A few years ago I hit you with a short blog about a new Dove ad that wasn’t really so much a commercial as a teeny docu-commentary. It examined how women were judging themselves in overly critical ways, and it stated in calming and thoughtful ways that they needn’t worry so much about the twig-thin “perfect” model beauty standards being set up by the advertising world. Instead, the commercial suggested women should concentrate on the inner and outer beauty that was uniquely their own. (While using Dove products, of course.)
Well, the folks at Dove have done it again.
Through a very simple concept—two building entry doors, one labeled “beautiful” and the other “average”—women are given, in a sense, the chance to quickly “label” themselves. Their on-the-spot reactions and a few taped after-entry interviews speak volumes.
In one scene, for instance, a young mother who chose “average” asks, “Am I choosing because of what’s constantly bombarded at me? What I’m being told that I should accept? Or am I choosing because that’s what I truly believe?” In another, a mom drags her daughter toward the “beautiful” door with a look on her face that says, “Of course this is where you should enter.” And in another shot, a young woman balks at the idea of being forced to choose a label and turns around and walks away, avoiding going in the building altogether.
In fact, all of the ad’s short shots deliver an emotional impact whether you’re a woman or a man watching. And it’s not even the “beautiful” or “average” labels (’cause, hey, average doesn’t have to be all that bad!) that strike us so much as the fact that it’s so easy to recognize how we all tend to beat ourselves up thanks to everything we’re being fed on the consumer and social media front.
Political scientist Stephan Leacock once called advertising a “judicious mixture of flattery and threats.” And when we’re told by our consumer-focused surroundings that we’ve got potential (if we buy the right products) but we’re still not chiseled enough, pretty enough, tall enough, curved enough or thin enough, Mr. Leacock’s assessment (from the early 1900s, by the way) feels pretty spot on.
With that perspective, these Dove commercials start sounding less like a pitch for beauty products and a bit more like, well, Confucius doing some musing. That wizened Chinese philosopher once said, “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” So maybe these ads could be thought of as a sell-job of the superior sort.