission to the masses. Dove’s campaign illustrates a significant change in the advertising community because it gives visibility to the suppressed and invisible bodies in a visual arena that is uncompromising about its aesthetic standards. At the same time, the campaign’s message conflicts with the company’s sales mission and that makes us question whether the campaign is truly a social movement to empower women or just another marketing ploy to increase sales. The Six Women ad challenges current beauty standards by featuring real women who are beautiful in way that is different from how the media portrays beauty. The ad consists of six women of different ethnicities with different body types modeling in their underwear (Figure 1). What sets this photo apart from other advertisements is the fact that these women are not professional models. It appropriates mainstream advertisements by using average people as models. Two are students, one is a teacher, and another is a café barista (Dove). Thus, these six women represent females with real working bodies instead of ones that just conform to the fashion industry’s standards. Unlike the Victoria’s Secret lingerie models (Figure 2), the Dove models are of various heights, less toned and have more body mass. On the other hand, they have personality and they express shyness, hilarity, and confidence like real women while the lingerie models are haughty and unobtainable because they are airbrushed fantasies. The Dove

Lee 3 women are also “real” is the sense that they have not been retouched or altered in any way for the ad (Dove). These body types are not a minority in the world, but they were a minority in the media world until the Six Women ad made their presence visible. “The cult of thinness” is a form of false consciousness that is created and perpetuated by media without a basis in reality. Thinness is not the only form of beauty, but many people, if not all, accept this ideological stand on beauty as the absolute truth because the media presents thin women as beautiful and heavier women as ugly or comical. This trend is reflected in the increasing thinness amongst the fashion industry’s models. Although models are always been tall and thin, the fashion world is constantly updating it standards in accordance with the current cultural climate. According to Suze Yalof Schwartz, an editor of Glamour magazine, “In the '90s the sample size used by designers was 5 feet 9 inches or taller and a size 6 to 8; now, it's the same height, but a size 0 to 2” (Noveck 1). Models and average people who want to be considered as beautiful now have to be taller and thinner than their peers in the past. Actresses are also embracing and promoting the thin trend, but what the public does not realize is that they do so because they are subjects of constant media scrutiny. They need to adhere to the media’s standard of beauty if they want to receive good press. As a result, women are interpellated into the cult of thinness when they idealize and seek to acquire those body types. Media representations of beauty are binding women to an unrealistic ideology and causing them to pursue a standardized body image through any means possible. This pursuit for the perfect body is reflected in rise of makeover shows in the 2000s. Shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan glorify cosmetic surgery and emphasize that a perfect body will bring

Lee 4 true happiness.1 According to Randall Flanery, an associate professor of medicine, these makeover shows are saying “the only way to really make yourself acceptable is by undergoing a drastic transformation of appearance and if you do that, everything will be all wonderful and changed” (WebMD 1). These shows are increasing the acceptance of having cosmetic surgery done in order to conform to the media’s standards of beauty. One example is Botox which older women use to treat wrinkles because in today’s society, wrinkles are a sign of age and ugliness. According to the ASAPS, “Botox injections are the fastest-growing cosmetic procedure in the industry…In 2001, more than 1.6 billion people received injections” (Lewis). In addition to cosmetic surgery, women are also changing their bodies by dieting, but as the pressure to be thin continues to rise, dieting takes a negative turn and develops into eating disorders. Young women are more susceptible to incurring eating disorders because they tend to absorb the media’s beauty standards instead of developing their own. According to a 2000 Mayo Clinic study, there has been an increasing trend of eating disorders occuring in young females over the course of fifty years because they are the “most vulnerable to societal and psychological pressures” (O’Hara). As models continue to grow thinner and the media gains more influence in promoting beauty ideology, more and more women succumb to the pressure. As a result, they either undergo cosmetic surgery or commit to drastic eating habits. Even actresses, such as Mary-Kate Olsen and Nicole Richie, are not immune to this kind of pressure.2 Despite the media’s dominant message that thin equals beauty, not all women are accepting it as the cultural norm. Instead, some women and people of influence are fighting the mainstream culture and aiding a “grass-roots movement in favor of women accepting their

Extreme Makeover selects and films candidates who decide to undergo cosmetic surgery procedures. The Swan selects women who are considered to be “ugly ducklings” and turns them into “swans” by giving them makeovers with cosmetic surgery. These women then compete in a pageant and only one is crowned “The Swan”. 2 Both Mary-Kate Olsen and Nicole Richie have suffered from eating disorders which were made public in 2004 when the paparazzi took photos of them and their bodies appeared to be emaciated.

Lee 5 bodies, whatever their size” (Duenwald). The 2002 independent film Real Women Have Curves is an example of oppositional media that fights the thin culture because it features a heavier heroine who is proud of her size, despite society labeling her as overweight. Plus-size models are also becoming more prevalent on runways due to broader-minded agencies and according to Cindi Leive, the editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, “Women are also writing more letters to magazine editors, criticizing the spindly fashion models and praising efforts to include bigger women” (Duenwald). People are slowly changing the way that they feel about their bodies and Dove gives this grass-roots discussion more visibility. Dove does so by bringing it into the mainstream with a campaign vision that is aided by innovative media elements. Dove utilizes new forms of communication technology in its campaign in order to help facilitate multi-directional discussion amongst consumers and media producers. The campaign wants to engage the public in a discussion about beauty stereotypes so it creates interactive billboards that will provoke consumer responses. These billboards feature a woman with two textuals terms that can be used to physically describe her in either positive or negative light (Figure 3). They include a toll-free number so viewers can voice their reactions by performing real-time voting with their cellphones and then have their votes calculated and displayed on these interactive billboards (Rothenberg). Unlike normal advertisments that follow a one-way transmission model, the campaign’s ad faciliates a two-way exchange between the viewers and ad producers by directly asking the viewers for their input about the ad’s content. Without current cell phone technology, this discussion could never have been realized in such a public domain. Another significant technological element in the Dove campaign is the internet. Dove uses it to create a campaign website that provides content information as well as a place for consumer discussion. In addition, Dove also uses the internet as another intermediary to promote

