Why Dove’s ‘True Beauty’ campaign is a heap of disingenuous horse shit

Dove’s long-running ‘True Beauty’ campaign has this week seen another enthusiastic flurry of activity as the million selling beauty brand continues its life-long mission to be held aloft as the world’s cuddliest cosmetics maker. And truly, it’s impossible to dispute that Dove’s campaigns aren’t admirably creative, lovingly executed and ultimately very effective. In fact, this website only the other week lionised their most recent and very striking stunt. Unfortunately, the only real problem is that their effortlessly slick campaigns barely conceal the fact that Dove’s attempts to promote ‘True Beauty’ is nothing but a heap of shameless, disingenuous horseshit.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with peddling the world cosmetics for a living. It’s not the most noble of professions, but neither is particularly more evil than 90% of the industriess that allow the average university educated professional to earn a decent wage in a well-heeled part of the country. The societal pressures that encourage women to spend hideous amounts of time and money making themselves look presentable are the results of thousands of years of social inequality, and only the most militant uber-feminist could justify laying any significant blame at the door of a twentith-century cosmetics company. Indeed, many women genuinely seem to like spending a lot of time and money making themselves look more attractive, and a giant multi-national can hardly be blamed for flogging tired consumers the evanescent dream of a prettier face and a happier life.

But the thing that sticks, the thing that really galls, is that Dove acts that it’ss doing you (and humanity itself) a favour. That the whole marketing campaign is part of some neo-corporate feminist movement, where all are welcome to board the good ship ‘Real Beauty’ and sail towards a better tomorrow, where cover stars have slight blemishes and underwear models proudly display their small-but-certainly-noticeable stretch marks. That Dove loves you. That it understands you. Yes you, modern woman. You who struggles daily under the unceasing pressure of employers and families, you who tries to have it all and only seems to end up with nothing. You, who can never escape the pressure of society to look shit-hot and unceasingly shaggable during every waking moment. Yes, Dove understands you. Come, lay your weary head, and join us on this journey to a better, fairer, utopian world.

Because this, undeniably, is complete and utter horseshit.

Because for all its loving, caring exterior, Dove is owned by multinational consumer goods behemoth Unilever, in whose stable of global super-brands proudly sits the men’s grooming brand, Lynx. Yes Lynx, the brand whose televised advertising promotes its deodorant whilst never veering far from its habit of depicting women as possessing the figure of a twelve-year-old boy with a pair of airbags welded on to their chests, with barely any show of emotion permitted beyond a look dead-eyed lust on their permanently pouting face. Who have a long and seemingly proud history of depicting the fairer sex asinterchangeable subservient hookers.

It’s the unadulterated cynicism of the enterprise that’s so unrelentingly depressing. There’s no real shame in Unilever using their brand of diluted, commercialised, post-Girl Power feminism to sell more stuff. But by pretending to add a dose of decency with one hand whilst joyfully fuelling the pornification of popular culture with the other, Unilever/Dove reveal themselves as nothing but cynical salesmen, exploiting not only women’s insecurities, but also the nascent counter-culture fighting to erase those insecurities, all for the benefit of making a quick buck. Rather than deciding to commit to the cause and do something genuinely worthwhile, Unilever are instead content to make cleaver-yet-utterly-meaningless marketing promotions arguing for ‘True Beauty’ and hoping that consumers just don’t notice the rank hypocrisy of it all.

For all of their avowed good intentions, the simple fact is that if more of the western world’s output wasn’t so intent on hitting the Lynx-esque 90s-lads-mag-cum-James-Bond fantasy sweetspot, then Dove wouldn’t have to let its Ad men spend so much time dicking around on Reddit in a laboured attempt to make Dove look like real champions of the cause. And truly, what a terrible world that would be.

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Written by Nick

Nick is a marketing professional who has worked in the industry for a number of years for brands both big small. He strongly believes that advertising, social media and PR all have the potential to form valuable and long-lasting relationships between companies and consumers, if only the industry could take its head out of its arse and spent less time on needless meetings and pretend maths, and more time having a good proper think about doing things that made a bit more sense. Consequently, most of his articles consist of him being quite mean about someone else's hard work. But he does it our of love. Honestly.

  • Spin Alley (@TheSpinAlley)

    New post: Why Dove’s ‘True Beauty’ campaign is a heap of disingenuous horse shit

  • @kscaplehorn

    An interesting take on Dove’s ‘True Beauty’ campaign from @TheSpinAlley #PR

  • e

    “impossible to dispute that Dove’s campaigns aren’t admirably creative” — you mean ARE, not AREN’T!

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