Beauty is in the eye of which beholder?
April 16, 2013 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Short little film (SLYT) produced by the people at Dove that packs a lot of punch about how we see ourselves compared to how we see others.
posted by mister nice (53 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really wish this was just an art project, rather than something presented by the same company that brought us The Axe Effect.

Because the overall idea that we are harder on ourselves than other people are on us is useful (telling us that physical beauty isn't actually important might be more useful, but would probably sell less body wash), but it's hard to take much away from the project knowing that the corporation behind it is simultaneously pushing products with every possible beauty stereotype and objectification imaginable.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


Traditionally attractive women get convinced they are attractive.

Dove, really groundbreaking stuff there.
posted by SassHat at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


I wish they showed more of the drawings - that's the most interesting part of this
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's an associated website that has the portraits.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:20 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here are some more Dove commercials on the Internet.
posted by gum at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2013


I wouldn't even know where to begin to describe myself. I'm sure the result would be horrifying cause I just don't know how to describe my face w/out going to negative extremes.

Interesting case (and yea, the Axe stuff is just blech)
posted by stormpooper at 1:34 PM on April 16, 2013


Dove, really groundbreaking stuff there.

Snark it up if you like, but the fact of the matter is that an enormous amount of time, money and effort goes in to convincing all women that they're not. This may not exactly be groundbreaking innovation, but they're fighting the tide, and doing it well.
posted by mhoye at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's easy to criticize, but I think this is fantastic.
posted by smorange at 1:39 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


This may not exactly be groundbreaking innovation, but they're fighting the tide, and doing it well.

They'd be much more effective at fighting the tide if they weren't also adding back to it with the Axe stuff, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


This may not exactly be groundbreaking innovation, but they're fighting the tide, and doing it well.

Dove is Unilever and Tide is P&G. Of course they are fighting.
posted by vidur at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


This may not exactly be groundbreaking innovation, but they're fighting the tide, and doing it well.

Beyond Axe, Unilever also owns SlimFast, plus a bunch of other beauty related brands. If this is about tides, then Unilever is the Bay of Fundy, and them sending out a guy with a slotted spoon to bail it out isn't going to change that.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ugh. Never look to a corporation or product for self-esteem. And yeah, this company is playing both sides of the fence, mysogyny/feminine power. Gross.
posted by agregoli at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was interesting. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 2:04 PM on April 16, 2013


At a giant company like unilever, it's likely that the Dove and Axe people never talk to each other, so the Axe-objection doesn't really hold much water. Not that that should matter, since both of them are just trying to sell us soap, and would make ads about the evils of capitalism (this is the corporate equivalent of selling your own grandmother) if they thought it would sell more soap.
posted by dis_integration at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think they know exactly what they're doing. This isn't some clueless, oh hey we're putting out mixed messages from our company, oops! And I hold the parent company responsible for all messages they produce.
posted by agregoli at 2:22 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Their "real women" campaign message is repeatedly "Oh, honey, you're not as ugly as you think you are. We don't think you're as ugly as you think you are. Well, except maybe for those armpits of yours -- here, have some armpit whitener. But seriously, why do you think you're uglier than you really are? There there, buy some more Dove, we feel bad that you think you're so ugly. Srsly, them armpits, tho."
posted by macadamiaranch at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


Forgetting for a moment where the message is coming from, I can't help but think that the results/reactions would be the same/similar for many people, and that really is quite sad.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:31 PM on April 16, 2013


Actually, you are beautiful.

No really, you are. I learned this when I took a drawing class and we took turns sitting as models for each other. I looked really intently at other people's faces, people who were not conventionally attractive, and I could see the beauty in each of them. It was a powerful experience.

It didn't really have anything to do with Dove soap.
posted by tuesdayschild at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I predict that ad will sell a lot of soap.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:43 PM on April 16, 2013


"Oh, honey, you're not as ugly as you think you are."

Right -- the message here isn't "It's okay for you to have a round face or mousy brown hair." Rather, the message is "Your face is not as round or your hair as mousy as you think they are. But you would be uglier if they were."
posted by jacquilynne at 2:52 PM on April 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


Fucking horseshit. This is all about Unilever finding the most efficient way to play on insecurities to sell products to targeted demographics: Indians get lighter with Fair and Lovely skin bleach, black women get "good hair" with Soft and Beautiful hair relaxer (tagline: "The advancement in Beautiful Hair starts right here"), horny dudebros get to feel like they have a shot at getting laid by hot chicks with Axe, and average self-absorbed neurotic middle-class white women get to feel pretty and desirable. YAY CAPITALISM, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!!!
posted by doreur at 3:00 PM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I see your Axe spray and raise you Fair and Lovely skin whitening cream, heavily and successfully marketed by Unilever to grand swaths of humanity based on an explicitly communicated belief that having lighter skin makes you more beautiful, popular and more professionally successful than the carelessly swarthy. They tell suburban U.S. moms one thing, British college-aged guys another thing, and Indian teenage girls something else.
posted by Selena777 at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2013


cuz, like, corporations are amoral, so
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:08 PM on April 16, 2013


