Real beauty isn’t retouched says Dove

One company that’s earned credibility for its open and authentic approach to brand marketing and communication is Unilever for its campaigns for the Dove personal care product range.

Who can’t recall the ground-breaking Dove: Evolution video from 2006, showing image manipulation of a model for a cosmetics billboard ad? Or its in-your-face follow-up Dove: Onslaught in 2007, with its compelling tagline “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”? And other video ads that were part of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty?

Digiday reports on an imaginative approach from Dove Canada to directly address those who manipulate images in the beauty industry, offering a simple tool for Photoshop that gives users of the graphics editing software what looks like a simple and easy way to “beautify” their images:

[…] Dove Canada wanted to go directly to the source to those who create these retouched images: art directors, graphic designers and photo retouchers. So the brand, with the help of Ogilvy Toronto, created a Photoshop Action called Beautify.

Dove made it look like the action adds a nice “skin glow” to images but in fact, it undoes retouching in images to restore the female form to its original, natural state. Dove planted stories and links about this new free beautifying Photoshop tool on sites that art directors and photo retouchers visit regularly to get them to download the action and use it.

Dove Canada’s agency, Ogilvy Toronto, explains it in this short video:

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

The word ‘photoshopping,’ derived from use of the ubiquitous image-editing software, is part of the contemporary lexicon. Just about anyone you ask would have heard of it and know its general meaning – the manipulation and alteration of photos to make the subject look better, etc.

Manipulating photos to improve or change an image is as easy as pie these (digital) days. It’s nothing new and, certainly in the beauty industry, is a subject that has had its fakery exposed.

Maybe Dove’s approach might make a difference to behaviours and re-boot perceptions of beauty. You could even begin to trust again what you see in beauty ads.

I’d really like to think so.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Darren Barefoot

    And yet Unilever also owns Axe, whose branding and ads consistently feature bodacious, photoshopped babes.

    If Unilever actually wanted to commit to change standards of appearance, they would have done so with all their brands, not just the one where it was convenient and beneficial to do so.

    • Neville Hobson

      Therein lies a real dilemma, Darren. These are different brands, different teams different people, different goals. Different markets. Yet, the same ultimate owner. Ripe for criticism. Not seen much that’s made any impact, though.

      Should Unilever have done something for all their brands, as you suggest, and which clearly they haven’t? How does that fit from a CSR perspective, I wonder? Or just doing the right thing?

      • Darren

        It seems highly disingenuous when they position themselves as progressive under one brand and yet are demonstrably retrograde under another.

        The Dove campaign is, to me, a classic Rebel Sell. They are appearing to be counter-cultural, or to work against the grain, in order to be more attractive to consumers. Much as SUV makers first sold them on the promise of adventure, so Dove sells products on the promise of ‘authentic beauty’.

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