13 Years in the Making – Dove’s #RealBeauty Campaign

13 Years in the Making – Dove’s #RealBeauty Campaign

The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. – Audrey Hepburn

How many times have Dove sparked outrage with a campaign? 3? Maybe 5? To be perfectly honest, I think the majority of us have lost count now. Dove is hardly the first marketer to find itself embroiled in a public relations crisis this year,  but experts say that their most recent mishaps have placed them alongside the biggest brand crises of 2017 (with tough competition from Pepsi and United). The real question is, how much longer can Dove keep up the campaign for ‘Real Beauty’ before they lose their entire following?

It has now been 13 years since the exhibition opened, and it can be said that the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’  is one of modern marketing’s most talked-about success stories. The campaign has expanded from billboards to television ads and online videos. The 2006 video, ‘Evolution’ went viral before “viral” was even a thing, (after all, YouTube had only launched the year before). Also, Dove’s 2013 ‘Real Beauty Sketches’, which shows women describing their appearances to a forensic sketch artist, became the most-watched video ad of all time (can be viewed below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk

 

However, many of these campaigns have received public backlash. One of the most recent controversial issue comes from a social media outcry over an advertisement for Dove body wash which showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman. This has understandably escalated into a public relations disaster for the Unilever brand.

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The 3-second video clip, posted on Dove’s U.S. Facebook page in October, reminded some social media users of racist soap adverts from the 19th century or early 20th century that showed black people scrubbing their skin to become white. Resulting in a worldwide #BoycottDove trend. If this was the first time Dove was accused for being racist, the recovery process would be a lot simpler. However a previous Dove ad, which showed three women side by side in front of a before-and-after image of cracked and smooth skin, caused an uproar in 2011 because the woman positioned on the “before” side was black while the “after” woman was white.

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I could go on with more major examples of public relations crisis but I think we can all see a reoccurring theme here…

So why are these campaigns upsetting so many women?

Maybe the idea of change isn’t what Dove should be focusing on. Not everyone agrees with the importance the campaign places on physical beauty. It indicates to women that when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. Also, just because women are defining beauty, do they actually feel different about themselves? An estimated 80 percent of American women feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of becoming “fat.” Can a series of ad campaigns really change institutionalised body hatred?

Most likely not. I can see how this message of beauty can be seen as problematic to some individuals, but until we get to a point in culture where the dominant messages about girls and women are not focused on their physical bodies, then we do need to actually reaffirm a broader and more innate, internal definition of what beauty is. For me, we are still nowhere near that point.

When I think of Dove products, I think of plain, white and simple soap. In my opinion, the fact that Dove have associated their brand with influencing men and women worldwide to think about the narrow definitions of female beauty is admirable.

Despite the controversy, this Real Beauty public relations campaign has been honoured several times as one of the best campaigns in recent history. It has won a handful (or two) of ad awards and has sold an enormous amount of product.  Sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year. If that wasn’t enough, research from a Harvard psychologist, Nancy Etcoff, examining the campaign then and now found that more women today describe beauty on a wider variety of qualities outside of just looks, such as confidence. Quite an achievement for a controversial public relations campaign if you ask me!

I believe each of the campaigns success is based on the eye of the perceiver, and my eye… loves them. I can honestly say that as I went through watching ‘Sketches’ and ‘Speak is Beautiful’, I was moved to tears. ‘Evolution’ in particular struck a chord for me at the young age of 11, opening my eyes to the narrow definitions of beauty I was growing up with and the way images were manipulated to fit ideals. You can watch Evolution by clicking on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

Are Dove using public relations effectively to maximise their success?

One thing for sure; Dove often have a good strategy, but poor execution. They need to be able to anticipate cultural points of view and reactions that their campaigns will generate. In the reality of the competitive world we now operate in, it is evident that consumer mobs can quickly jump on a misguided conception and cause it to escalate far beyond the brand’s control. This is why PR professionals should have a responsibility to see how a campaign can be construed through multiple lenses, from various audience segments through to the media.

Dove is targeting a diverse market, yet the lack of diverse thinking is becoming apparent. Their intent is not the subject that should be questioned, maybe it is their approval process.

