The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Campaign For Real Advertising …
April 24, 2013, 6:10 am
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By now, everyone will have seen the recent Dove campaign and I’m guessing that you – like me – think it’s utterly, utterly brilliant.

But why is that?

Well, without doubt it’s a fantastic premise.

Intriguing, interesting and thought provoking.

It’s absolutely beautifully and brilliantly told, a perfect blend of grace and pace.

It gets back – after some fairly wrong turns – to the heart of the brands point of view.

But for me, the really brilliance of it, is because it’s real.

It’s based on a genuine truth and it’s delivered without being contrived or ‘addy’.

That said, there was one moment at the very beginning that made me a bit nervous.

It’s where the very first woman talks about how her friends have “rosy cheeks” whereas hers were “pretty ___________ plain”.

That pause between the words “pretty” and “plain” seemed very convenient, but it was expressed in such a genuine way, it didn’t distract you.

But all in all, I loved it.


A bloke.

A bloke from Nottingham, who has no hair and no sophistication.

Hell, even Ryan – one of my creative colleagues who aspires to be Chuck Norris’ lovechild – even adored it, and he only appreciates women who work at Hooters.

Trust me, when you get dodgy blokes AND the female target audience all feeling it’s power, then you know you’re on to something good.

No camera tricks.

No ‘cool sound track’.

No ‘shock tactic headlines’.

No ‘advertising twist that reveals the brand as the hero at the very end’.

Just a great truth expressed cleanly and clearly but with genuine warmth, compassion and meaning.

This is what great advertising is and what great advertising does.

It changes how you feel, behave and believe.

It disrupts your autopilot.

It affects you from the inside, out.

If shifts how you see things and how you approach things.

It stops you in your 100mph tracks – even if just for a few seconds – and makes you think.

It affects more than just the ‘target audience’, but anyone with a heart and emotions.

Not because it’s a ‘global human truth’, but because it’s global human understanding.

Understanding of our deeply held emotional flaws, secrets and insecurities … which highlights why anyone who says insights no longer matter is a fucking fool.

As soon as I saw it, I rang my wife and said, “you have to watch this.”

It made me want to pass it on and there wasn’t a hashtag – or associated social media hypefest – anywhere in sight.

In short, it let the work do the talking. And the spreading.

Of course some people don’t like it.

Some have accused it of reinforcing stereotypes [be white and stick thin] whereas others have said the methodology was wrong and so undermined the whole concept.

And while some of that is definitely true, in my mind they’re missing a fundamental point.

This is not about rational reality, it’s about emotional positivity.

Women are so surrounded by negative imagery that I find it amazing that people would criticise a brand that tries, even in a small way, to counter it.

Yes, Dove could, and should, have used more women from different cultural backgrounds … yes, Dove could, and should, have used women with more diverse ages and body shapes … yes, Dove still talk more about looks than character … and yes, Dove still have much more they can do [especially when they still make hypocritical products like this] however the issues they so brilliantly raise in this campaign are things that are deeply and emotionally affecting most women – regardless of age, culture or size [which is a major difference to some of Dove’s previous campaigns] – which is why I’m pretty certain the masses will be embracing the positives of the message rather than focusing on any potential negatives. At least initially.

And that’s why I find the issue that is raised regarding the methodology baffling.

Sure from a scientific experiment perspective it has issues, but this isn’t a scientific experiment, it’s a simple demonstration – around a very true insight – that many women often only see their flaws and so by highlighting how others see them in totally different and positive ways, it might help them to stop being so hard on themselves.

Seriously, it’s not a hard concept to grasp … and the use of the Forensic guy, however potentially flawed, is a twist that both intrigues and reinforces the point.

The very, very important point.

For me, the guy criticising the methodology is forgetting this is not about the process, but the result.

By his reckoning, maybe we should stop making films about Superman, Harry Potter, Winnie The Poo and Santa because they all embrace flawed logic.

Superman can’t fly, Harry Potter can’t cast spells, Winnie can’t talk and Santa doesn’t exist.

Maybe he would say yes, but maybe he is forgetting this is about motivating and engaging human beings, not robots or test subjects.

There are many things that can be thrown at this spot, but all in all, I can’t agree with most of them. At least not now.

If in the future, they fail to address some of the negative commentary – especially the lack of cultural, age and body diversity from an executional perspective – then people might have more of a point, but this is great work based on truth, not ‘advertising truth’ and it’s 1,000 times better than the usual shit put out by this industry. And, to a large degree, most of Dove’s previous campaigns promoting ‘real beauty’.

