Unlike other companies that are concerned with being environmentally conscious and morally sound, Dove has been paving their social responsibility path with their campaign for real beauty. Launched in 2004, The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty was in response to a study conducted about beauty that found that the definition of beauty had become “limiting and unattainable.” Dove strives to create an open conversation about the perceptions of beauty among all girls and women, as well as feature women with “real” bodies and “real” curves in their advertisements. Their mission statement declares that “Dove® is committed to building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential.” Therefore, they wanted to expose their consumers to women with bodies just like theirs, and that we shouldn’t all strive to be one idealized prototype of beauty.
Dove’s first advertisement for the Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 featured real women whose appearances didn’t align with the “ideal beauty” type. The ads then asked viewers to vote on whether the women were “oversized or outstanding?” and “wrinkled or wonderful?” Dove was already trying to initiate change in the beauty industry by utilizing women that aren’t professional models or actresses. The video I featured above is a short film released in 2006 that illustrates how unrealistic our perceptions of beauty can be by documenting the transformation a model undergoes for an advertisement before it is released to the public. The campaign instantly became viral with millions of hits on YouTube and features on shows such as “Ellen” and “The View.” Not only that, but Dove’s ‘Evolution’ advertisement also won an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Although a great accomplishment professionally, Dove was more proud of the fact that the message is hitting home.
However, even with all the publicity, Dove’s sales were not improving. While it is nice to think that Dove started this campaign to really try to make beauty “a source of confidence, not anxiety,” the bottom line is that Dove is still owned by a larger corporation, Unilever, and they need to generate a profit. Hub Magazine speculates that sales might not be improving due to the fact that “Unilever also is behind the arguably misogynist advertising for the Axe brand and smell hypocrisy.” As a result, Dove’s whole campaign for real beauty seems to be crumbling before their eyes. It isn’t generating them any profit, and underlying motives are beginning to emerge. As a result, Unilever altered the Real Beauty campaign website by increasing the prominence of Dove products in their advertisements. Again, this is just proving to consumers that perhaps their campaign was just for making money after all.
While Dove has redefined corporate social responsibility, they haven’t exactly fully committed to their campaigns. I understand that all corporations have to make some money in order to survive as a business, but Dove can still pursue their social responsibilities without coming off as a money-hungry corporation. If they hadn’t abandoned ship so quickly when they realized their campaigns weren’t immediately generating any profit, consumers might be less skeptical about Dove’s underlying motives for their campaign. Hub Magazine suggests that Dove needs to stop thinking about their campaign as an advertisement but as a movement. A movement requires contribution from all parties involved, not just the corporation; therefore, with increased participation from the consumers, like in their first campaign, a sense of trust can develop. Nevertheless, I feel like I’d be naive to believe that such a relationship can exist, especially with a large corporation such as Dove (Unilever). While I don’t believe that Milton Friedman was right about the notion that the only social responsibility a corporation owes to a society is to generate profits, it does appear as if it is a corporation’s chief responsibility.