I thought it was fascinating for two reasons - first cos the body dysmorphia thing - interesting that all the self-described pictures are squatty - proportioned. But gosh I'd love to watch a forensic sketch artist documentary. I didn't expect he'd be going on straight description - I thought they worked with people who were watching them draw and making suggestions and alterations as they went ("no, make the eyes a little rounder"). Heck maybe they do when they're not in soap ads, I don't know. Someone do a FPP. I'm supposed to be working.
posted by Lou Stuells at 3:16 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fucking horseshit. This is all about Unilever finding the most efficient way to play on insecurities to sell products to targeted demographics: Indians get lighter with Fair and Lovely skin bleach, black women get "good hair" with Soft and Beautiful hair relaxer (tagline: "The advancement in Beautiful Hair starts right here"), horny dudebros get to feel like they have a shot at getting laid by hot chicks with Axe,

Sounds good so far...

and average self-absorbed neurotic middle-class white women get to feel pretty and desirable. YAY CAPITALISM, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!!!

The parallelism in this comment could've been a lot more forceful if there were a product that corresponded to the demographic you mentioned.

In this case, I don't think it's about targeting some niche with a specific product; it's about branding. This video's purpose is to make the Dove brand appear more accepting of the customer, so customers that want that kind of acceptance will be more favorably disposed to all Dove products.
posted by Jpfed at 3:22 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, I bit the bullet and finally watched this after seeing it posted everydamnwhere. I was prepared to like it on its own merits, but be pissed about it coming from that armpit-whitening company, but I didn't even like it on its own merits. The example self-descriptions ("big jaw," "round face") seemed pretty neutral to me. And for the strangers' "good" descriptions? Thinness was the very first (and second) thing mentioned. I guess thin is good and fat is bad?

I guess it's a good thing that I'm supposedly more beautiful than I think I am since, as the commercial reminds us, beauty "impacts" your career and the entire rest of your life. But can't I just be regular-looking? Can't I talk about my round face without it being a reflection on my self-esteem?
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:28 PM on April 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


SassHat: Traditionally attractive women get convinced they are attractive.

Dove, really groundbreaking stuff there.
Most women are traditionally attractive.

And nothing about this experiment suggests that the results would be different for women not in that group.

Quit hating on positive messages. That's ugly.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really like this ad. Yesterday, I was thinking Dove must be an easy product to sell, for it's just about being clean and real – at least the (ongoing) Real Beauty campaign is.

Yes, all advertising is directed at selling something, but then again so is the innocuous question by the waiter after dinner, Would you like a coffee?. Because, sometimes, I would.

Similarly, if we're going to have ad campaigns, we may have the Dove kind of ad campaigns. I found the ad campaign really cute, for it's that little moment of surprised joy (or awe, in some cases) when people feel spontaneously great about themselves.

Great campaign. Would like to see more.
posted by nickrussell at 3:52 PM on April 16, 2013


I liked the idea, but I was annoyed that, as far as I could tell, the forensic artist knew whether he was getting a self-description or a description from another person. He could just make the self-described one look worse on purpose so that people will be like, "Whooaaa I have some work to do".
posted by Slater Sheldahl at 3:56 PM on April 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


great job dudes in this thread telling the ladies that they're taking the message all wrong I guess
posted by ominous_paws at 3:57 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]




Sorry, folks. I didn't realize that praising a positive approach to marketing from a large organization required me to also condemn the negative things other parts of that organization had done at other times, or that any commercial endeavor poisons every positive message associated with it.

My mistake.

From now on, I will reserve my praise only for those messages and people that are, ideologically speaking, more than 99 and 44/100ths pure.
posted by mhoye at 4:24 PM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hate marketers but I like dove soap. An old friend of mine who is an M.D. dermatologist told me of the brand soaps it is the best one. As I recall it's mostly because it has a near-neutral pH. Are there any dermatologists in the house that can tell us what ingredients to focus on to get the off-brand equivalent?
posted by bukvich at 4:31 PM on April 16, 2013


great job dudes in this thread telling the ladies that they're taking the message all wrong I guess

That's not a fair assessment. We're cynical, and justifiably so due to the Axe connection. If someone sees this and maybe feels better about herself, then more power to her. I don't think anyone has any objection to that.