I don’t even think you can claim this is just an ‘ad’ because in my mind, it’s much, much more than that.

This is something that can genuinely affect people – and sales – in a positive way.

Something that will last longer than the few minutes it takes to watch.

For all the work done around Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’, this might be the one that embodies it most and best.

I love it and I’m insanely jealous of it.

Congratulations Ogilvy, you have set the standard you will now be judged by.

That might sound scary, but it’s not meant to be, it’s brilliant – especially coming from me, supposedly the most cynical and insecure man in the World.

What with this and the Marmite ad [which was definitely just an ad – but a bloody good one – despite what Mr Dodds might say], it’s been a pretty good month for showcasing the best of adland. Here’s to keeping it up, for all our sakes, especially our Bank Managers.



If you think I am waxing lyrical about the DOVE ad now, you should read what I said when Campaign magazine stupidly/kindly asked me what I thought about it, the day it came out.

Jesus, I don’t know if I’d be that enthusiastic if Forest made it into the Premiership – which I know they won’t so you can shut up about it – though I am rather happy they quoted me saying “It’s worth 10,000 episodes of Oprah”, if only for the fact three of my friends are such Oprah groupies, they will go fucking bananas when they read it.

48 Comments so far
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A brilliant campaign and a brilliant write up. I still question Dove’s commitment to their claimed cause, but if they do more of this standard of work and lose some of their blatantly contradictory products, I might change my mind. (I am assuming a separation from their holding company may be too much to ask. That is a shame because I find it especially hard to reconcile Dove’s cause when they are owned by the same people who make Axe.)
I hope the people at Dove are sending you a lifetime supply of their products. In addition to all the praise you are giving them, your “10,000 episodes of Oprah” comment is unquestionably fantastic. Over the top, but still fantastic.

Comment by George

You mean like their dove for men products? When I saw that, I was disappointed. It smacked of a company looking to make more money than fight for a cause. Of course they are, they’re Unilever, but that extension just undermines great work like this.

If I was their agency, I’d be telling Dove what they shouldn’t be doing as much as what they should. But it’s WPP, so money comes first.

Great campaign. Best I’ve seen this year and this is the best write up.

Comment by Pete

Yeah, the mens product range is horrible. I know there’s financial reasons for it, but that doesn’t mean there’s strategic reasons for it.

And don’t get me started on the skin whitening/cultural jail products …

As I’ve said many times, for all the talk companies give about the importance of strategy, I find it very funny [read: disappointing] how quickly they’ll ignore it when the chance to make a quick buck comes their way.

That shouldn’t detract from the brilliance of this ad, but it should serve as a warning for how to ensure they can build on it with real purpose. In fact, I’d love Dove a hell of a lot more if they did an ad saying “they’d fucked up” and products like skin whitening and mens range are being stopped.

It could happen. Unlikely, but it could.

Comment by Rob

are you forgetting what a certain google god told us about moral choice in business auntie?Bmaybe dove do the same inside planet unilever. except skin whitening shit doesnt really smack of “be happy with who you are” does it. pricks.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think one of the reasons people have suggested how it could have been improved is the simple fact that they recognise that it’s very good in the first place.

Comment by John

I’m not sure if I entirely agree with you John. Having read some of the criticism, their tone appears less supportive and more challenging. While there is some validity to what is being said, Robert explains the folly of their words (based on this single execution, not the overall campaign) with a swiftness that reveals he comes from a long line of barristers.

Comment by George

I would point out to my learned colleague that I said “one of the reasons”

And I would point out to Mr Campbell that I’m not paying $100 to subscribe to Campaign to make that link viable.

Comment by John


Comment by George

2 positive posts about 2 different campaigns in 2 consecutive days.

Who are you and what have you done with Rob Campbell?

Comment by Bazza

It has to still be him – who else would write so much?

Comment by John

Both points are very funny because they’re very true.

Comment by Pete

I’ve got manflu.

Comment by Rob

When Mrs Hill emails me at work “demanding” I watch this commercial, I know it is something that resonates deeply with women. It resonated deeply with me and I am entirely comfortable with the way I look and am perceived.

