There has been a debate raging recently about the true intentions and social conscience of Uniliver the parent company of such brand’s as Dove and Axe. As most of us know Uniliver is a power house. They are global and own many of our household brands. The debate is really quite simple, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty vs. Axe’s stereotypical offensive beauty advertising. Dove encourages and promotes self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love. Axe encourages…well…adolescent male fantasies really.
Critics are crying foul and proclaiming that Unilever is hypochritical by using the very form of beauty advertising with their Axe brand that Dove warns against. In a recent article in the Toronto Star Jennifer Wells gets on the anti-Unilever band wagon warning consumers against this money hungry monster, Unilever, and its wicked ways. She looks at it as black and white and as us, the lowly, ignorant consumer as the victim of this evil trick. How could they?! In her argument she believes that there is a choice. "Unilever could broadly align itself with [bringing societal change to modern perceptions of beauty]. Or it could pretend, as it has before, that Dove exists in isolation."
OK. Whoa. I don’t know about you but this lowly consumer may be a bit dissappointed in some of the other Unilever brands but does this take away from the power of what Dove is doing? The risk this brand took was still huge and I respect that. My hope is that if Dove continues to be successful with The Campaign for Real Beauty, The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, and The Dove Pro-Age campaign it will influence the industry. But remember, this campaign is still breaking the rules. It is still relatively new and, after all, Unilever is a BUSINESS. As a consumer I am fully aware that Dove is attempting to relate to me to SELL ME A PRODUCT. However, I feel much better buying a product that stands for something I believe in because, after all, I am a consumer and I will be buying.
And really, wasn’t this whole thing started by a bit of a case of sour grapes? Jennifer Wells refers to the increasingly popular YouTube video by Rye Clifton, a strategic planner for an advertising agency. Clifton’s spoof of the Onslaught video mashes together the original with images of stereotypical beauty advertising exlusively from Unilever’s Axe brand campaign. He definitely gets his point across and it is a strong argument. Axe has a long way to go to get in my good books however, I’m still not sold. It just reminds me of the kid in High School who was smart and kind, good looking and athletic. Everyone knew he/she was going to be successful and we all wanted to be friends with him/her yet there was an underlying resentment. Jealousy or something. A need to knock that cocky asshole down a few notches. You know?
And then, to top it all off, at the end of her article Jennifer Wells self-righteously calls us all to action against the evil marketing machine by stating, "The conversation is getting rolling in many places. Rye Clifton has done his bit. Now it’s over to you." Well, I guess she got me going anyway.
Dove took a huge risk as a brand and despite the fact that marketers and consumers alike had their doubts in the beginning it has continued to propel the brand forward. It is award winning and really one of the most talked about and respected brand campaigns around. Hopefully Dove’s message will impact the Unilever organization as well as the whole beauty industry. Unilever has some work to do on their other brands for sure but I don’t think that eliminates the risk they took and continue to take with Dove. Consumers are not stupid. We know that Dove is not a non-profit simply doing good for the sake of it. Advertising is a manipulation but personally, knowing this, I would rather have one brand that took a stand and represented my values then none.
Check out both the original Dove Onslaught video and Rye Clifton’s spoof and tell me your thoughts in the comments below. Oh, and I just couldn’t resist including a freakin’ hilarious but politically incorrect spoof of the Dove Evolution video last.