The Most Responsible Ad On The Internet

A message from Dove:

Women are their own worst beauty critics. Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. At Dove, we are committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. So, we decided to conduct a compelling social experiment that explores how women view their own beauty in contrast to what others see.

If they were people, mirrors would be appalled. I've never met one I didn't stare at. Often, I'm trying to stare away a flaw that I can't wash away with a bottle of Nutrogena--protruding brow, lips that seem bigger today than yesterday (what the frick?), or a jaw line that I can't decide is prominent enough. We're all notorious critics of ourselves, and our ability to cut ourselves down shines no brighter than when it comes to how we look.

Obviously Dove's messages are part promotion. Their business is soap, not empowerment. However, any advertiser has the power and the responsibility to create messages that change how we see the world and ourselves. As society and culture go through or are on the verge of change, advertisers have the opportunity to promote a product from the platform that social and cultural change provide. In light of the gay marriage debate, many businesses including Oreo, Target, JCPenny and Gap produced ads that all supported gay pride. The conflict of interest in promoting their products to a wider audience is a given. As a gay man, I don't feel bad about possibly being exploited. The nature of capitalism is to get people to want your business, and if straight people are getting those messages, then I want them to. The slew of ads put out by those companies made me feel included, which is critical in fostering happiness.

You could say Dove is creating a similar sense of inclusion with their ads. Their efforts to encourage natural beauty are not unknown, nor do they ever go unnoticed. They have a business to promote, but some of the ads make me wonder whether they're promoting natural beauty for the sake of their business, or promoting their business to for the sake of natural beauty. With the above video especially, the company features our collective anxiety about physical appearance in a way that is refreshing and uncommon. Not once does a bar of soap or a bottle of shampoo appear on screen. It is as if the company is using its media clout to relieve that anxiety by improving our perceptions of our physical selves.

You could say Dove is exploiting our desire to feel good about how we look. People love being told they're more beautiful than they think they are. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally gotten into a serious relationship under similar pretenses.

What we've got to remember is that even if Dove is being tricky, there are plenty of advertisements that manipulate us into thinking we're not good enough and therefore need their products to be better. Dove's campaign to sell their products is different because they're not urging us to give them our money. Instead, the urgency is placed on loving the bodies and faces we were born with. That's not just good advertising; it's refreshing and responsible.

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