Why Those Dove Commercials For Real Beauty Suck

Short answer? Because Dove sells beauty products.

Obviously, there’s been some controversy over this since we used a picture of the Dove commercial in our worst beauty ads of all time. I wasn’t really going to make a big deal out of it, and obviously it’s not one of the all-time worst beauty ads (tapeworms!), but wow, I guess people care about that commercial. According to commenter Martin:

I cannot belive you included the dove ad. This was a milestone in breaking down the stereotypes continually pumped out there. I work as a creative director in a global ad agency and i ask on what authority (and what part of your brain was damaged) do you have to inflict your stunted thinking on a world where advertising undermines the self image of women. In short, you have an ugly mind.

Well, Martin, I think it was very insensitive of you to make fun of my crippling encephalitis. But there is actually a reason I think those ads suck, other than the fact that I hate fatties and love stereotypes.

And that reason is (I’ll say it again) because Dove sells beauty products. They’re not there to promote real beauty, they’re there to sell you stuff. The Real Beauty ads continually remind me of the ads that Phillip Morris used to run which led me to believe that Phillip Morris didn’t want to sell me cigarettes, they just wanted to help my grandmother with her groceries. I found those ads insulting, and I find the Dove ones just as insulting.

Because if natural beauty was really where it was all at, then we wouldn’t need the firming cream they’re hawking. And the fact that these ads boldly declare “love yourself, you’re perfect just as you are!” and then say “now go buy this firming cream” seems like a completely contradictory message.

And the contradiction upsets me more than any normal ad does, because I feel as though they’ve tricked me. I’m going along thinking “yeah, I AM beautiful just as I am and then, wait, whoops, no, I need to go buy some firming cream.”  I don’t mind terribly when an ad features a beautiful model, because I get what they’re doing. But the fact that the Dove ads keep talking about real beauty only to reveal that your “real beauty” needs a firming cream, well, it seems like a total cheat. And it makes me feel that whoever thought up this ad thought that women were so dumb that if you showed them some curvy models, then women would buy just about anything.

The fact that commercials feature women of different body types along doesn’t make them body positive. They’re not selflessly put out there to make women feel better about themselves, they’re just a different way to sell beauty products. And the fact that people automatically assume they are body positive just because they feature women of different shapes makes me feel that obviously a lot of people don’t register insults to their intellect all that well.

Those ads are not there to make you feel good about yourself. There are books that do that. There are friends that do that. These are advertisements. And they are there to sell you stuff.

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    • melanie

      Right on! I completely agree with you. These ads are more insulting than anything

    • SamHain Press

      Even worse is the (relatively) unknown hypocrisy of the parent company (Unilever) once they’re marketing to a different part of the world:

    • eEv

      Agreed. And then there’s the unfortunate side-effect, which you were just now the brunt of, of the if-you-dislike-this-you’re-hating-on-nonskinny-women-and-thus-a-body-fascist. You know, if an ad has curvy women in it you HAVE to like it. It’s like saying that if you don’t care for Woody Allen movies then you’re anti-Semitic.

    • Kadi Prescott @DigitalKadi

      Standing O!! Let’s call a spade a spade.

    • Somnilee

      I don’t know. I mean, I know the purpose of advertising is to sell stuff, and in all honesty I’d rather be sold something by someone with a more natural figure than a stick thin model, especially for something like firming cream! Because really, we know those thin models don’t need firming cream, and everyone likes a little help now and again. I wouldn’t consider myself in any way fat (120lbs) and I do like to use things like firming cream to enhance my natural beauty, and it’s nice to do so whilst appreciating some natural body shapes along the way, personally.

      • Irene Turner

        I agree with you Somnilee. I do know that they want to sell me something, and I do want to enhance my natural beauty. And I want to know that they aren’t telling me that I will be thinner, younger more beautiful if I use their product, just the best that I can be.

    • fromabroad

      Amen! those dove ads were retouched by Dangin, the guy is a genius… that’s why those regular girls look prettier in the dove Ad, smooth skin and all. But hey, accept and love yourself just the way you are but don’t forget to buy dove firming cream! *lol*
      It’s a great campaign but I felt tricked as well, thanks for your post, I agree with you

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    • Felix

      The Dove campaign is an EXCELLENT idea.

      The reason being that Dove is using it’s ‘you’re beautiful as-is’ messages in order to create emotional rapport with women who feel they look ‘plain’ (ie 98% of all women), and to be seen as their FRIEND company’.

      It also creates the impression that Dove’s products create a ‘natural beauty’, not a fake one.

      All this induces the women to buy Dove products.

      At first sight, the campaign is counterintuitive, but when you think about it (and check out its sales), you find out it’s actually GENIUS!

    • MariaCaterina

      Everybody’s gotta make a living, son. And I’d rather the marketers use more realistic women whilst doing it, so our poor little children don’t all develop eating disorders. I think it’s good that they are peddling their wares in a way that is less harmful to body image.

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