Consumer Group Can’t Be This Naive

It’s kind of cute. Apparently, the consumer group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood really thought the people who make Dove soap came up with their much-praised “Campaign for Real Beauty” for some reason other than to sell bars of soap. But the scales have dropped from their eyes all right! According to the LA Times:

A consumer group accused Unilever of hypocrisy Tuesday for running conflicting advertising campaigns — one for Dove that praises women and their natural beauty and one for Axe that the group said “blatantly objectifies and degrades” them.

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood launched a letter-writing effort on its website and demanded the company pull ads for the Axe line of grooming products for men, which one online pitch says makes “nice girls turn naughty.”

Unilever shouldn’t be commended for Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” while promoting products with a starkly different message, said Susan Linn, the consumer group’s director and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“The campaign says they’re going to help girls to resist a toxic marketing environment but they’re creating that environment as well,” Linn said.

Both campaigns are clever attempts to push the right buttons to stimulate their respective target audiences. In this case, there is probably zero overlap between the horny teenage boys who are supposed to buy Axe and the skin-texture-obsessed women who buy Dove beauty soap.

The consumer groups surely understand this. They’ve just found a good PR angle to draw attention to themselves, albeit by insulting the intelligence of the rabble they seek to rouse.

Nevertheless, a flack tries to keep Santa alive for another season:

Unilever spokeswoman Anita Larson said the Axe ads were clearly spoofs. The Dove campaign is serious, she said, and “dedicated to making women feel more beautiful.”

“Each brand effort is tailored to reflect the unique interests and needs of its audience,” she said.


Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” has been extolled by women’s groups and the advertising industry for its message that the beauty industry sets unrealistic standards for women. The company runs the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to educate girls about a “wider definition of beauty.”

An award-winning Dove video from 2006, “Evolution,” traced the transformation of an ordinary woman with blemishes into a billboard beauty, communicating that even supermodels don’t really look like supermodels.

Last week, Dove released “Onslaught,” a video juxtaposing images of young girls walking to school with shots of thin models in beauty magazines and TV ads telling women how to slim down or become prettier. The video, released on the Internet, ends with the line “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

Or before some guy spritzes himself with Axe in her presence.

Actually, if you had to compare campaigns, Dove’s might be disingenuous, but Axe’s is preposterous. All Dove wants you to think is that they are trying to change society to expand the notions of female beauty. I don’t think society is nearly as narrow-minded as Dove thinks it is. Some girls might feel pressure for a period in their lives to look like media idols, but eventually most women learn to accept themselves for who they are; and realize they are beautiful in the eyes of those who truly care about them. Those who don’t — those who become bulimic, anorexic or suffer depression about their appearance — need medical and psychiatric help, not a soap ad.

Axe, on the other hand, tells all young men — all of them — that, well…


If this doesn’t happen to you, see if Axe sends your money back. At least Dove doesn’t overpromise.


3 thoughts on “Consumer Group Can’t Be This Naive

  1. I think the idea of parents talking to their kids before the Britney-Xtina onslaught is a good idea. That means by the age of 4, girls should be fully prepped on what society expects from them for the next 25 years.

    The *Axe ad is pretty bad, not hip and has a typo.

    Sorry to be all lemons today… I’m just surfing thru… but the most important message is not to be found in Uni’s pedantic billboard/supermodel analogy. It’s actually easy for any of us to go to the store, the beach, anywhere on the westside and see women and men who do look like supermodels. That’s the key thing for me; that it does exist and it’s very real very competitive, but… developing mind and soul beats what’s available at the make-up counter.

    Anyway, agree with what you said… it looks like they more or less created a story and came out with a little free pub!

    *by an ad-reading female

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