Dove Evolution vs. Fair And Lovely: Could You Create Both?

[UPDATE 7/5/07] If you came from the link on, welcome. I think this is simply a very interesting comparison of how one company, albeit a conglomerate, markets its products in different cultures and countries.
Well, Dove Evolution won big at Cannes, as many predicted. From Adweek:

“It’s a big idea, beautiful execution and a powerful story for Dove to tell,” said Bob Scarpelli, jury president of the Film and Press Lions and chairman and CCO at DDB Worldwide. “We believe in the power and the goodness of the idea.”

So what does Unilever, Dove’s parent company, believe? Let’s see 2 Unilever ads, side-by-side, one for Dove and one for a skin whitening product called “Fair and Lovely”:

So, does a global company like Unilever have any responsibility to promote its multiple brands in an equally uplifting manner? Should Cannes judges emerge from their drunken stupor to care about what a company really believes as opposed to just deciding that an ad is cool? Is there any hope for consistent messaging in fashion and beauty advertising?
Oh, and is anyone else really creeped out by the copy in the Fair and Lovely ad, which suggests that you’ll only be hired for a TV gig if you use a skin cream that lets you acheive “total fairness”?
I’d love to know what y’all think. I’d especially love to hear from Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin, i.e, “Jancy”, who made the Dove spot. After all, the same company paid for and approved of both of these. How can anyone reconcile the disparity between these two spots? Is it our job as advertising professionals to care what our clients do on a larger scale? Should anyone give a shit?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. It’s also about the contradictions and complexities connected to merged, megalithic corporations. After all, isn’t Kraft General Foods essentially the same company as Philip Morris? There are plenty of conflicting messages there too. Although what’s always made Dove so offense (IMHO) is the sanctimonious tone. Then again, the brand has managed to woo the industry masses, the majority of whom ultimately decide to ignore the “new and progressive” perspective when producing their own advertising. Should anyone give a shit? Probably. Does anyone give a shit? Probably not.
    You’re cordially invited to view past perspectives on Dove:

  2. theo kie says:

    As much as this spot (and campaign) preaches an uplifting, “be true to who you are” message – one I entirely agree with – the intent isn’t to make people feel less need for beauty products. It’s to shift their need for beauty products to Dove.
    To me, intent is key when deciding how honest a brand is. This campaign lives because it makes the audience feel like they aren’t being “sold”, when that’s exactly what’s happening. I struggle between agreeing with the philosophy and feeling a certain disdain knowing the true reason Dove runs this campaign is because research told them it’s the best way to improve sales.

  3. TommyGun says:

    Jancy were just the CDs on Evolution. It was written, art directed & co-directed by Tim Piper.

  4. If each large corporation would have to sync all their ads, that would be very odd indeed. Each brand has a unique identity and will thus need a unique ad campaign.
    I appreciated “Evolution” for the technical merit, I never really thought that Unilever/Dove had gone socially responsible on us.

  5. Baby steps says:

    It seems to me that taking any steps towards a more conscious attitude is better than not taking any steps at all. This type of reaction – magnifying every act that an organization makes, and then calling them out on their hypocrisy when not all avenues are “righteous” – is often the very thing that may deter orginizations from taking any positive action at all.
    For instance, I use canvas bags at the store, but do a million other things every year that harms the environment more than my bags help it. If I thought my actions were going to be scrutinized over the course of a day due to my canvas bag appearance at the grocery store, I might not ever use the damn bags in the first place, thus avoiding the critiques.
    Point being is that we all need to start somewhere. Any move in a more conscious direction is welcomed, at least by me. Even if it is to sell me more stuff. The Dove campaign message is still more positive than any other “beauty” crap campaign out there.

  6. Yes winning a beauty contest for ads for asking about distortion of such is quite the deal. I’m all for identifying beauty though and packaging and selling it.
    I thought back then the message here wasn’t even unique. The Greeks gave us real beauty in Godlike statues of athletic young men. And everyday i go to some real place nowhere near as beautiful as the South of France–(I mean some large town in Indiana?) and watch young 20 year old perfectly shaped men dive from 10 meters above: same godlike figures and bronze skins and I think Beautiful. Gorgeous. (additional thoughts monitored)
    Ahhh….older women admiring beautiful athletic men in speedos or tyrs = all distorted, right. Admiring admen my age in speedos…distorted.

