branding the new impossible beauty ideal is nothing new

following up on the smash success of its award-winning “evolution” ad, dove unleashes “onslaught“:

much like the evolution ad, which shows the intense makeup and photoshop augmentation of an image of an average woman and at the end offers, “no wonder our perception of beauty is distorted,” while directing viewers to take part in dove’s Real Beauty workshop for girls, the new ad–aimed at the same north american audience–warns viewers (ostensibly parents, but perhaps every woman’s inner child) to “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” the spot likewise ends with a plug for dove’s self esteem fund:


The Dove Self-Esteem Fund is a national resource established as a link to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, a program aimed at changing the current, narrow definition of beauty. We believe that to make a real difference, we must take action and contribute in ways that will help women and girls celebrate their individual beauty.”


of course when dove claims to “change the current narrow definition of beauty” they only aim to do so….narrowly. unilever, which is responsible for dove, also sells the fair and lovely “skin whitening” product to areas of the world where a dark complexion means you’re not getting invited to the “individual beauty” celebration:

and see, what you think you’re seeing here is a contradiction….but the reality is you’re not. although, no doubt, it’s easy to get confused about how that could be.

the same way that light skin is now a beauty ideal in india, being–as the national youth anti-drug media campaign would call it–“above the influence” of the beauty industry is the new beauty ideal in north america. the new unattainable beauty standard is the transcendent personal victory over the distorted beauty ideal itself. as viable an achievement as a victory in the war on drugs or giselle’s body.

unilever is, in fact, selling just as equally an unrealistic standard in both messages. considering that dove is about as much a “beauty” (or is it “nonbeauty” now?) product as fair and lovey–which is essentially just sunscreen, more or less–is a “skin whitener” it makes perfect sense that the messaging likewise would actually be so consistent. and in the case of the north american version, unsettlingly prescient.

as someone who’s worked in fashion PR, i can verily attest that ain’t no one hates the folks in the fashion and beauty industry more than they hate themselves. will all that self-loathing one day be enough to launch a whole “war on beauty?”

if it is, i’m sure dove films will be winning awards for its PSAs.


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