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Since the launch of its much-lauded campaign “Real Beauty” in 2004, personal care brand Dove has become synonymous with raising women’s self-esteem. That mission has now been taken forward as Dove calls on other brands to rid advertising of digitally distorted images.
“When you speak to a client or you are in a company, make sure that the imagery you are putting out is not full of distortion. Do not put it out,” said Firdaous El Honsali, Dove’s global vice president of external communications and sustainability in conversation with Adweek’s Brittaney Kiefer at Social Media Week Europe. “When you see the impact it is having on girls and women – it’s not worth it,” she pleaded.
Working with agency partner Ogilvy the Unilever brand has championed the use of natural images through its advertising.
The long-running strategy stemmed from research conducted in 2003 that found only 2% of women said they felt “beautiful.” That led the brand to focus on supporting the other 98% and challenging the way women were being portrayed.
In the nearly 20 years since, Dove has produced work focusing on a diverse range of women from different ethnicities, body shapes and more. Most are not professional models.
“We can’t just fix our advertising… we need the industry to come together and we need to create a big awareness,” she said, adding that social media has only exacerbated the problem. “One of the massive issues is that the next generation of women, by being pushed all this toxic content, was actually very anxious about their bodies and it was having a massive impact on them,” she explained.
This led to the creation of the Dove Self Esteem project which El Honsali said has now educated 82 million people around the world on body confidence. The brand has committed to reaching a quarter of a billion people by the end of the decade through the campaign.
A recent campaign from the brand called “Reverse Selfie” shows how easy it is for young people to alter reality when sharing retouched social media images of themselves. The reverse selfies distort preconceived notions of perfection.
“As a brand, our purpose is more relevant than ever,” stated El Honsali, who shared how else the brand is keeping it real. It is working with the Center of Appearance Research at the University of the West of England to ensure every social media tool is used to make a positive impact for women and girls. It is also working with the Association of Girl Guides and Scouts to talk about the issues of appearance anxiety around the world.
“It’s our responsibility all together as advertisers or in influencer agencies to make this change. It’s very simple,” she said, adding that the idea of doing away with digital distortion “has a massive impact when it is not happening onto our girls.
All of us want to see better representation – we need to be the advocates for it in our business,” she said.