Two Contrarian Views on Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches”

Every now and then, an idea captivates the advertising world and beyond. This week, that honor goes to Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches.”

It’s a very simple idea rooted in a universal truth: We don’t see ourselves the way the world sees us. And to dramatize that through the lens of a criminal sketch artist — a world not many of us see up close — brings the idea to life.

But the very personal nature of this idea, and the product, always rubs some people the wrong way. And it’s good to hear those voices even if we don’t agree.

A Tumblr called Jazzy Little Drops speaks to some of the basic executional issues with the video as well as the larger picture:

It almost seems to remind us how vital it is to know that we fit society’s standard of attractiveness. At the end of the experiment, one of the featured participants shares what I find to be the most disturbing quote in the video and what Dove seems to think is the moral of the story as she reflects upon what she’s learned, and how problematic it is that she hasn’t been acknowledging her physical beauty: “It’s troubling,” she says as uplifting music swells in the background. “I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, they way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

And over at Salon, Erin Keane argues that the ad isn’t one feminists should embrace:

It’s never okay for a woman to admit that she knows she’s kind of average-looking and she’s okay with that. In the radical world of Dove, nothing matters more than being perceived as beautiful — not being a kind and generous friend, not being a smart and talented professional, not even being decent to kids.

Of course, most brand managers would, in theory, love to have any type of idea that caused this much buzz and analysis. Advertising people love both the execution of the idea, and its seemingly feel-good message. When other folks view it, the criticism gets more personal. It’s a good reminder that advertising can still be powerful, and polarizing at the same time.



About Dan Goldgeier

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. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.