My first reaction was also that it seemed to be saying "hey, you're not as ugly as you think, you could be so much uglier." What if someone watching the video actually looked like the "ugly" description? How do you think they'd feel about themselves?
posted by spiderskull at 4:55 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


bukvich, IANYDerm, but I write about facial cleansers for a living: healthy skin tends toward a slight acidity, so a neutral pH is usually more irritating. (Skin averages around 4.5, and Dove solid bar soaps are 7.) Dove is loaded with humectants, (added moisturizing ingredients) so that's why is makes your skin feel soft. Here is a list of the pH values of common cleansers.
posted by memewit at 5:06 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


an explicitly communicated belief that having lighter skin makes you more beautiful, popular and more professionally successful than the carelessly swarthy.

Fully ready to fall on my sword here, but isn't this like, a proven thing? As in, lighter skinned minorities are more well liked/successful/etc both in western white people dominated communities and abroad or in some of their home countries? I wouldn't even know what exactly to begin googling to get some sources on that, but it's been brought up as a topic of conversation and/or article to discuss i think on here, and definitely on other communities i've visited. And also in passing by individual posters/contributors/commenters mentioning the fact that they knew they had it a bit easier being a light skinned minority.

I mean i'm not saying it isn't fucked up that they're marketing this as a blatant wave-along at that concept, or even that they aren't in the wrong for perpetuating it. But this isn't something they started at all. They're pretty much the pitchfork salesman who happened to have a booming day when the mob came through town.

By the way, i only posted this because i felt like you were implying this was some concept invented by marketers. I'm pretty sure it predates that shit by a long while
posted by emptythought at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2013


Like jacquilynne, I would like to see this just as a straight-up art project or a sociological study or something because I find the concept interesting. I have a knee-jerk hatred for any product that tried to manipulate my emotions (which is, like, every product, I know) and a double hate-on for the way Dove has co-opted and totally undermined a feminist message about self-acceptance.

On the other hand, I was totally moved by the looks on the women's faces when they were confronted with their portraits. Just that recognition that we have a picture in our heads of ourselves that is inaccurate. And while I agree with most of the criticism here, I think it's disingenuous to say that it's about saying you aren't as fat and mousy as you think you are, you're beautiful. The message I took, and what I see when I look at the portraits side by side on the site is that the women focussed on their perceived flaws and exaggerated the importance of them, which I think is meaningful. The woman who talked about her mother saying her chin was too big has a big chin, a mole or mark on her cheek and big ol' frown lines, none of which show up in the picture drawn from the other description.

And I think those distinctions are important on a few levels. First, rather than "Traditionally attractive women get convinced they are attractive" what I see is "it doesn't matter how pretty you are, you probably feel like shit about yourself." Second, what you carry around in your head isn't a picture of yourself, but a list of your flaws. Third, no one sees those flaws but you.

Where it sucks that Dove is involved is that they pretend like they're telling you "You're beautiful, no one sees those flaws but you," but what they're actually telling you is "But you know better. Because you do see those flaws, right...?"
posted by looli at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there are more questions/answers than was shown in the commercial, right?

The easiest way to resolve whether this actually is a valid a thing would be to recruit forensic artists and random people and actually run the experiment without corporate funding. MeFi project? Kickerstarter?

I'm pretty sure it's true, where true depends on the alpha of the significance statistically speaking, but what that commercial shows are extreme and anomalous positive results being foisted off as "representative images" in addition to methodologically hincky stuff like "make nice with the person you're going to be describing."

If you like someone, or are suggested that you ought to like someone, of course you're going to describe them in the best possible light and not mention the negatives. Or your tone of voice influences the artist. The artist then draws a non-offending version of the non-pointed-out part of the face consistent with the stereotype that he has of more general description like sex, age, ethnicity --> generaly attractive.

The control for this experiment, of course, would be to spike the pool with a few people of both/+ genders who are generally considered hawt who are anonymous or not widely known.

Also interesting, the extreme-success examples are of women about women. I guess Unilever is banking on that women care more about what they think that other women think about how they look than men thinking about how they look. Same idea of how male bodybuilder may be doing it to impress/intimidate other men rather than to attract women?
posted by porpoise at 9:23 PM on April 16, 2013


Counterpoint - lighting changes everything.
posted by porpoise at 10:27 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not really produced by the 'people' at Dove, maybe their marketing agency.
posted by amil at 11:16 PM on April 16, 2013


It's interesting to note their marketing strategy comes from Jess Weiner, their so-called "Dove® Global Self-Esteem Ambassador":

Talk To Jess, LLC is dedicated to making a positive difference in the messages that are sent to women and girls through advertising, media content, and marketing campaigns. As a creative development and consulting firm, we help brands and businesses focus on creating authentic and empowering social messaging campaigns focusing on three powerful verticals of action and social change: influencing corporate conversation, making media that matters and impacting personal conversations. We believe that by focusing on these three areas, we can all institute systemic, cultural and personal change.
posted by doreur at 11:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that praising a positive approach to marketing from a large organization required me to also condemn the negative things other parts of that organization had done at other times, or that any commercial endeavor poisons every positive message associated with it.

