Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dove's 'Onslaught'

When Dove first began their Campaign for Real Beauty and plastering images of “real” women all over commercials, magazines, billboards, and buses I was a little confused and disturbed. I did not completely grasp why a company would use “real” women to promote a beauty product, rather than tall, skinny, blonde women, whom ooze the cultural norm of beauty. I once remember making a comment in my high school Calculus class about the Dove ads and how gross I felt it was that these larger, wrinkled women were being displayed in their underwear. I made the comment that “no one wants to see that,” referring to the naked, wrinkled skin of older women, and was quickly reprimanded by the girl sitting beside me. She said “you should consider yourself lucky if you look like that one day.” Those words had a huge impact on me and really made me think about what Dove is trying to accomplish through their Campaign for Real Beauty. According to Dove’s official website, since 2004 the Dove brand has been invested to being “a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty” through their print ads featuring women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors, as well as their viral ads placed online on websites such as YouTube and other social networking sites (“Campaign”). Dove’s original viral ad,’ Evolution,’ received millions of hits online and Dove’s newest viral ‘Onslaught’ sends a slightly different, but just as powerful message. In this analysis I will argue the positives and negatives of Dove’s ‘Onslaught’ viral, as well as the hypocrisy that comes along with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.
Dove’s ‘Onslaught’ viral sets up the perfect image. The spot begins with a wide eyed, red-haired, very innocent, little girl staring at the camera. As the music begins, appropriately saying “Here it Comes,” the scene is filled with a montage of the beauty images that bombard young girls everyday and from every type of source. The viral begins relatively calm with images that are not deemed disturbing and are commonplace to most, however, by the end of the one minute and eighteen second spot, the viewer has been exposed to the sight of plastic surgeries, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia. The spot ends with the words “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does” scrolled across the screen (“Lippert”). Through this viral, Dove is trying to widen the discussion of beauty to the realm of mothers and daughters, as well as fight against media’s idea that there is one, unchanging standard of beauty, while in actuality, there are numerous standards. (“Wolf”). In today’s world girls are constantly shown images of super skinny, blonde, perfect women and there is pressure from all aspects of society for women to be beautiful and have a certain look. A lot of this idea is formed from the idea of heteronormativity, or a system in which heterosexual is the norm and women’s ultimate goal is to get a man. Included in this is the idea that a woman must beat other women to get a man by being the most beautiful (“Chernik”). The beauty industry adds fire to this idea by setting an unattainable standard for beauty for females across the world. The industry tells females everywhere, including young girls, that they need this product or that product in order to achieve the results that will ultimately help them reach this impossible standard.
While the ‘Onslaught’ viral is shining some light on the amount of negative images displayed to young girls in our society, there is also much negative debate about the viral’s use of words such as “younger, taller, lighter, firmer, tighter, thinner, [and] softer” throughout the ad, while the Dove brand itself produces products that do exactly those things (“Garfield”). How can a company portray these ideas as wrong and harmful to girls, yet sell products that take care of such problems? The company makes claims to be redefining the beauty standard and making an effort to move away from the beauty myth that currently plagues women in our society, however, by selling products such as wrinkle creams, the Dove brand is portraying that wrinkles are not beautiful and therefore need to be removed or reduced.
Since Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, there has been much criticism of the brand’s sincerity in producing this type of ad campaign. Dove’s parent company, Unilever, is also the parent company of products such as Axe, men’s body spray, and Slim Fast (“Consumer”). The question is, how can a company that seems so devoted to empowering women and creating a new definition of beauty also promote products such as Axe, a brand whose television and print ads exploit women as scantily clad, sex objects, and Slim Fast, a diet drink often used in yo-yo dieting, like that portrayed in Dove’s ‘Onslaught’ viral (“Garfield”)? The answer is it cannot. The company cannot support both the empowerment of woman through Dove ads, while exploiting them through other product ads. Dove appears to want to pull the “feminist” card when necessary to make women feel as though the company truly wants a positive view of beauty for women of all shapes and sizes, but when dealing with men, the same company uses perfect, size zero women as sex objects. I also feel it is important to remember that Dove is a company, and a beauty company at that and its main goal, like all companies’ goal, is to sell products. By producing ads such as ‘Onslaught’ Dove is bringing awareness to the world of the problems with the current view of beauty and the company may actually feel as though there needs to be a change in the definition, but whether they truly want to be the ones to change it is the question. There could be something of an ulterior motive behind Dove giving women those warm and fuzzy “real” beauty feelings. It is important for Unilever to pick a side on in this situation. This is not an issue in which a company can be positioned in the middle, a side must be chosen. While the people that purchase Dove products generally do not purchase Axe body spray and vice versa, I feel it is necessary for the public to be made aware that these two brands are owned by the same company, then the consumer can decide whether they want to support a company with unclear views.
Since Dove began its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, the brand has introduced new ideas into the world of beauty and is doing its part in bringing awareness to the world about the beauty industry’s unobtainable beauty standard. Dove has done this through print ads featuring models of all shapes and sizes, as well as virals such as ‘Onslaught’ and its first viral, ‘Evolution.’ However, there is much negative debate about how Dove, a company which sells beauty products can challenge the industry in which it is deeply involved. So, is Dove truly using its “real” beauty campaign as a way to bring attention to the flaws in the beauty standard, or is it using the idea of “real” beauty to play on the emotions of women for economic gain?

No comments: