Ad of the Day: Dove’s New Film Challenges Teen Girls, and Their Moms, to Take Honest Selfies

Marking 10 years of 'Real Beauty'

Headshot of Tim Nudd

In retrospect, it seems obvious that Dove would be the brand to find fertile, even poignant creative ground in the selfie, that ultimate modern-day expression of self-regard—though, to many, also an anxiety-filled opportunity for self-flagellation.

Selfies are staged to give such an impression of carefree perfection that it's easy to forget how difficult it is for young women to actually do a thing as simple as take a picture of themselves. Dove is here to remind you. The Unilever brand, which produced perhaps the most celebrated ad of 2013 with "Real Beauty Sketches," is back with a new short film, simply titled "Selfie," in which it undertakes another social experiment—challenging young women to take an honest selfie, and getting their mothers to do so, too.

Documentarian Cynthia Wade, who won an Oscar for 2007's short doc Freeheld, skillfully weaves together several stories about girls at a high school in the Berkshires for the eight-minute film. (It's also cut into a three-minute version, but the longer film is far better.) The girls, who freely admit to adopting insecurities that their mothers also felt, are seen getting together with their moms to create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty—prominently featuring what they perceive as their least desirable physical features.

There are parallels to "Real Beauty Sketches," including the images of the photos hanging in a gallery space at the end. And while the new film is not as conceptually clever as the earlier one, it is plenty affecting, as its everyday stars struggle with the pressures of beauty—yet still find the courage to turn the cameras on themselves with other cameras rolling. (Ogilvy & Mather, which made "Real Beauty Sketches" and has shepherded the client's "Real Beauty" campaign for years, was not involved in the production of this film.)

"The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change," says Wade. "Now we have the ability to photograph the beauty we see in our friends and ourselves.  When we share these diverse images on our social networks, we are taking personal ownership and truly redefining beauty."

"Selfie" premiered Sunday at Sundance Institute's Women at Sundance brunch in Park City, Utah, and marks the 10th anniversary of Dove's "Campaign For Real Beauty."


Client: Dove

Director: Cynthia Wade

Production Company: Recommended Media

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.