Lee 6 its informational videos. For example, the campaign’s Evolution video received more than three million views online and became a media virus with YouTube as the main intermediary channel (Postrel).3 By promoting the campaign with more interactive modes of media, Dove is engaging people in a public dialouge instead of pressing an ideology on them. Dove started the Campaign for Real Beauty in order to bring visibility to the conflicting issue of beauty. Although we are raised on the belief that true beauty comes from within us, there is also the saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In modern society, the media acts as the judge of what is beautiful and in their eyes skinny equals beauty. The media perpetuates this concept with models and actresses serving as living examples of media-approved aesthetics. In response, most women try to achieve this ideal through cosmetic surgery and drastic dieting, but some women are actively fighting this biased beauty standard. Dove opens up this debate on a national level with their beauty campaign. Dove uses technology to create advertisements and websites with interactive features that will involve consumers in a dialouge about beauty instead pushing a certain point of view on them. In doing so, Dove is provoking the public to actively discuss their issues with media producers in the hope that they will change their representations of beauty to more clearly resemble reality in the future. On the other hand, you must wonder if Dove really does care about the direction media advertising is heading or if the campaign is just a really smart marketing move to further associate the brand with beauty and thus increase sales.4 After all, if the women in the Six Women ad are truly beautiful as the campaign states, why would they still need the cellulite cream that Dove is advertising?


The Evolution video is a short video that shows how an ordinary woman is transformed into a face model. First she is given a makeover by stylists and then she is digitally-altered in order to look slimmer. Her perfected face is then used to advertise a makeup line and the clip ends with the line: “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” See Figure 4 for video scans and <http://youtube.com/watch?v=uT4dpFpiTgk> for the video. 4 Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was launched in September 2004 and by the end of the year, Dove sales had increased by 2 percent. In 2005, sales increased by 12.5 percent and in 2006, sales increased 10.1 percent (Neff).

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Figure 1: Six Women Ad

Source: http://etniesgirl.com/site-images/news/article/Dove_Girls.jpg

Figure 2: Victoria Secret Lingerie Models

Source:http://ia300108.us.archive.org/1/items/Victorias_Secret_Angels_Preview_for_TheInCrowdVlog.com/Victorias_Secret_A ngels_preview.jpg

Figure 3: Dove Interactive Billboard

Figure 4: Evolution Video Screenshots

Source: http://www.impactmobile.com/images/campaigns/dove.jp

Source: http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/ blog1/0610/images/dove.jpg

Lee 8 Works Cited “The Campaign for Real Beauty Background.” Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. 2006. 23 July, 2007. <http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/press.asp?id=4562&section =news&target=press>. Duenwald, Mary. “Body and Image; One Size Definitely Does Not Fit All.” The New York Times 22 June 2003. 25 July 2007. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res =9F0DE7DD1638F931A15755C0A9659C8B63&sec=health&pagewanted=all>. Lewis, Carol. “Botox Cosmetic: A Look at Looking Good.” FDA Consumer Magazine July Aug. 2002. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 26 July 2007. <http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2002/402_botox.html>. Neff, Jack. “Unilever: Don’t let beauty get too real. (Unilever’s advertising campaign).” Advertising Age 16 Apr. 2007. Expanded Academic ASAP. Doe Library, Berkeley, CA. 27 July 2007. <http://find.galegroup.com/itx/dispBasicSearch.do?prodId= EAIM&userGroupName=ucberkeley>. Noveck, Jocelyn. “Will skinny-model debate trickle down?” The Associated Press 5 Feb. 2007. The Boston Globe. 26 July 2007. <http://www.boston.com/yourlife/fashion/articles/2007/02/05/will_skinny_model_debate _trickle_down/?page=1>. O’Hara, Mike. “Eating disorders continue to increase in young females.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 11 Jan. 2000. EurekAlert! 25 July 2007. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2000-01/MC-Edct-1101100.php>. Postrel, Virginia. “The Truth About Beauty.” The Atlantic Monthly Mar. 2007: 125-127. ProQuest. Doe Library, Berkeley, CA. 27 July, 2007.

Lee 9 <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?RQT=306&TS=1185686137&clientId=1566>. Rothenberg, Randall. “Dove effort gives package-goods marketers lesson for the futures. Advertising Age 5 Mar. 2007: 18. ProQuest. Doe Library, Berkeley, CA. 26 July, 2007. <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?RQT=306&TS=1185686137&clientId=1566>. WebMD Feature. “Plastic Surgery TV: Therapeutic or Trivial?” WebMD 17 May 2004. 25 July 2007. <http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/plastic-surgerytv-therapeutic-trivial?page=1>.

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