Negative comments about the companies product line and their holding companies hypocrisy are understandable. Negative comments about this execution are pettiness. Even Mr Cynic himself didn’t go there and if he didn’t, no one else should either. Though I do agree when Robert said that what they do next will be the demonstrate their commitment and learning from this wonderful spot.

A very powerful piece of blog praise Robert. I hope they reward you well for it.

Comment by Lee Hill

its fucking good. simple idea with an interesting angle and perfectly produced. but thats not why campbell is creaming his frilly fucking knickers over it. hes squealing like a bieber fan because the fuckers use a forensic artist and he thinks that justifies him blowing fuckloads of cynics cash so he could spend time with paul fucking britton.

youre so fucking transparent campbell.

and for the record, it doesnt. maybe it would if he wasnt tucking disbarred or whatever you call it, but he was so it doesnt.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s insight Andy.

Comment by Pete

Forensic inisght.

Comment by John

I shouldn’t laugh, but I did.

Not at Paul’s situation – that is terrible – but at your rationale for why I like this campaign so much.

Comment by Rob

I thought it stunningly good when I first saw it and watched it a few more times, and, it is stunningly good. And what a great crit. Fuck the begrudgers!

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

It’s brilliant. Gave me the best tips how to pick up chicks with low self esteem since I read the game.

Comment by Billy Whizz

unfortunately for you billy, dove doesnt make women blind or lose their sense of smell.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m very pleased to read how much you gentlemen have got in touch with your feminine side. I previously thought this blog was purely for the testosterone fueled, but no more. Congratulations.

I adore this commercial. I watched it a number of times and then asked my darling daughters to see it. What followed was a very pleasant and important conversation about the importance of self contentment.

I don’t know if I really trust Dove’s commitment to real beauty, but I trust them more than I did. Most of all, I’m glad it made such an impression on you men, because your gender are part of the reason women have such insecurities. It’s not entirely your fault, but you can take credit for a fair share.

Well done Dove. Don’t screw this up.

Comment by Mary Bryant

good fucking points mary. what a shame youre married to a man who buys birthday cakes of naked women. sexist prick. you deserve better mary. a lot better.

Comment by andy@cynic

Silly boy.

Comment by Mary Bryant

You won’t be surprised that I won’t be supplying the cake for your birthday tomorrow.

Comment by George

Happy birthday for tomorrow Andrew. I am sure it will be a sophisticated affair.

Comment by Lee Hill

Testosterone? Rob? Have you read his posts Mary?

Comment by DH

Good comment Mary. I hadn’t thought of how that spot could play in helping parents educate their daughters about the big, bad World. There’s a campaign right there. You should invoice them, I know the people you can send it too.

See you very soon.

Comment by Rob

It’s a great piece of work. It doesn’t need to shout about the product because everything about it tells you what the brand stands for.

It may not be watertight in terms of methodology, but really, when something is this spot on, who really cares?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

It’s an awesome ad. And here, an awesome piece about it. Awesomenesses.

Comment by Ant.

wait, big isn’t beautiful but nevermind, you’re not as big as you thought you were? empowering stuff alright

Comment by Lewis Rosa

I’ve liked the campaign ever since it launched. It was built on powerful insight, and set the brand totally apart from the ruck of ‘beauty product’ advertising.

It tells of a brand that is more concerned with ‘care’ than ‘cosmetics’, a brand that is more about ‘celebration’ than ‘transformation’. And this, of course, fits perfectly with its long ‘one quarter moisturising cream’ heritage of gentle performance. (No ‘pseudo-science’, no unfeasibly beautiful models in white lab coats needed here).

The brand name itself speaks of gentleness, purity and peace (in English at least, it seems the Chinese name makes no reference to the bird at all!)

This latest execution is terrific. But, as others have pointed out, there are a lot of contradictions in the Dove brand.

The ‘moisturising’ promise has never really sat well with their shampoo range, for example. Nobody wants ‘moist’ hair.

Dove for Men’s product range may be about ‘caring for your skin’, but the ‘beauty’ bit is a bit of a stretch for most blokes.

The Asian product range, with its emphasis on ‘whitening’ (in an underarm deodorant, for God’s sake!) do tend, to Western eyes at least, to contradict the ‘be happy with who you are’ theme …

I guess those are the paradoxes that come with being global in a world that’s still very local, and being under pressure to expand and grow as one of Unilever’s ‘megabrands’.

