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"Real People" Ads Generate Strong Debate

Ad campaigns that use real people instead of actors and models have generated considerable debate in the advertising industry in the past year, but not all of it is positive. The Dove campaign for its firming cream, for example, has proved popular with consumers, but industry experts disagree on whether the ad is effective. "Using the average person won't sell anything," says Gerald Celente, director and founder of Trends Research Institute, a consultancy. "The purpose of advertising is to create desire beyond what the product can actually deliver. Do you want to see the floppy Big Mac that the fast food worker actually packages up and hands to you, or the perfect airbrushed billboard version? People are living lives of desperation; they don't want to be themselves." Celente is not alone. One expert known for extolling the power of women and brands also has her doubts. "As a woman, I feel good about [the Dove ads], but as a marketer, I still have to know, where's the money?" says Mary Lou Quinlan, CEO of Just Ask a Woman, a marketing consultancy. The motivation to buy beauty products, Quinlan says, is based on aspiration and the promise of transformation. There's a difference, she says, between saying "I like her" and "I want to be like her."



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