truth in advertising

Dove Uses Photoshop Hack, Facebook App to Push "Real Beauty"

Posted by Sheila Shayon on March 14, 2013 10:11 AM

In a day where digital design renders face-lifts, tummy-tucks and general tune-ups de rigueur, Dove remains an innovative stand-out as they extend their "Real Beauty" campaign beyond advertising. 

33 million women made over advertising that highlighted their insecurities and impacted their self-esteem as part of the Dove Ad Makeover campaign last year, and in honor of International Women's Day, the brand is reprising the campaign and taking it global.

The Dove Ad Makeover invites women to send positive messages to other women through a Facebook application. "Dove has always listened to women and we feel that International Women's Day is the perfect time to once again inspire them by bringing our Ad Makeover Facebook app to America and to 18 countries around the world," said Rob Candelino, VP Unilever Skincare, in a press release.

The Unilever-owned brand is refreshing its long-running, and highly acclaimed "Dove Campaign for Real Beauty"—which fights unrealistic portrayals of women while pushing for realistic, positive ad messaging—with a social media-promoted Photoshop Action that works like a Trojan Horse by leveraging the element of surprise on those responsible for "unreal beauty" images in advertising.

The Ad Makeover tool, called "Beautify," is a downloadable file that lets creatives and art directors tasked with shaving women's curves and airbrushing bulges for advertising do so with one click, but there's more to this application than meets the eye. 

“At first blush, it appears that 'Beautify' adds a healthy-looking skin glow effect to the photo,” notes Fast Company's FastCoCreate blog.  "What it actually does, however, is revert photoshopped images back to their original state,” with a message asking them to stop.

The brand's decade-old "Real Beauty" campaign, winner of a Grand Prix at Cannes in 2007, is seeding the app on sites like Reddit which art directors and graphic designers frequent, presenting it as a retouching tool. The brand is targeting the art directors, designers and photo re-finishers who manipulate perceptions of beauty—literally and figuratively—by changing body shapes in advertising for what Dove calls "feel-bad ads."

Even if art directors, photo retouchers and others involved in digitally remodeling women have no doubt now heard of the campaign, the halo effect is to communicate to women—especially young women—a positive message.

“As an active participant in social media, we at Dove have seen an increase in the number of women and girls negatively tweeting about themselves,” commented Sharon MacLeod, Unilever Canada’s VP of marketing. “We developed the idea based on this insight, and because it was a campaign that made a lot of sense, it was one that could quickly get off the ground within days.”

“The brand has dealt with its own allegations of Photoshop abuse,” Mashable points out. “In 2008, artist Pascal Dangin told The New Yorker that the 'Real Beauty' campaign was itself retouched." (Dove denied the allegations.) Parent company Unilever has also come under fire for its portrayal of women, since it also markets products like Axe, which often portrays women in a more traditional (some feminists might say sexist) view in accordance with beauty advertising. 

In 2011, Dove released findings of its largest global study to date on women’s relationship with beauty. The study revealed that only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, that anxiety about looks begins at an early age and amongst 10 to 17-year-olds, 72 percent said they felt tremendous pressure to be beautiful. 

Your thoughts on Dove's 2013 Real Beauty action to stop Photoshop abuse of women? Share in the comments below.

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