Campaign: Dove campaign a boost for real women - Marcoms

Campaign: Real Women

Client: Dove

PR Team: Lexis

Timescale: December 2003-August 2004

Budget: Approximately £100,000

Dove launched its new Firming shower and skincare range of products, hiring Lexis to conduct a PR campaign. When Lexis found out that the campaign's ads used real women with a variety of body shapes, instead of professional models, it decided to use the ad as a news hook to generate coverage. Objectives

To drive sales of Dove. To convey to consumers that Dove's ad is groundbreaking and is positive for women's self-esteem.

Strategy and Plan

The team was aware that no matter how striking the ad was, images alone would not be enough to stir up media interest. They needed to explain why Dove had taken this route.

The team commissioned research into women's attitudes to their body shapes, beauty advertising generally and which celebrity role models they most admired. This found that women felt intimidated and depressed by the prevalence of 'stick-thin models' in advertising campaigns, a finding the team used to sell in stories about the ad to national lifestyle media.

To ensure coverage appeared in a media outlet that would set the week's news agenda and inspire further coverage in the press, Lexis gave the Saturday edition of The Times exclusive access to images of the ad. It also arranged for them to interview the ad's famous celebrity photographer, Rankin, and the models themselves. A further exclusive detailing the research on celebrity role models was also given to the Evening Standard.

Because the team was concerned TV channels would not run the story if the only material they had was the ad, they provided broadcast media with behind-the-scenes B-roll of the ad shoot itself. This further emphasised the 'real life behind the glamour' element. The team also linked up with psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos to explain why women feel so disheartened by traditional advertising images.

Cynical dismissal of the campaign by some journalists led to controversial debate, which Lexis further fuelled by sending in letters to editors.

The team then gave The Sun an exclusive on Dove's search for models for the next ad, before targeting regional press with tailored press releases asking women from the specific local areas to apply. Nine final groups of women were chosen and photographed to further attract local press coverage. The winners' stories were then sold into The Sun.

Measurement and Evaluation

Coverage appeared in 36 national newspapers, seven national television pieces, 104 regional press pieces, 29 radio pieces, 17 consumer magazines and eight websites. BBC Breakfast, the Daily Mail and Cosmopolitan were among the media who took up the story.

According to evaluation company Mantra, there were about 70 mentions of the advertising campaign's groundbreaking status and 42 mentions that the ad was seen as positive for women's self-esteem.


Sales of the Dove Firming range have increased by 700 per cent following the launch of the campaign, thanks to a mixture of PR and advertising, according to Dove brand activation manager Susie Plume.

'The campaign was very successful because it was unusual and original, and it played on people's feelings about very thin models,' says Daily Mirror features commissioning editor Jill Foster. 'It hit a nerve with the public and was very memorable. We had a lot of readers writing in after the article.'

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