It’s hard for me to say, but I think I may be a cynic. This is not a statement I make lightly, indeed I very much dislike those who love nothing more than finding fault, pointing fingers and generally being dream killers. For awhile I thought I may have finally curbed my cynical tendencies, and you know what? It actually felt really good. But then, last night, I saw an advert on tv which filled every inch of my being with such intense dissonance I nearly choked on my tea. Let me tell you this story from the beginning…
A few years ago the skin care company Dove launched their ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. I remember hearing about this campaign and grumbling “Real Beauty? How much ‘Real Beauty’ does a photoshopped picture of an underweight model represent?” But then, as the campaign progressed, I was made to reconsider my initial position. I’m sure that almost everyone, especially women, would be aware of this particular campaign, but for those who aren’t here’s a quick recap.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was launched in 2004. The premise of the campaign was based on challenging the stereotypes of what society has come to term ‘beautiful’, and by using regular women to star in their campaignsDove encouraged all women to feel comfortable and happy in their own skin. The campaign has been incredibly successful – part social commentary, part advertising – it has been instrumental in creating a positive and healthy image associated with the brand.
Now I am not saying there isn’t any issues with the campaign (such as Dove being owned by Unilever who produce many of the beauty products Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is apparently riling against) but I am trying not to be cynical, remember? However, as a woman, this campaign is so refreshing. It is clever, wonderfully executed and interesting to watch develop while promoting a healthy message.
Unfortunately advertising in the beauty industry has traditionally been in the business of exposing womens ‘flaws’, not celebrating our differences.Young girls, subjected to some of the most pervasive advertising in the industry, learn from an early age that just being themselves is not good enough, they must wax, paint, spray and diet themselves into socially approved norms. For the Dove campaign to challenge this misguided yet widespread belief is surely a good thing, whether it is advertising driven or not.
The Dove campaign gave me real hope that the beauty industry would take notice of how this message resonated with women of all ages. I strongly support responsible and sensitive advertising and I was hopeful that perhaps the impact the campaign had on the beauty industry and their target market may have lead to a new standard of advertising in the industry, one that doesn’t rely so heavily on marketing to insecurities.
And then I saw the new Nivea ‘Beauty Is’ad.
Shameless in its attempt to replicate the emotion of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, Nivea’s Beauty Is misses the mark completely. The ad in question is everything ‘Real Beauty’ is not. Slow motion images of remarkably similar looking (exclusively Caucasian) girls laughing and having fun fill the advert/strong>. The requisite cute-sy music plays while the women apply Nivea suncream to their (extremely slim) bodies, smiling as they are being checked out by men. Then, as if enough stereotypes haven’t been promoted, Nivea hits you with the tag line: Nivea – Beauty is Freedom.
Beauty is Freedom?? I had no idea, until Nivea kindly informed me, that morphing myself into the archetypal image of female beauty perpetuated by the beauty industry – hyper-sexualised, vacuous, underweight – would actually set me free! Imagine that! I thought that living in a country with an absence of armed conflict was freedom, that perhaps personal liberty in regards to matters of religion, speech and thought was freedom. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure that starving myself into a size 8 dress, painting my face and wearing ridiculously uncomfortable shoes is not freedom. But, then again, that just might be the cynic in me speaking.