Dove’s Beauty Sketches campaign was a huge viral sensation and so it should have been. It was a genius creation, a simple and effective storyline resulting in anyone who stumbled across it admitting to having a huge lump in their throat and reaching for the tissues by the end of it. The clip was shared over and over (and over and over) again, clocking up the video views to over 62 million hits, and that was just on YouTube. It wasn’t just a campaign; it was a movement, and the world wanted to be a part of it. We believed the message. We are more beautiful than we think. Globally we hashtagged it until we couldn’t hashtag it any more: #WeAreBeautiful, we said.
Like with any successful campaign it tapped into a universal insight: we (women) are often extremely self-deprecating but friends or even strangers wouldn’t usually hesitate to compliment us without a seconds thought. Dove raised the question: why aren’t we nicer to ourselves? Seriously? If a stranger can see all your best bits, then why can’t you? It was full of positivity and it wasn’t coated in a shiny commercial glossiness; it just a lovely story of a group of random women who made each other feel good about themselves. It had added layers to it as well, perhaps symbolising this digital era we live in and how the Internet has probably got us even more confused about how we should see ourselves and how we are perceived by others. We’re constantly tagged in good pictures, bad pictures, at different angles, using different filters – we are constantly nitpicking at our worst bits online and offline. To realise we are “not too bad after all” and laugh (through tears) at our ridiculous nature of inwardly bullying ourselves is a lovely sentiment to share. It was a communal “what are we like” eye-rolling moment. There’s a reason the video was the most watched online advert of all time.Dove appeared authentic and nurturing, the way we want it to be, from a much-loved brand that is as old as our grandmothers.
So with Dove’s audience being primarily women, and clever, feisty intelligent women at that, I was slightly disappointed by the new advert and this introduction of Dove Beauty “Patches”. Dove’s fictional RBX patch is a product that they stick on their arm “for 12 hours” that aims to change the women’s perception of themselves. It felt instantly negative and clinical to me. Sharing compliments, or talking about beauty or inspiring each other I totally understand – but to give the girls a made-up cosmetic product and then gently deceive them into thinking differently? It sort of suggests that women need to be tricked into feeling good about themselves. Trickery is the opposite of what women need; we are consistently being tricked by the media, bad ex-boyfriends, mannequins, models, incorrectly sized pieces of clothing, Topshop changing room mirrors… Being tricked is at the very heart of all our body hang-up woes. Slapping on a patch because you’re “not feeling very pretty today” instantly suggests that there is an illness and there is a cure. It all seems a bit extreme, like these ladies need to get off smoking on 40 fags a day. There is nothing wrong with us Dove! We just feel a bit tubby and unsexy sometimes! We are happy with being mini Lena Dunhams!
It also seems slightly odd that any young girl would take an unknown “drug” even from a well-known brand such as Dove. Leading psychologist Ann Kearney-Cookeruns the experiment and tells the girls that the RBX patch is a new “revolutionary product” that will increase their confidence. Yup, it’s all about the products again. However the patch itself turns out to be a placebo and it is an experiment for the girls to see if they are relying on the patch in order to help them “feel more beautiful”. What’s in the patch, they ask? Nothing, Dove says. Cue the water works – but this time it felt really quite sad, the realization that we need to rely on something so physical on our bodies to feel beautiful. To me, that’s different from genuinely believing it.
Sadly Dove Patches does not deliver along the same lines as Dove Beauty Sketches. Even though the girls are “real” (i.e not actresses) there is a strong testimonial feel to it and sadly this means it appears inauthentic. It conjures up assumptions that women are addicted to being their own worst enemy, that we need “a patch” to physically brainwash ourselves into thinking we are “beautiful”. It’s not like we need to go to rehab and get dosed up with radioactive patches every time we think “ah, my hair is flicking the wrong way today”. Brands need to do an even bigger job of being on a level with their consumers especially with the rise of social media, everyone and everything is exposed. We can see straight through a glossy advert that just wants to sell. If Dove wants to rebel against the beauty stereotypes, it needs to be something a lot more rough and ready next time. Not an ad that replicates a hair-flicking, pearly-white smiling Dream Phone advert from the 90’s.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a great message and I applaud the people behind the idea – but as soon as we turn the topic of beauty into a big, no holds barred honest conversation rather than something that can only be cured by cosmetics it will be brighter future for everyone.