image1 image2 image3


How Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches' looks when it stands next to an Axe campaign

Dove came out with their 'Real Beauty Sketches' campaign recently, where an FBI trained forensic artist draws two sketches of a woman. The first sketch is based on a description given by the woman herself. And the second description is given by a close acquaintance of hers. The artist never sees the woman. When the two sketches are compared, the sketch of the description given by the acquaintance is more beautiful. This prompts Dove to say 'You're more beautiful than you think you are'. You can watch the video here:

This is a really nice concept. It has been wonderfully executed, has great recall, and has received a lot of good press. The only criticism can be that this looks more like a social experiment sponsored by Dove than an advertisement for the soap. Even this is not really a criticism. There are thousands of advertisements where the brand urges the audience to go out and buy the product and claims to be this and that, while the Dove campaign is at a higher level of abstraction. The kind of audience that will resonate with this ad is perhaps mutually exclusive from the one that appreciates in-the-face-advertising.

Dove, of course, is a Unilever product. Now let us take a look at an ad for another Unilever product - Axe:

Both the products are targeted at entirely different audiences and have their own merits. But you cannot miss the contrast in the message of the two ads.

When I know that Unilever is running campaigns like this for Axe and a campaign of 'Real Beauty' for Dove, I just don't feel that Unilever cares in the least. It is just getting ads out that it thinks will resonate with the audience. Not that that's a bad thing. But the plaudits for the 'Real Beauty Sketches' campaign must only be for the creative and the execution, and not because Dove is taking a higher ground when compared to its competitors.

What do you think?

Share this:



  1. Hi Kumar,

    I think it's very important that you illustrate how and why Dove marketed this to its target audience. This point -- this whole post -- is an excellent tool to inspire critical thinking about beauty marketing. I wonder if and how this commercial impacted/will impact Dove's sales. Do you have any predictions? I'm so glad you are bringing in social consciousness and ethics to the marketing discourse.

    I linked to this post in my own post in which I criticized Dove Real Beauty Sketches:


  2. Hi Ashley,
    Thank you. I read your post, and totally agree with you. This is just another marketing tool for Dove, and the message is clearly not how they actually feel.
    There was an AdAge study a couple of weeks ago on the reaction to this ad. The results showed that 70% of the people interviewed did not associate this ad with Dove until they were told. There may not be much of an impact on sales in the short term. Like the Oreo tweet during the superbowl, this campaign has received good press in marketing circles, but it might not have a similar effect on sales. I think Dove is hoping to create a more positive association in the minds of customers through this, and will see the impact on sales in the long term.


Subscribe to my mailing list