Historical Analysis: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

This refreshing Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” advertisement was released in 2013 as part of the ongoing “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” series. In the Dove ad, a group of woman who represent a range of ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities are asked to participate in a social experiment. The women describe their physical appearance to a sketch artist, and then strangers who got to know the participants earlier describe the woman to the sketch artist. A side-by-side comparison reveals that in the sketches of the women as described by the stranger the woman look significantly more attractive, happy and beautiful. The ad closes with the women reflecting on why it is important to recognize true beauty followed by the phrase “You are more beautiful than you think” and the Dove logo.


The first Dove Real Beauty ad

While the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” advertising campaign was first started in 2004, Dove has continued the series because concept is unique and fitting within the current advertorial, and cultural landscape. The concept of this ad is to inspire women to recognize their true beauty, and therefore position Dove as quality brand that knows what woman want and need. Dove recognized that the typical female consumer is fed up with ads in various ways. First and foremost, female consumers are frustrated with the way women are portrayed in the media, particularly in advertisements. The standards of beauty these ads portray are not representative of the average woman and are unattainable. The average woman is not 20 years old and 5’9” with striking features, flawless complexion, and a shapely body. Furthermore, even the nearly perfect models featured in beauty ads are retouched and Photoshopped to look completely flawless. In the video I believe Dove effectively uses TJ Jackson Lears concept of therapeutic ethos “to arouse consumer demand by associating products with imaginary states of wellbeing” (74). The ad plays on the female consumers’ desires to feel beautiful and be at peace with their bodies, which is a state of wellbeing that is increasingly more difficult to achieve in society today.

The ad is also a great example of the shift in modern advertising towards transformational advertising which places “less (of) a fixation on the product, and more attention on the consumer” (75). Consumers today are less interested with traditional informational advertising, which focuses on product attributes and functions. The lifestyle surrounding a products and the context of use is more important then the product itself. For example: A Dove body lotion is essentially the same as many other body lotions, the brand name is what differentiates amongst the various product offering. By creating a strong brand image of Dove as a socially conscious company, which promotes an enlightened mindset, it allows consumers who purchase Dove products to buy in to the positive brand ethos and lifestyle.


One of the “real beauty sketches”

The “Real Beauty Sketches” is particularly unique in two ways: there are no products featured, and it is three minutes long. These elements are both representative of the popular “soft sell” technique. Todays savvy and ad weary consumers are often not interested in obvert advertising, forcing advertisers to make more discreet promotional materials. The ad was never shown on TV, but still went viral garnering over 64 million views due media attention and social media sharing. Since consumers chose to watch the ad, as opposed to viewing it as a commercial, and were no products featured unlike in a typical ad, the message appears more authentic. This authenticity and trust is important to building consumer confidence and inspiring a positive impression of the Dove Brand.




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