We juicily extract the essences of meaning from campaigns intended to sway your thoughts, part you from your cash, and cream your body with potions.
Yesterday we discussed a marketing campaign that has captured the attention of writers from The Wall Street Journal to The Huffington Post, plus a boatload of bloggers, who wax on mightily about beauty. And propaganda.
In mid-April, Dove soap unveiled a new segment of its campaign to shift attitudes about beauty.
The campaign kicked off with a video-short launched on Facebook and Youtube that, to date, has been watched more than 26 million times.
I repeat: 26 million times. That’s the equivalent of the population of Texas.
Marketers at Dove hit the mother lode.
The well-executed video-short looks like a documentary rather than an ad.
In the video a group of real women–not models or actors—speak with an artist—Gil Zamora–schooled in forensic science who sketches their portraits based solely on the women’s descriptions of themselves—Zamora doesn’t see their faces.
The artist then chats with folks who have just met the women—they don’t know them intimately—and they also offer up descriptions of the women.
Zamora draws a second portrait based on the strangers’ descriptions.
The video climax shows the reactions from the women when they see their portraits side-by-side in a sunny San Francisco loft.
The portraits based on narratives of themselves show mean, brow-furrowed and light-lipped women.
In contrast, the strangers’ descriptions reveal warmer, brighter and open faces.
The video ends with the women talking about what the experience reveals.
“I should be more grateful of my natural beauty,” says one.
Do you think you’re more beautiful than you say, the artist asks.
“Yeah,” she replies.
Viewers are moved by the divergence between how we see ourselves and how others see us, shown materially and dramatically in the portraits.
When I ask the students what the campaign says about beauty they are practical and cynical.
Look, at the heart of the matter is the business of sales, one student remarks.
Dove sales rose in 2005 after it launched the initial campaign to re-define beauty.
So, I ask, has Dove re-defined beauty?
All Dove has done is enlarge the postage stamp definition of beauty, say the students.
But it’s still beauty viewed through a narrow lens of mostly slim, youthful and blue-eyed women.
The new definition may be broader but it’s still small enough to fit inside a small envelope.
See the Dove video-short at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk
Image from Adweek, rendering by Gil Zamora