Dove has long shown an impressive ability to have it both ways: encouraging women to respect their natural beauty while also selling them a litany of beauty-enhancement products. Now, the Unilever brand is going even further, essentially saying every aspect of its industry is a scam.
In this new spot—the newest of several marketing stunts inspired by the success of the brand's "Real Beauty Sketches"—we see women being offered an unbranded "beauty patch" that will help them generally look and feel better.
You may see where this is headed, but watch the video before I spoil it further:
Since this is an ad for Dove and not some sort of double-blind lab experiment on the placebo effect, it's easy to predict that the women involved would end up feeling inspired and motivated to toss aside the crutches of products that claim to reduce the impact of aging and other inevitable forces.
Sure enough, upon the big reveal that the beauty patch is a powerless MacGuffin, instead of feeling misled or naive, one participant calls it "a life-altering experience."
All of the women quickly absorb the lesson, reacting with a lack of bitterness reminiscent of when Dorothy Gale learned she could have left Oz five minutes after arriving.
"Knowing that I don't need something to make me feel that way—that it's just who I am and it was hidden and now it's not anymore," says one woman, "that's very empowering."
As with many of Ogilvy & Mather's "Real Beauty" projects, this one—which hews closely to the "Sketches" model, complete with the impartial professional who's just conducting an experiment—seems to pose more questions than it answers.
Is a woman's self-esteem really so easily influenced that a few weeks of placebo could improve the way they see themselves? Is Dove empowering women or calling them gullible?
By illustrating a contrast that anyone could identify with, "Real Beauty Sketches" prompted vigorous debate about self-image versus reality. But in an era where marketers are learning to respect women's intellects and leave condescension behind, will "Patches" be met with anything more than a collective eye roll?
Client: Dove (Unilever)
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil
Chief Creative Officer: Anselmo Ramos
Executive Creative Directors: Roberto Fernandez, Paco Conde
Art Director: Renato Zandoná
Head of Global Production: Veronica Beach
Senior Producer: Mariane Goebel
Producer: Renata Neumann
Business Manager: Libby Fine
Chief Executive Officer: Luiz Fernando Musa
Head of Client Services: Daniela Glicenstajn
Account Director: Ricardo Honegger
Account Supervisor: Julia Barreira
Planning Director: Mollie Hill
Global Managing Director: Erica Hoholick
Global Managing Partner: Stephane Orhan
Global Planning Partner: Kate Smither
Client: Steve Miles, Jocelyn Hsieh, Rita Szalay
Production Company: Caviar
Director: Kristopher Belman
Executive Producer: Jasper Thomlinson
Line Producer: Luke Thomlinson Clark
Director of Photography: Robert Chappel
Editorial Company: Rock Paper Scissor
Executive Producer: Carol Lynn Weaver
Producers: Chrissy Hamilton, Meagen Carroll
Editor: Paul Kumpata
Assistant Editor: Arielle Zakowski
Flame Artist: Dan Ellis
Executive Producer: Megan Meloth
Producer: Heather Johann
Music: Great Garbo
Composers: Diego Baldenweg, Nora Baldenweg, Lionel Vincent Baldenweg
Music Producer: Groove Guild
Sound Mix: Lime Studio
Executive Producer: Jessica Locke
Mixer: Joel Waters
Color Grading: A52
Colorist: Paul Yacono