Dove’s True Colors: beautiful or bad?

Here’s the thing: I use Dove.
I like Dove. I happen to think they make nice soap. And if they also
happen to put out some nice television ads, well, all the better. But
recently the brand and its Campaign for Real
Beauty
have come
under fire by critics who have cried hypocrisy because Dove is owned by the same
company that puts out, among many other things, Axe body spray. On
the one hand, positive messages telling young girls about having good
body image; on the other, sleazy messages telling young boys about bagging
hot chicks. Oh, the conundrum.

Dove’s latest ad, called
“Onslaught,” is interesting for many reasons. In the clip, an adorable
red-haired girl smiles innocently into the camera, only to be bombarded
with a montage of images urging her to look “younger, smaller, lighter,
firmer, tighter, thinner, softer.”

Now, I think that spot is kind
of genius. And it’s also pretty ballsy, considering Dove’s message
basically bites the hand of the body it belongs to, namely the beauty
industry. Of course, this isn’t the first time Dove’s Real
Beauty Campaign has taken on the beauty myth. Its last ad, “Evolution,”
was a time-lapsed look at what it takes to become billboard-perfect. Hint:
It’s not just diet and exercise.

And then, of course, there
was the ad that started it all. The ad that had me crying into my
bean dip during the Super Bowl in 2006. Also, did anyone else catch
Tina Fey
’s reference to the spot on last week’s 30 Rock? “It’s
like those Dove commercials never happened!” Priceless.

As you dab away your own tears,
consider this, Dove’s parent company Unilever also owns Axe (also
called Lynx, depending on the country). The body spray’s none-too-subtle
ad campaign features commercials with bikini-clad Amazonian models running
like wild animals on the hunt, drawn to the scent of some schmuck spraying
himself — and all with the tagline “Spray More, Get More.” Classy, really
classy.

So, the question is this: Is
all the good done by Dove cancelled out by the very bad done by Axe?
My take on is that, no, one does not negate the other. Those Dove
spots, while still ultimately trying to get you to buy more soap, have
a message that is undeniably positive. At least they are addressing
the problems inherent in the beauty industry and actively trying to
make a difference.

Also, I don’t think you can
necessarily hold one company responsible for the actions of another
company under its parent corporation’s umbrella. Unilever owns more
than 400 brands, ranging from Dove to Axe, Ben & Jerry’s to Slim-Fast
and Lipton Ice Tea to Sunlight dish soap. If one must protest, protest
to Unilever itself for having such a wacky combination of companies.
Or, better yet, to Axe for making such a stinky — in every sense of
the word — product.

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