Ad of the Day: Dove’s ‘Beauty Patch’ Seeks to Empower Women by Fooling Them

Yet they don't seem to mind

Headshot of David Griner

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)

Spot: "Patches"

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil

Chief Creative Officer: Anselmo Ramos

Executive Creative Directors: Roberto Fernandez, Paco Conde

Art Director: Renato Zandoná

Copywriter: Brux

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


@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."