In response to marketing research reporting that only 4% of women considered themselves to be “beautiful” (beautiful never being defined from what I can tell) Dove launched a worldwide marketing campaign: DOVE CAMPAIGN FOR REAL BEAUTY. Dove explained that the campaign is a response after LISTENING to women say they want something more human and authentic around the idea of beauty. The Campaign intends “to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.”
On April 14, 2013, Dove released a three minute video — DOVE Real BeautySketches — on all social media outlets. A police sketch artist draws women describing themselves and then draws a second sketch of the same woman as described by someone else. The Video went viral. The YouTube link alone has more than 56 million views. It is, apparently, the most watched video ad of all time.
I found it touching when it rolled into my email more than a dozen times on April 14th. Dove clearly touched a nerve with 56 million views. And I can see how people would look and roll their eyes. Most of the women in this video looked familiar — they looked like me or people in my life. There is nothing interesting about this video with respect to age, race, class or culture. There is nothing captivating about this with respect to body type.
People responded to these limits. But when you have the most viewed campaign of all time, maybe you think you don’t need to respond anymore. Or, more importantly, perhaps you decide you do not need to KEEP LISTENING. The Facebook post generated more than 17,000 comments, most of them raving but many sharing significant and valid criticisms. Dove actively responded personally to Facebook posts about this video that at first seemed impressive and then appeared disingenuous and canned the more I looked.
Keep listening is what I gleaned from this ad campaign — even (or especially) when you have wild success. Because when you keep listening, you may be able to see how to do it better, how to be more inclusive, how to touch a nerve in a different way. Keep listening and it could get really interesting.