Dove's 'Real Beauty' is not the image of transparency

No one doubts those are "real" women that appear in Unilever's Dove advertisements. They have real curves - hips and all - and even very real wrinkles, sags, and bags in the pro-age ads, which were part of Dove's much-heralded "Campaign for Real Beauty." Victoria's Secret's models these are not.

No one doubts those are "real" women that appear in Unilever's Dove advertisements. They have real curves - hips and all - and even very real wrinkles, sags, and bags in the pro-age ads, which were part of Dove's much-heralded "Campaign for Real Beauty." Victoria's Secret's models these are not.

At a time when many consumers are now amateur photographers, most are savvy enough to know that before a photo gets printed - in advertising or elsewhere - it will go through a review process that includes some adjustments. Pointing out the little color corrections and photo retouching should not have affected an otherwise successful campaign.

There was no mention of photo manipulation until Pascal Dangin, a fashion digital retoucher, implied during a recent interview with The New Yorker that his work on the campaign included significant photo manipulation. The media jumped on the apparent hypocrisy of Dove's campaign, despite subsequent denials of any retouching from Unilever, Dangin, and Annie Leibovitz - the photographer on some of the ads. Color correction and dust removal were all that Dangin was referring to, the company said.

That might be true, but by claiming early on that the images would not be touched up, Dove left the campaign open for scrutiny. When it launched the "Campaign for Real Beauty" in 2004, Dove made a point to say that it would include women whose, "images have not been altered or retouched in any way," even mocking the beauty industry's retouching technique in a viral video placed on YouTube.

If Dove had shown the original images from the onset, it could have avoided these questions. Consumers would likely understand that minor changes were necessary to keep the ads professional looking. Companies shouldn't fear presenting the public with the preparations behind a task.

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