How Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” campaign is just another cynical attempt to get people to buy things they don’t need, for problems they don’t have.

How Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” campaign is just another cynical attempt to get people to buy things they don’t need, for problems they don’t have.

By E.F Nicholson 

o-DOVE-CHOOSE-BEAUTIFUL-facebook-e1428598916882Once again, Dove has launched a set of advertisements disguised as “campaigns” as part of their worldwide assault on women’s intelligence. The latest, “Choose Beautiful,” shows young women being herded to a choice between two doors: one says, “average,” and the other, “beautiful.” How they are meant to ascertain this choice, affirming they are either of these two words, I guess we just have to assume. Yet Dove’s team of social research scientists from the University of Dove already knew the results would ensure their other studies would tragically reflect these same results. 96% of women think they are just average, rather than beautiful. Dove to the rescue! Yet, wouldn’t a door titled, “Walk through this door if you think you are butt-ugly,” next to a door reading, “Walk through this door if you think you’re quite pretty,” give us different results, considering 99% of women don’t think they are butt ugly? Yeah, Dove’s self-esteem program has succeeded; no longer do women think they are butt-ugly.

Like the Pond’s Institute, but better.

hqdefaultThe actual reality or validity of what this pseudo-experiment yielded, aside from what we see time and time again from Dove, is wily and disingenuous advertising that hits people’s emotional buttons and tries to relay some sentiment that Dove really cares about women’s sense of self-perception and self-esteem. As part of their million-dollar “perceptive management” campaign, they try to fool the public into thinking “Team Dove” are tireless crusaders. Instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising campaigns, rather they take that money to create an “educational campaign,” telling women they are beautiful just the way they are. And to think, they could have used that money just to try to make more money, but instead they used it to try to help women. Wow, they should be called St. Dove.

The argument that they are better than the other beauty companies, as at least they are trying to do something beneficial, falls down flat when you see they are not, in fact, aiming to do anything beneficial. They are cynically aiming to sell more products, and create market distinction and brand awareness by appearing to be doing something beneficial. If, for whatever reason, this campaign ends up having a negative impact on sales, then it will immediately be scrapped, self-esteem be damned.

For Dove, this is about standing out and using their image of compassion as a successful manipulative tool in selling more products. Subconsciously, at least, the idea is when you see Dove you somehow associate them with the Greenpeace of creams, and this contributes to why you will buy that product over any other. With millions going into the creation of these types of campaigns, they are well thought out, with very specific goals in mind, of which women’s positive self-perception is at the bottom of the list.

Scratch the surface and the disingenuous reality is pretty easy to find….

1)We want to help women, as long as we get credit for it, and positive exposure, and it increases our sales and brand awareness.

If Dove was really sincere about helping women’s self-esteem, they would create a charity something like the way the anti-climate science think tank the “Heritage Foundation” has been built, and found and fund it anonymously. Yet all of what they do, just like Ronald McDonald House or any other corporate sponsorship, is done with their name written on it. This is solely about making more money, plain and simple, no matter how many warm fuzzies they are able to drum up in the process.

2) “Choose beautiful,” once we airbrush the non-beautiful from your picture…

Then, to add insult to injury, we discover the plus-size models used in the Dove advertising have been airbrushed to “Dove out” all those human imperfections required to sell their products.

They have been Doved..

They have been Doved..

Celebrated photographic printer and retoucher Pascal Dangin seemed to suggest that he had been involved in retouching some of the “real beauty” images in the Dove Pro-Age campaign, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. He was reported to have asked an interviewer from The New Yorker, “Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”

3) Buying Dove’s products raises girls’ self-esteem, but how much and in what way is propriety knowledge, so you just have to trust us on that one.

In buying Dove, you’re not just buying a sweetly scented bar of soap you lather your body with; no, you’re helping make girls feel better about themselves. Journalist Corina Taylor, from, read about this and wanted to find out more…

In addition to changing women’s perception of themselves, Dove is also aiming at girls. The company’s latest ad, which I viewed on a downtown Toronto billboard the other day, said this: “Buy Dove and raise a girl’s self-esteem.”

I couldn’t quite figure out the correlation between my deodorant purchase and a girl’s self-esteem. So I visited Dove’s website and found “The Dove Self Esteem Fund.” According to the website each time you buy Dove, you help provide self-esteem building for girls.

Apparently, the project aims to “create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.” I called the contact number to see just how much of my purchase goes to this initiative. After being put on hold while the operator could find an answer, I was told it’s not a percentage of the deodorant but rather an amount based on total sales each year. When I asked how much was contributed last year I was told it was likely proprietary information but she would forward my question would to head office.

3) We want women to feel good about their bodies, unless we are selling deodorant to men, then they can go fuck themselves.

This guy is also choosing this type of beautiful

This guy is choosing this type of beautiful

We see this disingenuous concept expanded even further when we look at another company owned by Unilever: Axe/Lynx, a men’s deodorant. The need to help women’s self-esteem is nowhere to be found as scantily clad skinny models are everywhere, validating that this is, in fact, what men want and this is what it is to be beautiful. Dr. Susan Linn, director and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) states:

The Axe campaign makes clear that any concerns Unilever has about girls’ well-being take a backseat to their desire to exploit stereotypes for profit. With Axe, Unilever is creating the same toxic environment addressed by its Dove Campaign” 

If being shallow and objectifying women sells, well, we will go with that. If the selling point is appearing to care about how women perceive their bodies, well, lets go with that, too.

You’re making my brain all hurty.