Whether you critique or champion the ongoing Real Beauty campaign, it is difficult to argue with the results and the goals of inspiring women and girls to reach their full potential through building a positive self-esteem.

Ultimately, Dove was — and still is — one of the only mainstream advertisers talking about how we define female beauty. Personally, I don’t know what beauty is, but I do know you are more beautiful than you think.

So I will leave you with this… in Dove’s situation, is all publicity good publicity? 

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/

 

 

Netflix: Binge Responsibly

Netflix: Binge Responsibly

We have all done it. Sat down on the sofa with some crisps or a cup of tea and pressed play with the intention of watching an episode of a new series your friend recommended on Netflix. Next thing you know, it is 5am and almost an entire season later. Do you have any regrets? Absolutely not. There is something very satisfying about being able to continue watching and not having to wait until next week to see what happens. In October 2017, Netflix recorded 109.25 million subscribers, which is no doubt growing.

In theory, if you have the time (or are willing to give up a night’s sleep), there is nothing actually wrong with enjoying a Netflix binge is there? I mean, it’s fun, convenient and even legal, so why not? I think if you keep on reading you will hopefully see some of the downsides of Netflix binging…

It is highly addictive. That may sound strange as Netflix is not often associated with addiction.

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In 2013, Netflix hired the anthropologist Grant McCracken to research how people watch TV, given the rise of on-demand streaming services. McCracken found that 61% of people who stream regularly said they binge-watch. A new study from the University of Toledo calls binge-watching “a growing public health concern”. Of 408 people surveyed, 77% watched two or more hours of TV a day. Researchers also found that binge-watching had a positive correlation with poor mental and physical wellbeing.

You may think there is nothing wrong with an episode or three a night of ‘Stranger Things’, but only the most disciplined can switch off when Netflix’s auto play promises the next episode in 13 seconds.CS16

Like any addiction, the harm ultimately lies in what it’s taking you away from. A lot of these shows stop you living in the moment.

Some Netflix shows are so short, it’s easy to convince yourself that just one more episode won’t hurt. With other shows, it is the plot that tests your strength to step away. I can vividly remember the moment I finished all 6 seasons of Gossip Girl. I felt like I didn’t know what to do with myself now that my relationships with Blair and Serena were officially over. No I am not a crazy person with no life…I know for a fact that there are SO many girls out there who felt the same way!

The video streaming giant Netflix even recognised these dangers and jumped on the ‘bingeing’ bandwagon by introducing a light-hearted PR campaign for April Fool’s in 2013 with the message of, ‘Binge Responsibly’. If you watched more than 2 episodes consecutively, a video suddenly appeared, and an actress or actor from one of the company’s original shows warned the watcher against the perils of binge-watching.

 

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Like many people, I can struggle to sleep at night. This can often be the reason why I sign into Netflix at 2am, with the hope that it will help me nod off. Of course, this is never really the case. Well my friends, let me introduce you to Napflix – the Netflix for people who need to sleep, and it is a genius PR strategy! Napflix is a Spanish video platform which helps people get to sleep whilst also satisfying our Netflix habits. The platform finds you ‘the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep’. There’s a menu that offers you videos about anything from religion to sports to music and is believed to help you into a deep slumber.

Here is a rather alarming statement; I calculated the approximate hours I have spent watching Netflix series, (excluding movies which I couldn’t even begin to go through), since September. The combination of watching Stranger Things, Beyond Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Riverdale and Gossip Girl (2 seasons) has totalled to 76.8 hours. For the entire year, I have calculated that approximately 335.15 hours of my 2017 has been spent watching a series on Netflix. That equates to nearly 14 days. Keeping in mind, this excludes movies and series not on Netflix such as Game of Thrones. If that isn’t a wake-up call I don’t know what is. It’s so easily done, and I would not have said that I had that much spare time on my hands this year (especially with the amount of complaining I did about how busy I was).