  7. Withheld says:

    I’m not telling you how I know this, but Unilever have completely seperate marketing departments to handle their various products, the Dove team is considered the “A-team” and everyone wants to be part of that. The reason the products are promoted differently is each marketing department is independant of each other and is responsible only for their particular product.
    I think you’ll find the experience and message from the Dove team being filtered back thoughout Unilever in the near future, being the most important brand to Unilever it’s closer to how the organisation as a whole feels, it will just take time for the other teams to alter their message as well.

  8. Yes, Withheld, I already assumed that Unilever has separate marketing divisions for its brands, much like any conglomerate.
    I highly doubt there’s any significant communication between divisions, and especially not when different countries are involved. So it’s not as if I thought this was the result of one person (or even a committee) deciding to approve these two spots.
    Having said that, I still find the messages of these two particular ads to be very contradictory–and it’s not even remotely subtle. As positive as I think the Dove message is, that’s how negative I think the Fair & Lovely message is. And that’s within these 2 ads alone, can’t speak to any to ther other ad campaigns for Unilever’s other brands.
    And thanks to YouTube, people can see it for themselves.

  9. as an indian, i have a simple equation at hand for the above discussion…first, we are essentially “brown” people and to become “white” is an imprinted indian psyche, a statement of “beauty”, “aspiration”, “common goal” from school going kids to brides to be…
    having fair skin is believed to fetch a better match-making prospect…fair n lovely (believed to be the best selling brand in india) ever since its launch in the market has been targeted across rural areas where “white” has become a connotation of ‘beauty’….its a dream…its reality too…
    so perceptions are bound to differ…its definitely not a grassroot level cause but more of a blatant marketing strategy…i quite agree with your observations on global advertising…but local market cannot be denied…for example, if i have to sell a tanning cream in the usa then ‘brown’ will be my statement of beauty and USP per se…
    lets also face facts here…the market share of ‘fair n lovely’ has never gone down in the past ages….which means that the communication is working for the TA…therefore, whats perception in the foreign market can be a distortion in the local one…but yes, it pains me to see people having raw opinions on beauty…again, its india by the way and some notions are associated with the social stigma….the f ‘n l ad could have carried a much better story line or lets say better execution….its “cheap”!! agreed

  10. Thanks for sharing your perspective, bipz. You’re absolutely right.
    The Internet lets us see and discuss these cultural differences…and how companies like Unilever exploit those differents in various countries.
    If you want a chuckle, read this Ad Age article which discusses Unilever’s “creative turnaround,” featuring their CMO Simon Clift. No mention of Fair & Lovely, of course.

  11. Rich Wright says:

    “The key to sales is sincerity. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” — source unknown

  12. strands of grey says:

    So much for skin, but what about hair beauty?
    thought this to be quite ineresting about indians.
    L’Oreal dyeing to get ahead of henna in India,,22674464-36375,00.html?from=public_rss
    Western haircare companies face some colourful challenges on the subcontinent, writes Jo Johnson | October 31, 2007
    WALK down any street in India and you’ll probably pass at least one middle-aged man with a glorious head of pumpkin orange hair.
    The use of henna — or mehendi, as the hair dye is known locally — may be waning as western tastes sweep through the malls and markets of urban India, but it is far from dead in towns and villages.
    Outside the Jama Masjid, the main mosque of old Delhi, Halim Shah, a 65-year-old from Ghaziabad, a suburb of the capital, says he has been dying his beard a flame colour with henna for the past six years.
    “It is a beautiful colour,” he says, peering down at his near-fluorescent facial hair. The henna hairdos are regarded as a challenge for the likes of L’Oreal, Wella and Schwarzkopf, western companies that have entered the upper end of the $US750 million ($818 million) Indian haircare market, and to Indian houses such as Godrej and the Emami Group, which make cheaper powder or oil-based dyes.

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