All this just adds to the ongoing cognitive dissidence the pubic is bombard by. The Unilever company, owners of Dove, tells women they are beautiful just the way they are (as long as they buy Dove), followed by the other company Unilever owns, Lynx, telling them if they want me to desire them they need to be skinny and model-like, followed a food product, also owned by Unilever, telling them to not worrying about how they look and to just eat a whole bucket of Carte D’or ice cream.

You can’t solve a problem if you are the problem.

Media Manipulation by NickoIV

Media Manipulation
by NickoIV

So then, in addition to facile campaigns, what Dove can’t acknowledge is that the problem of women’s self-esteem in today’s modern consumer culture is created by modern consumer culture. Advertising, as have looked at previously here and here, is one of our biggest cultural malwares, spreading its virus like tentacles into the minds of hapless citizens. The way it works is we are told:

  • To buy things we don’t need,
  • To solve problems we don’t really have,
  • With products that don’t even work.

Beyond a decent bar of soap, some shampoo, and toothpaste, what is the real value in quantity of personal care products that are bought and consumed? Do they give people a solution to the problem they are solving? Anti-aging creams have been shown long ago to just flat out not even work. Even if they did, who said aging was a problem in the first place? How long in human history have signs of aging been seen to be something to fruitlessly try to reverse or hide? When did having a certain type of skin become a problem needing a product to solve? Or not looking a certain kind of age? Or hiding certain kinds of blemishes? Having a certain amount body fat? These are not real problems, they just made-up ones we are conditioned through the cultural venereal disease of advertising to internalise, make our own, and then act out on.

The real cost of Dove’s products and advertising

The cost to our well-being

Any exercise designed to make women think about how they look is bound to make them feel bad,” says Elizabeth Plank, writing at “Research has shown that the more women self-objectify, the more unhappy they are. Objectification interrupts the state of flow, which is fundamentally necessary in the pursuit of happiness.”

image-axdDove may not directly target women’s insecurity about being super slim, but their advertising team just found another angle. This is evident in Dove’s casting calls, which read: no tattoos, no scars, flawless skin, beautiful hair, and bodies that fall nicely between “not too curvy” and “not too athletic.” Yes, that’s just a slightly expanded version of the current definition of beauty, leaving them lots of room to make women feel something is missing within themselves. Be it lighter skin, darker skin, less-wrinkled skin, a disability, a scar, etc., it finds something a woman may lack or have, tugs on that, and links it to the need for something else, be it to feel special, happy, connected, attractive, etc., with this lifeless liquid in a plastic bottle. Dove fucks with people’s minds and feelings, just differently, as it still, by the very nature of what it is as a business, needs to link “having” with “being;” that is, the purchase of products will somehow make me feel more of something. The endless loop advertising saturates us in prevents people from confronting what that empty feeling really is they are trying to fill with this product or that product. Dove can never come out with the truth, which is, “There is nothing you can buy or have that will make you feel whole, so stop buying shit and look at what’s really making you unhappy,” as the answer might be, “Well, one of the reasons could be soulless businesses like you.”

The cost to our planet

On top of all this, how many millions of litres of moisturisers, face creams, and anti-cellulite serums get created and poured into millions of plastic bottles, to be applied to millions of faces, bodies, lips etc., and all to what end? Like all markets driven by manufactured needs, we consume for consumption’s sake without really looking in detail at where this is all going. Just as with the fashion industry we previously looked at here, there is a very direct cost to our planet in vast quantities of finite resources gobbled up in providing our supermarket shelves a seemingly bottomless supply of “personal care” products we have come to expect. The production of the plastic alone that goes into selling Dove products will end up in a landfill for the next 1000 years. The petroleum used to create these plastics needs to be refined and processed, the product needs to be transported across the world, and many other components all just escalate even further our CO2 emissions.

16588023-planet-earth-belt-tightening--global-financial-crisis-elements-of-this-image-furnished-by-nasaPart of the problem with Dove advertising (and all advertising, really) is it’s just one massive distraction and diversion from really looking at the disaster we are setting up for our children and grandchildren to inherit. I worry about my daughters’ self-esteem and the culture that aims to erode it, yet I worry more about the state of the global climate they will inherit 30 years from now. Report after report, study after study just further validates in more alarming and catastrophic language the climate cluster-fuck we are heading towards. Unilever, despite their token projects and self-esteem campaigns, doesn’t give a continental shit about this fact. In fact, this billion-dollar enterprise is a major contributor to the acceleration of this looming “end of days” by the promotion over and over of the thoughtless consumption of its colossal product range, all to increase their expanding colossal profits.

Looking at the bigger issue

Campaigns like these do need cynical scrutiny and should be exposed as shallow and manipulative, yet they also need to be seen in the wider sense of occupying a space within a bigger picture. If we want future generations to have a liveable planet, we can’t afford to just keep buying clothes, Happy Meals, cars, holidays abroad, face creams, iPhones, and many of the other useless products pushed on us that we don’t need. It destroys both our souls and the habitability of the planet.

Maybe I will set up a slick ready-to-go viral film with a 3-door scenario and record which one people walk through. They will be titled: 

1. I mindlessly consume things I don’t need.

2. I choose not to allow myself to be manipulated to buy things I don’t need for the betterment of the planet, including the crap Dove peddles.

3. Your questions are confusing me and I’m just looking for the toilet.

Then I’ll publish the shocking results and talk to the ladies on “The View” about how I discovered many people seemed to need to go to the toilet when being faced with stupid and loaded questions.



More art by Nickoiv

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