See, here's the thing, though.

Remember when Paul Ryan started posting a bunch of photo ops of him going to soup kitchens and volunteer centers and helping out in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but then someone revealed that it was all fake as all hell?

This is like that. Yes, on the face of it they are saying good things, but if you look behind the curtain you realize that they don't really care after all and they're only saying or doing positive things to look good on the surface.

People didn't buy it from Paul Ryan. I don't buy it from Dove. The only difference is that "trying to sell soap" has a lesser impact on me than "trying to be Vice President", but it still feels icky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Having worked in marketing for a long time, and having developed projects like this, I'll tell you this: There's about as much reality here as there is in a reality TV show, which is to say, it's completed planned, scripted, produced, and nothing is left to chance. Sketches were drawn and redrawn. Reactions were captured and then recaptured. The artist understood the expected outcome, and sketched accordingly. This is content marketing, and the goal is to engage consumers and potential consumers with a compelling story in which the hero saves the day and wins the hearts of the audience; in this case, it's the Dove brand coming to the rescue of women with a poor self image. It's a moving video, and my hat's off to the team behind it. But it's as completely calculated as a Steven Spielberg tearjerker.
posted by bassomatic at 6:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


great job dudes in this thread telling the ladies that they're taking the message all wrong I guess

This mansplaining meme started off great, but in use it's rapidly turning into 'Men are not allowed to participate in discussions'. Since it arose I don't think we've had a single feminism thread without someone at some point dropping by to rule out any contributions from half the population.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:38 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Counterpoint - lighting changes everything

Heh, I was just thinking that most of my close examination of my face takes place in terms of a head shot from about two to three feet away in a bathroom mirror, which at the moment has a light over the top. It's very revealing of skin texture, etc., and also maybe slightly 'wide angle' in framing. This is probably very different to someone looking at me from some feet away in natural light, who's looking at my whole body and posture as well.
posted by carter at 6:42 AM on April 17, 2013


So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes...

Here's a counterpoint to the commercial.
posted by Vaike at 8:46 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really wish this was just an art project, rather than something presented by the same company that brought us The Axe Effect .

This is an art project. And like lots of art, it's meant to convey a certain message. A message that doesn't necessarily represent truth in any absolute way.

It sounds to me that you want to be deceived without being aware of the deception, a ruse that's easier to swallow from an individual artist than a corporate advertisement.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:32 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to think that an actual artist who wasn't trying to craft a commercial message would have approached this a little differently and let the message come out of the process instead of creating a process that drove a not particularly great message.

But then, I was just participating on another thread where the artist's combination of motives and method seemed to be a bit questionable, as well, so that might be genuinely naive of me.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2013


great job dudes in this thread telling the ladies that they're taking the message all wrong I guess

This mansplaining meme started off great, but in use it's rapidly turning into 'Men are not allowed to participate in discussions'. Since it arose I don't think we've had a single feminism thread without someone at some point dropping by to rule out any contributions from half the population.


Spoiler: I'm a woman.
posted by doreur at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2013


Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry

Blog post (not mine) yet makes excellent points that I share, like:

"And my primary problem with this Dove ad is that it’s not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are (if you look like the featured women, I guess). "
posted by sweetkid at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Three of the sketch artist's "described by random stranger" images are really badly lopsided. It seems they were drawn faster than the self-described ones. They all seemed more beautiful in person than in the drawings.
I don't care about the soap, but I guess it's a bit like your own voice sounding horrible and wrong when it is recorded and played back to you, or your own face looking weird in photographs while other people look completely normal (as you're used to hearing yourself through the bones and seeing yourself in a mirror). Seems strange to me to frame the effect as a gender issue, I would think that one would get very similar results with men. The resulting ad might not help Axe sales, though.
posted by ikalliom at 1:08 PM on April 17, 2013


Parody ad with genders reversed.
posted by Kabanos at 1:17 PM on April 20, 2013


Hey, I didn't feel the need to use the M-word at all, IAmSnow. Was just interesting to note (and apologies if I've got this wrong) that every comment above mine the objected to the campaign was from a woman, and every voice saying to be less cynical about it and actually it was a great campaign was from a man. Just a data point. No mention of mansplaining at all. No one silenced or dismissed.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:45 AM on April 21, 2013


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