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Surprise! Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" ads actually kind of fake

Posted by: Burth Helm on May 7, 2008

blog dove girls.jpg

Remember the first ads for Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, when it flaunted its defiance of the beauty and fashion industries with images of love-handled and cellulite-prone “real” women? Turns out those photos, according to the May 12, 2008 issue of The New Yorker, were as digitally manipulated as any skinny model-festooned fashion spread. It’s mentioned in a Lauren Collins profile of the toucher-upper himself, Pascal Dangin, who works regularly for Vogue, Dior, Balenciaga, and many others. Hear what Dangin has to say about the Dove project on page 100:

“Do you know how much retouching was on that?” He asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”

I’d say it’s ironic –and others might call it completely hypocritical of Dove and its ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather - that these women were so “touched up,” given Dove and Ogilvy’s righteous noise about the practice in their enormously popular viral video, “Dove Evolution,” which you can watch below:

I’m curious to know what Dove and Ogilvy have to say about it. I’ll let you know when I hear back.

Reader Comments


May 8, 2008 1:34 PM

It's hard to believe all the things I can no longer believe.

Stefan G. Bucher

May 9, 2008 7:27 PM

Is this really a shock to anybody?

Adam Zand

May 16, 2008 6:43 PM

Umm, the silence is a bit deafening. Don't they have a PR agency?
I heard that a model on the shoot was promised there would be no re-touching.
Oh well, I'm in PR, not advertising. We discussed this on PRobecast today - check out Topaz Partners' blog for audio.

Julie Dennehy

May 18, 2008 5:02 PM

Not hard to believe at all. I think society likes to pretend we are naive, but we know that no self-respecting art director (or client) is going to feature a "real" model with pock marks, day surgery or bike trip scars, and uneven skin tones - as "real" as those things are, they just don't sell products unfortunately.


May 19, 2008 11:29 AM

Ah-HA!....I was beginning to think I was the only woman in the world with stretch marks and zits.


May 19, 2008 11:52 AM

Maybe a good compromise would have been some honest explanations like, "we gave the supermodel treatment to these women with closer-to-normal bodies." I mean it's nice to see that their proportions are believable, even if their skin tones do look pretty unreal. All photos that are published these days are manipulated - first they are photo-styled and then they are color-corrected and then they are retouched. It's a lie to say "unretouched."


May 22, 2008 12:35 AM

to have it shock anyone is quite hilarius. seems people really are that gulible.


May 22, 2008 4:03 PM

i still think the dove campaign is exposing the truth about the beauty industry. They are still a part of that industry. I prefer seeing their ads to seeing other ad campaigns.

Its not perfect, but its a good step in the right direction. No one other mainstream beauty business has done more to expose the dangerous misrepresentation of women in the media.

stan adamski

December 1, 2008 12:45 PM

What's wrong with older women thinking they are still beautiful? If Dove ads reenforce that concept, then I say: "Go For It".

I think these critics just want to tell us how we should feel....let them feel the way they want and don't tell me I should feel the same. A women's real beauty will be missed by these critics. Besides, a women's beauty starts from her inner self....if she's beautiful on the inside then I look at here exterior that way. Dismiss these liberal critics forced programming.

I like Dennis Miller's comment about liberal women. He said something like the liberal women don't like non liberal women becasue these non liberal women are having great sex lives!

stan adamski


March 15, 2009 5:07 PM

Dove is in a similar position to those evangelists who get caught with their pants around their ankles after loudly condemning others for fornication. If you use the righteous sell, you better damn well live up to your strict standards or your going to loss all credibility. This seems to have happened with the Campaign for Real Beauty which has pretty much fallen off the radar. Frankly, I can't say I miss it--I've never liked the use of moral blackmail to sell products ("buy our soap if you care about the self esteem of little girls!")


March 16, 2009 8:00 PM

What the F*ck does liberal and non-liberal women have to do with it? Both types of women can have great sex lives, just as both types of women can have cellulite and stretch marks.


October 27, 2009 10:25 PM

Lola, people nowadays want to put politics and political parties on everything and everyone that's ever existed. I don't have one. I'm far above that, that stuff's for lesser people.

That's not being uppity, that's just me rejecting something that just holds everyone ELSE back and wastes THEIR time. :D

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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