How Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Ushered in New Age of Female Empowerment

Mallory Russell / July 9, 2014

Dove-Real-Beauty-CampaignAs Dove celebrates the tenth anniversary of its Campaign for Real Beauty, the video space is finally seeing the effects of its influence with a recent outpouring of female empowerment-themed campaigns.

From Always’ #LikeaGirl to Pantene’s #ShineStrong and #NotSorry and GoldieBlox’s The Princess Machine, Dove’s decade long campaign to encourage positive body images in women is still the gold standard of female empowerment.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty sprang from a singular insight found in a 2004 global study: only 2% of women around the world described themselves as beautiful. To address this issue, the brand created a campaign that was groundbreaking in its definition of beauty. It’s first print campaigns used real women in a number of shapes, sizes, and colors – without airbrushing or photoshopping – which caused quite a stir in the process.

The goal of the campaign was, and is, to celebrate the differences in women’s bodies and inspire women to be comfortable in their own skin. But in its use of non-traditional models, Dove also made its campaign the centerpiece of ongoing debate about how society views women, their appearances, and their value.

This tradition of debate is something that Dove instills in all of its videos. Debate was at the core of the brand’s most viewed campaigns, Real Beauty Sketches (141.9 million views) and Patches (58.3 million views). In both cases, viewers were split on their opinion of the Dove message – some found it inspirational and comforting, while others found it patronizing and hypocritical in its teaching that beauty is still paramount in judging women.

Whatever way viewers chose to interpret the message, it is undeniable that this debate drove media coverage, buzz, and increased viewership for these video and the brand. The increased debate around issues of female empowerment has also paved the way for other brands to join in the conversation.

“For us it’s always been about women and tackling stereotypes so they can reach their full potential. This is a big job and we’ve never said we can do it alone—quite the opposite,” Rob Candelino, vp of marketing at Dove, told Adweek. “We want the discussion and debate in society so that we can arrest and stop and hopefully reverse negative and narrow depictions of beauty…We invite everyone to play a role. It’s not about us; it’s about our women.”

Here are some of the best examples of how Dove has inspired other brands to empower women through video:

Always’ #LikeaGirl
True Reach® of 29 million views
The Female personal care brand is the latest to embrace female empowerment in its videos. It released a heart-warming ad campaign challenging the notion that to “throw like a girl” is somehow a bad thing.

Pantene’s #NotSorry
True Reach of 4 million views
This campaign sheds light on the tendency of women to over-apologize in unwarranted situations. The ad starts out with different scenes where women apologize for something, and then later the same scenes are reenacted, with the women rephrasing what they said in an unapologetic way. The video was a follow up on the brand’s hit from last year,  #WhipIt.

Hello Flo’s Full Moon Party
True Reach of 25.2 million views
In First Moon Party a girl fakes her first period to fit in with her friends. Discovering this, her mom decides to throw her a party, much to the horror of the girl. Cue the laughs. Last year the brand stunned audience with its frank talk about the female anatomy in Camp Gyno.

GoldieBlox’s The Princess Machine
True Reach of 11.8 million views
Toy startup GoldieBlox told girls that they don’t have to play princess, they can play engineer and inventor in this ode to Rube Goldberg.

Lean In’s Ban Bossy
True Reach of 3.1 million views
The Sheryl Sandberg led organization released a video that encourages girls to aim for leadership roles without fear of gender discrimination. The video talks about women being belittled for their ambitions with words like pushy, stubborn, and bossy.

The influence of Dove – to discuss and debate issues around gender –  can be seen in these videos and many others. So to celebrate this influence and the 10th anniversary of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, we’ve created a list of the campaign’s top 10 videos by viewership.

To compile this list, we looked at every Dove campaign and ranked their performance by our MRC accredited True Reach metric. True Reach combines the brand-driven viewership and audience-driven viewership, which include copies and derivative content like responses, spoofs, mixes, and mashups. This list is current as of July 9, 2014.

Which Dove campaign is your favorite? How do you think the brand has influenced the branded video space? Let us know in the comments.


Dove’s Top 10 Real Beauty Video Campaigns

Real Beauty Sketches
True Reach: 141,971,198 views
Ogilvy & Mather Brazil
True Reach: 58,374,502 views
Ogilvy & Mather Brazil
True Reach: 54,434,293 views
Camera Shy
True Reach: 20,666,301 views
Ogilvy & Mather London
True Reach: 8,335,742 views
True Reach: 6,893,716 views
Thought Before Action
True Reach: 1,645,222 views
True Reach: 714,738 views
Ogilvy & Mather Toronto
Women Who Should Be Famous
True Reach: 494,483 views
Mindshare Canada
The Most Beautiful Woman
True Reach: 365,330 views


Tags: Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove, Female Empowerment, Girl Power, patches, Real Beauty Sketches, Visible Measures,