Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dove Ads

I was walking through the long hallway in Grand Central from the "S" Shuttle to the station exit when I noticed that those Dove Ads with "real women" had been taken down. I've been seeing those ads every day. In fact, the whole city was canvassed with these ads. You can't escape the city without seeing one of the "curvy" women smiling at you in her underwear.

I found this statement from Philippe Harousseau, Dove's Marketing Director, about the campaign:

"It is our belief that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes and ages. Our mission is to make more women feel beautiful every day by broadening the definition of beauty."

The irony is palpable here: women are supposed to embrace their own “real beauty” and yet buy Dove’s cellulite firming cream because they hate their thighs. But only a real cynic would fault Dove for that. I mean they are a consumer goods company selling a product, so of course there will always be a little bit of conflict between their business and societal goals. Hell, if Dove thought that neo-Nazis would push thigh-firming cream, they’d probably feature them.

Yet, when I first saw these ads, I actually thought they were kind of creepy, especially the giant size posters in Grand Central. Walking through the hallway from the "S" shuttle was like walking through a Hall of Dove Women. Here were these women dancing around in their underwear screaming “Hey, check ME out.” If any of these women lacked self-esteem before they were picked, they certainly don’t have that problem now. The website is hilarious too. As you drag your cursor over, each model takes a seductive pose showing off her assets and then you can learn more about each one and you find out they are all indeed very real women—manicurists, students, waitress…

So when I first saw these ads, I wanted to laugh but not to ridicule them, but instead of the literal comic relief of seeing women dancing around in their bras and panties on my way to work. But as I started to see them every three blocks all over the city, I’d start to get this squirmy feeling. Something seemed out of place. I’m staring at this “big-boned” woman in the middle of Broadway and it was trying to project a serious message when all I could do was giggle.

Maybe I was just being immature or didn’t understand or maybe it was even the gay thing and I just don’t like staring at nearly naked women. In any event, the girls have grown on me and I even have a favorite one (Shanel, the manicurist).

I have to admit, the ads at least got people talking about Dove. When was the last time you ever read anything exclamatory about Dove soap? It seems so vanilla to me. But the ads even got me (obviously I am not Dove’s target audience) buying into the “hey, buy Dove products because you like them and they’re trying to be righteous” marketing plug. To buy Dove is to cast a vote for them.

So what did I do? I went out and bought some Dove dishwashing liquid.

All in all, I think these ads are refreshing and certainly provocative. Some have accused of Dove being no different than any other company exploiting female sex appeal for the sake of a sale. But I really don't think people should take these ads that seriously. These "real beauty" girls got to have a moment in the spotlight and I hope they enjoyed it and had fun. Looks like they did to me.


EM said...

what bugs me is that despite their mission statement about women coming in different shapes, sizes, and ages, the women they chose for the ads are all young and only mildly overweight. hell, renee z. gained more weight for the second bridget jones movie than any of the women in the ads. they still stayed VERY safe with the women they chose. rubens painted heavier women. remember those botero sculptures we saw in avignon? where are the women that are shaped like that? i applaud the idea Dove came up with, but they wussed out and really just reinforced the stereotype of the perfect woman. that being said, i need to get my ass back to the gym, lol.

Robin said...

I hate those ads. Voluptuous, curvy, full-figured, big-boned, or the worst: Raphaelite. Blah.

Byf said...

I'm fine with these ads, as long as they don't start featuring "real" men. I like the men in my ads fake and buff, thank you very much.