Historical Analysis: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

In 2013, Dove put out an advertisement called “Real Beauty Sketches,” which portrayed women meeting with a sketch artist to describe their own appearances as well as the appearance of another woman, whom they had gotten to know earlier that day. When the artist revealed the two portraits side-by-side to each woman, the viewers saw that the one created from the description by the stranger was much more naturally beautiful, which emphasized that women frequently saw the beauty in others, but often did not in themselves. The ad ended with the phrase “You are more beautiful than you think” coming across the screen, followed by the Dove logo and brand name.

The dove true beauty advertisement is characteristic of modern advertising because it works to build trust with consumers by “humanizing” the Dove Corporation. Advertisements are able to show consumers who they can become if they purchase their products, and with this advertisement, Dove teaches consumers that they can embrace their true and natural beauty by choosing to buy what Dove markets and sells. In addition, as William Leiss explains in his work Social Communication in Advertising, this advertisement embodies the transformational aspect of advertising (rather than the informational aspect) because instead of showing specific information about a Dove product or products, the ad works to change the consumer’s consciousness and also alter people’s social attitudes about what really defines “beautiful” (75).

Furthermore, many aspects of this advertisement reflect the status of advertising in the present day. Because consumers are savvy and largely desensitized to advertisements (since they are inundated with hundreds of ads every day), Dove is working to stand out from other companies by taking a fresh and unique approach. Dove utilizes the soft sell and creates a particular mood in the advertisement, rather than doing the more traditional style of advertising, which often draws upon images of celebrities and more direct product placement. This particular Dove advertisement works to elicit emotional responses in consumers by promoting a social cause, and deconstruct the ideology that women all need to look exactly like models and actresses to see themselves as beautiful. Instead of conforming to the advertisement tactics that can place a great deal of societal pressure on normal women to look exactly like women in the media, Dove works against this and instead offers the opposing viewpoint, which comes across as authentic and as a result, the corporation appears relatable to consumers.

In his chapter about contemporary advertisements, Leiss explains that many of the advertising approaches that Dove draw upon are crucial to gaining the attention and respect of the new generation, otherwise known as “Generation X” (479). Because the new generation of consumers are highly concerned with the symbolic meaning associated with various products, Leiss finds that it is essential for corporations to try to create positive and unique associations with their products or brand in general, and by showcasing a strong message of self-appreciation and self-respect, Dove is able to persuade consumers to choose their products since consumers now think about those positive ideas when looking at Dove products in stores.

-Aimee S.


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