Over-ambitious localisation and aggressive brand stretching are the root causes of most of these problems. They really need to impose some limits, set some boundaries, if they’re going to keep the core promise intact. Be a shame to blow it through too many products that contradict the brand’s promise. They should perhaps kill a few of them off and, as you say, even tell people why.

Full points for the ad, though. A powerful restatement of intent. Nice job by all concerned.

(Rambling rant over).

Comment by Ian Gee

Thanks for the comment Ian. My issue with the skin whitening product range is not because I don’t understand the cultural context, it’s because I know they are exploiting the cultural context for their own gain.

White skin – as you know – has very significant meaning in many cultures here, meaning that basically puts many women in ‘cultural jail’ and so while they could claim they are helping these women feel they are an equal to others in modern society, the reality is they are acting in completely the opposite way to the premise of the ‘real beauty’ campaign.

Comment by Rob

This is an interesting aside to read on the consistency (or not) of the campaign in all places.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

My point exactly, Rob.

They can’t have it both ways. They can’t be saying things that are so fundamentally opposed, simply because of where they are.

I blame global brand management for letting local brand management get away with this. Somebody should have put their foot down and said ‘No. I know everyone else is doing it, but this runs counter to everything our brand is trying to stand for.’

But … it’s Unilever. Money trumps morality. As Bernbach so wisely said, ‘a principle’s not a principle until it’s cost you money’.

Comment by Ian Gee

By the way, doesn;t this also point to how you ‘do social’.
Do something good that provokes conversation.
I don’t see anything that invites me to participate either, but then again I do – that;s the whole strategy.
Partipation really doesn’t have to be bribed re-tweet or ulpload crap video of you teaching your kids to sing Yankee Doodle Dandy. It should be implicit. This film makes you a willing, fellow protagonist.

Comment by northern

What your comment shows is that you couldn’t be arsed to read all my ranting because I actually said that too.

What’s even worse [for you] is that this indicates we might think in similar ways. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be wearing Queen t’s and Birkenstocks!

Comment by Rob

The post reading I mean, obviously not sartorial preference

Comment by northern

Nice post and I agree with you, it’s a great campaign. I just don’t understands some of the rants against it on youtube, I genuinely think this ad has made more than one woman think. And not only women.

Speaking of extremely popular campaigns airing at the moment, it would be interesting to read your opinion about Evian’s new campaign with babies, which is going viral.

Anyway, this is my first comment here, so congrats with the whole blog, it provides some very interesting read. Andy@cynic’s comments are great too in their own way.


Comment by Stefo

Hi Stefo, congratulations [or commiserations] on your first comment, I hope it won’t be the last.

I liked the Evian ‘baby’ campaign when it first launched but now I just feel it’s one joke being dragged out in as many ways as possible. Of course, there’s lots of brands that accusation could be thrown at, but they don’t tend to get all this industry adulation like Evian do.

That said, I’ve had a killer of a day [yes folks, I’ve actually been working] so maybe my ‘review’ is bad because I’m in a mood.

And please don’t be nice about Andy, it will go to his head … though if you like them now, you’d of loved them when he actually came on here every day and basically held court. Then he became a Dad to a beautiful little girl and he realised he had better things to waste his time with, ha.

Comment by Rob

Ok, glad to know I’m not the only one who isn’t very enthusiastic about it.

Maybe I’m a little bit harsh too, but I can’t help considering it the Gangnam Style of advertising, if you know what I mean.

As of Andy, he seems to be already quite popular here, even without my support!

Comment by Stefo

“In their own way”.
A back handed compliment worthy of the master himself. Well done Stefo.

Comment by George

I guess we could refer to this as learning by reading him.

Comment by Stefo

You’ve just given Andy the perfect early birthday present Stefo.

Comment by Pete

i expect a fuckload more than that you tight fucks. im going on the most deserved family fucking holiday of 2013, so make sure you deposit all the birthday cash straight into my account by the time im back.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes you do Andy. Have a great birthday and holiday.

Comment by Pete

Happy early birthday el presidente. So good you’re all able to go on holiday together. What a difference a couple of months can make. God bless doctors. Have a great time. Beers when you’re back.

Comment by DH

I was going to mention they didn’t have any shocking mingers in the studio but actually it is a lovely way to remind people that not loving ourselves is a the easiest way to bring ourselves down. Can we do this for the Aston Marton iPad merchandise range?

Comment by Charles Frith

If the next post is full of positivity, I’m going to lose a lot of bets.

Comment by John

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