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Dove Real Beauty Sketches is a video advertisement released in April 2013 as part of the personal care brand Dove’s Real Beauty ad campaign. The video shows forensic artist Gil Zamora drawing sketches of seven women based on their self-description of facial features, which are then compared to a second set of sketches based on the recollection of a stranger the subjects had spoken to earlier that day. As of May 20th, 2013, the ad became the most viewed commercial video on the Internet with more than 114 million views in aggregate.
On April 14th, 2013, Dove uploaded six videos realting to the Real Beauty Sketches campaign to their YouTube account, doveunitedstates. The videos included the overview video in a three-minute (shown below) and a six-minute version. The other four videos focused in on the experience of three of the subjects, Florence, Kela and Melinda, as well as sketch artist Gil Zamora. Within the first week of upload, the video gained nearly ten million views.
Real Beauty Campaign
Dove’s Real Beauty campaign first launched in 2004 with videos, commercials and print ads intended to celebrate physical variation in women. The campaign used images of six women (shown below) with different skin tones and body types posing in white underwear, suggesting that women do not have to fit in to model ideals or stereotypes to be beautiful. In 2005, Dove’s sales went up 20%. It was in part inspired by a study completed in September 2004 by researchers from Harvard, the London School of Economics and market research group StrategyOne that found only 2% of the 3,200 women surveyed described themselves as “beautiful.”
Within five days, the video was shared on Facebook more than 1 million times and tweeted about more than 22,000 times. On April 15th, it was shared on the women’s interest subreddit /r/TwoXChromosomes, where it gained 175 upvotes and 135 points overall. In the following days, Zamora’s sketches (shown below) )were picked up by several online and mainstream news outlets, including Huffington Post, E! Online, TIME NewsFeed, ABC News and Yahoo! News.
On April 17th, the first parody of the advertisement was uploaded to YouTube by newfeelingstime, reenacting the video from a male perspective, in which self-esteem is not a problem. The parody clip was featured on Neatorama, Laughing Squid and AdWeek.
Though the video was generally perceived as a positive piece, many bloggers began to note their criticisms of the ad as early as April 16th. That day, Tumblr blogger Jazz Brice posted a lengthy critique, noting that although the video does include people of color, they are only on screen for approximately 10 seconds in the longer version of the ad. The post also noted the emphasis on “thin” as a positive descriptor, a point emphasized the same day on Feministing. Brice’s post was featured on The Daily Dot the following day. Also on the 17th, blogger Kate from Eat The Damn Cake emphasized the ageism behind some of the traits deemed negative, including moles and wrinkles. Over the next two days, the controversy surrounding the manner in which the video depicts beauty was discussed on Psychology Today, New York Magazine, Salon, Parade and AdWeek.
Ad Message Disputed
On May 21st, 2013, Scientific American published an article titled “You Are Less Beautiful Than You Think,” which argued that the Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign is factually misleading when compared to a series of empirical evidence based on psychological research. In a study conducted by Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia and published in 2008, the researchers concluded that people tend to possess inflated perceptions of their own physical appearance in comparison to their assessment of strangers, a general psychological phenomenon known as “self-ehhancement.” Similar to the forensic sketching process in the advert, the study subjects were photographed and then asked to identify the unmodified version of their portraits from two computerized versions that are more or less flattering.
Laughing Squid – Dove Real Beauty Sketches For Men, A Parody by New Feelings Time
Feministing – “Dove Real Beauty,” self-esteem, and One Direction
Eat The Damn Cake – the problem with the dove real beauty sketches campaign
Psychology Today – What’s Wrong With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign?