Dove Evolves from Real Beauty to Celebrity Glitz

To help build pre-launch interest in a new moisturizer product, Dove is hoping consumer interaction with its brand causes the stir its Real Beauty efforts did last year. The company has gathered more than 1,000 consumer-created ads to pick from for an Oscars TV spot. It’s also linking to those videos from ads sponsoring’s Golden Globes Awards content. Women embraced Dove’s award-winning, anti-artificial Real Beauty effort, but will they appreciate the brand’s attachment to glitzy awards ceremony celebs?

Through an ongoing partnership with AOL, the Unilever brand is the premier sponsor of the AOL site’s star-studded awards season content section; display and pre-roll video ads, sponsorship logos, and contextually-integrated placements promoting Dove’s ad contest site are currently running alongside content areas labeled “Best and Worst Dressed,” and “Best and Worst Hair.” Dove’s display ads are also being served in AOL’s women-centric Living section, which offers content on subjects such as food and organizing. The campaign is set to run into May, around the time the brand’s new Cream Oil Body Wash product will launch.

Banner ads featuring the star of the ABC show “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sara Ramirez, link to a Dove site presenting selected homemade video ads. A sponsorship placement on the Moviefone section homepage states, “A real woman like you created the next big Dove ad,” and also links to the video display site. Ramirez will announce the top three ads on January 24.

Those involved with the campaign say the media buy makes sense. After all, connecting Dove’s new product to coverage of the Golden Globes, and running TV ads during what is often referred to as the Super Bowl for women is a great way to reach the campaign’s target audience of adult women ages 25-54. Plus, by helping push awards show coverage online, Dove is promoting viewership of the Oscars, where its ad by “a real woman” will appear.

In addition, said Babs Rangaiah, director of media and entertainment for Unilever, the new Cream Oil product is “more about pampering and luxury,” concepts that are often related to Hollywood lifestyles.

Dove managed to pick up some Web buzz by running a :29 video spot promoting the new product line on YouTube for a few days last week, according to Rangaiah. Unlike Dove’s Real Beauty campaign “Evolution” video, which seemed practically ubiquitous as it was passed around online last year, this viral spread was prompted by a paid video placement on YouTube’s homepage. In addition to introducing Cream Oil, the ad mentioned Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.

The advertiser also placed print ads in entertainment magazines including People, customized to include the subscriber’s name. Unilever bought media “in places that would be contextually relevant,” said Rangaiah, noting the Moviefone component is a “small, tactical piece of the campaign.”

Last year, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign put everyday female beauty on a pedestal, and earned much consumer and media praise — as well as some criticism — for doing so. In particular, a video spot displaying the rapid transformation of a female visage from natural to makeup-laden and digitally retouched flooded the Web. “Evolution” spurred countless hometown newspaper columnists, bloggers and marketing pundits to pontificate on the subjects raised in the video, particularly on the typically unattainable beauty ideals put forth by media images.

Indeed, the video and the Real Beauty campaign site served as a catalyst for that conversation, asking “How did our idea of beauty become so distorted?” and citing figures such as “68% strongly agree that the media sets an unrealistic standard of beauty.”

Among the pundits was David Vinjamuri, president of ThirdWay BrandTrainers, a corporate marketer training outfit, and someone with a history of managing brands like Johnson and Johnson and Coca-Cola.

At the time, he applauded the Real Beauty campaign, with some reservations. Still, he questions the decision to attach the Dove brand to awards show content, laden with images of glamorous women in designer gowns and pricey jewels. Unilever’s decision to approach the Cream Oil campaign from a demographic-targeting perspective is flawed, he said. “It’s a psychographic issue, so it’s a mindset issue,” he added, calling a the notion of a brand “a promise.” He continued, “With the Campaign for Real Beauty, they evolved the promise Dove was presenting to the consumer, and unfortunately the awards [ads] really don’t fit into that promise.”

Pete Blackshaw, CMO at CGM measurement firm Nielsen BuzzMetrics, is a bit more forgiving, acknowledging that Dove is reaching its audience by attaching its brand to awards content. However, the ClickZ columnist, who has written about the Real Beauty campaign, notes the need for consistency of brand messaging. “It speaks to the challenge of balance,” he said.

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