Unilever’s Low Expectations


A friend of mine recently posted the latest Dove commercial, the one about the ‘beauty patch’, saying he wasn’t sure what to think about it and soliciting feedback from his FB friends. I won’t post the video here, as I don’t want to give Dove/Unilever any additional shares or views (few as they may be, coming from this largely invisible blog). You’ve probably seen it anyways, as they’ve bought a ridiculous amount of YouTube ad time.

The fact that this friend approached the ad with some uncertainty and trepidation, and needed support from his online community, shows two things: 1. This friend of mine is essentially a person of good character and substance (something I already knew); 2. Dove’s advertising team is so good at convincing you of their self-proclaimed positive image that even those of great character and substance can be made to doubt themselves upon exposure to their media.

This friend got the support he was looking for, in such intelligent and thoughtful comments as:

Women’s self-image issues are not a medical or cosmetic condition to be fixed by a placebo. This is a “just think happy thoughts” commercial, and that’s a sick way to deal with people who face real social pressure to conform to totally unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. Women who suffer from traumatic self-esteem issues are not the cause of their own misery.


From a sociological point of view, Dove is reinforcing problematic associations of women’s self-esteem with beauty, individualizing that relationship, and centering the responsibility for self-esteem on women... Despite saying women are beautiful no matter what, they are reinforcing the association between beauty and confidence, which may lead women to question their worth if they find that they do not meet cultural standards of beauty.

I really wanted to weigh in on this conversation, but found myself unable to for at least a day or two due to the fact that viewing that commercial actually made me temporarily a little bit stupider. I finished watching it and was like, “uhhhhhh… what?” Seriously, have you seen this piece of garbage?

The entire commercial is based on the premise that women in general are extremely freakin’ stupid and gullible. Or are they trying to make the point that women are so incredibly desperate to be more beautiful that they would believe anything? Seriously. Beauty patch? Who would ACTUALLY believe that’s a thing?

I mean, I’m sure there are some people out there gullible enough to fall for it (as evidenced by the number of commenters on YouTube saying they wish they could buy the product), but the apparent diversity of women in the commercial suggests to me that Dove thinks you could hand this BS to any woman and she’d fall for it.

Dove isn’t encouraging positive self-images for women, but rather selling a positive image for themselves. If people feel Dove is a good company with high morals, they are more likely to purchase their cosmetic products over those of some other company, like soaps, shampoos, and even more frivolous and unnecessary ones like firming creams or anti-blemish agents. Look, if they were really interested in promoting ‘natural’ beauty, would they even sell something like a firming cream to begin with? No. But they do, because they aren’t interested in promoting a healthier body image for women, but rather in making money. Because they’re a corporation. It’s what they do.

There’s a high demand for things like firming creams, because for most women, self-esteem is still linked to outward beauty, and where there’s a demand, corporations will step in to make money off of it. Dove isn’t some benevolent force trying to make the world a better place, they’re a corporation trying to make money, and they’re doing it by cleverly convincing you that they’re morally superior, and that you’re contributing to the world in a positive way by buying their products. But you’re not.

You’re rewarding Dove’s ‘natural beauty’ campaign with increased sales and broad social acceptance of their view on women’s self-worth, which reinforces the link between women’s perceived beauty and their self-esteem, which causes women to feel inferior when they don’t match up to cultural expectations of beauty, which causes them to buy Dove’s products to feel more beautiful, which encourages Dove to put out more ‘natural beauty’ ads, bringing us back to the beginning of this marketing circle that results in continued monetary success for the corporation.

You know, Dove, maybe I’d be more willing to purchase your product if you didn’t treat me like a complete idiot. Just sayin’.


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