April Is The Month Of Dove

January and February are all about Super Bowl campaigns, September is all about smartphones videos, and November and December focus  on holiday advertising. Let’s just call April a month that’s all about body image advertising. Correction: April is the month of Dove.

For the last three Aprils, Dove has launched a stunt-based video campaign about women’s beauty issues -- with great success. In 2013, the brand had a huge hit with “Real Beauty Sketches,” which generated 146 million views. In 2014, the brand released the much more controversial “Patches,” which garnered 58.8 million views. And on April 6 of this year, Dove released its latest stunt campaign, “#ChooseBeautiful.”

Like all of Dove’s campaigns, the idea for “#ChooseBeautiful” is rooted in research. Dove interviewed 6,400 women, ages 18 to 64, in 20 countries and asked how they perceive their own beauty and the beauty of other women. The findings were shocking: 96% of women don't see themselves as beautiful, and yet 80% believe that every woman has something beautiful about her.



What the brand did with that information was confront women in Shanghai, San Francisco, London, Sao Paulo, and Delhi with two doorways -- one labeled “Average,” the other labeled “Beautiful” --  and then record which door the women walked through.

Unsurprisingly, many of the women in the video chose to walk through the “Average” door, although most felt disappointed with their decision. “It was my choice. And now I will question myself for the next few weeks or months,” said one woman. Those that chose the “Beautiful” door -- or were pushed through by a friend or family member -- felt empowered.

After four days, “#ChooseBeautiful” generated 4.6 million views. That’s far ahead of Dove’s 2014 campaign, “Patches,” which had fewer than 100,000 views four days after its release. But it’s a bit behind “Real Beauty Sketches,” which had 10.1 million views four days into its run. With that in mind, if this campaign follows in the path of its predecessors, Dove is likely to have another 50-million-plus-view campaign on its hands.

The successes of Dove’s campaigns have always been predicated on their ability to drive conversations and debate. With “Real Beauty Sketches” there was discussion about the actual issue it communicated – how we interpret our appearance – but there was also debate over whether or not the concept was patronizing or was diverse enough. “Patches” was even more divisive, with one camp inspired by the message of self-confidence and another almost insulted by the campaign.

So far the Internet isn’t jumping on this campaign to pick it apart; the feedback is mostly glowing. There have been a few analyses of the campaign that complained of it being a bit condescending. There’s also some discussion in video comments that maybe “Average” and “Beautiful” weren’t the right words to use. But there isn’t much debate-like chatter…yet.  Still, all the discussions about previous campaigns didn’t begin right away. It took a week or so for the campaigns to start making the rounds and eliciting commentary and analysis from not only the ad trades, but also from the larger news media.

The body image issue the brand has chosen this time is an interesting one: Are women not willing to call themselves beautiful because they really don’t think they are, or because most of these people feel like they should be humble or else they’ll  be judged for their confidence?  There’s an uplifting message within the stunt, but plenty of room for different interpretations, which is a balance that few brands knows how to strike quite like Dove -- and a sure reason for its success in video.

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