The worst of it is, I don’t even watch that much compared to a lot of people I know. When I do watch it, it is often on in the background whilst I go about my day. However, it will still slow me down as I progressively get engrossed in an episode and its characters. If you are also an avid Netflix watcher, I recommend you sit down and use ‘Binge Clock’ to do the same, I guarantee you will be surprised at the figure and will make you view your use of time with a whole new perspective!

Wait…you mean to say… no Netflix binge? What on earth would one do with their spare time? Here are a few crazy, out-of-the-box ideas;

  • Read a book about a subject you have always been interested in, but ‘never had the time’ to start – you never know what you’ll learn.
  • Spend more time with family.
  • Get ahead on university work which will lessen the future dissertation stress.
  • Go to the gym or for a walk, you will feel better after!
  • For those midnight Netflix burners, have some will power and try not to watch the next episode. Believe it or not – sleep is important.

As 2018 dawned, my New Year’s resolution was to Netflix binge responsibly, I can definitely think of ways I can put the potential extra fortnight saved to good use in final year of university…and so can you!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

As I wound through the country roads the morning of July 22nd 2016, memorising the all too familiar miles of green around me, I tried to imagine what the following year had in store for me. The weeks of last minute packing and goodbye parties were actually over and I was exchanging the Emerald Isle for Barcelona. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live and work there for a year.

Of course, there are the obvious pros of moving abroad, like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? Whilst sun, sangria and maybe even the odd siesta are all part of a year in Barcelona, there are many more reasons why moving abroad is, in my opinion, simply the best thing an individual can do.

  1. International Experience is in Demand

It’s a vicious cycle that is continuously driven into the mind of students, employers want graduates to have experience. It’s become a broken record! It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an often overlooked, potentially easier way to get this all-important experience, is to work abroad. There are countries out there crying out for employees with knowledge of the English language as a native speaker. Obviously this is dependent on the country, but if you work in a company alongside non-native English speakers, you will automatically be given high levels of responsibility and instead of being the one asking the questions; people will come to you to acquire knowledge. We all know that experience on a CV is a requirement, but international experience? That is very much a desired asset to have as an employee. More and more, companies are turning their focus to the international arena so with an understanding of different cultures and business practices, your CV will stand out amongst the sea of students in your position!

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  1. Personal Development

Working abroad will push you to the limits of your comfort zone and beyond, compared to if you were to remain at home. Your experience abroad will drive you to gain independence, attain indispensable skills in a personal and professional sphere and grow umpteen amounts in confidence. Working abroad will not only help you realise your full potential in your professional life but it will also benefit you personally too. I can safely say it has enabled me to make relative, positive and effective life choices!

  1. The PEOPLE

 It wasn’t all smooth running. I had my down moments, let’s be realistic – everyone does. There were times when I simply didn’t want to socialise. I was stressed from work, missing home comforts and wanted to go home. It was times like these that my Barcelona family pulled me through. It is amazing hat a combination of good people from varying backgrounds and a few beers can do! In fact, as I write about the amazing people I met; a Lithuanian, a Spanish and a Czech are on a flight to see the wonders of Northern Ireland. It is my turn to be the tour guide! As cliche as it may sound, they really are friends for life.

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  1. Travel Opportunities

It should go without saying but working abroad will allow you to extend beyond the border of your country of choice and explore the world! Whilst you may not be able to travel in the traditional sense, you can still make the most of your weekends and public holidays. You could also extend your time abroad after your placement to travel fully so take advantage of your geographic location and see a different side of the world! If you are lucky enough to get some work holidays and use them to take a trip home, you will realise how much we take things for granted, in addition to learning who the most important people in your life are!

  1. You learn SO MUCH

The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you know you’re only in a country for a limited amount of time, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s one year in a lifetime, embrace it.

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It has been nearly 3 months from I arrived home from my year abroad, and it is safe to say that the ‘Barcelona Blues’ are well and truly getting to me. It’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – for anyone who knows me well, this is a miracle!

My point is, moving to Spain was nothing like I expected it to be – it was 10 times better. As far as I’m concerned, if you can conquer your year abroad, you can do just about anything. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself working abroad, in an international environment, then get out there and do it – life is too short!

Check out this short video summarising one of my typical after work picnics on the beach, it’s really not your standard placement!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/