More Than Just Beautiful

Dove attempted to change the history of advertising by challenging beauty stereotypes in their campaigns where they selected ‘Real women’ whose appearances were considered outside the stereotypical standards of beauty. The idea was that the ‘Real women’ were attractive and amiable to their female audience because they were relatable. Although I was glad that the campaign created the scope for discussion on beauty, it also made me examine the value in the word ‘Beauty,’ which is used to portray women on media. Although Dove being a cosmetic product, does a specific definition of ‘beauty’ need to be a characteristic to represent women (For example, Dove Soap)?

In my opinion, Dove does not migrate far away from the conversation about beauty but creates a new stereotype signifying the term ‘Real Women.’ These Real women, whose photographs are taken by professionals and in an aesthetically pleasing environment and images retouched. It makes me wonder how these advertisements would help young girls to contemplate this new standard of beauty. What would be the consequences if the new ‘achievable real beauty’ does not become attainable? A study was conducted by Swami and Smith (2012), which examined the impact of reality television shows that try to promote positive body image through the use of “real women” in contrast to a program that emphasizes the skinny model. Members of both test groups reported negative stress and body weight anxiety after watching the TV shows. A suggested reason for these effects is that when ‘Real’ women are used in these TV shows, they hint women of the challenges in achieving another ideal. This consequently stimulates a higher self-awareness and fear of the possible, ending a different kind of body-focused stress and anxiety.

“There are many possibilities — socially engaged design for raising awareness; satire and critique; inspiration, reflection, highbrow entertainment; aesthetic explorations; speculation about possible futures; and as a catalyst for change.” (Dunne, Anthony and Fiona Raby, 2013).

‘More than just beautiful’ is a prototype of an Experiential Ad where the participants record themselves in a video in any way they wish. The cast does not have any limitations in taking their video, and there will not be any additional retouching of the submitted footages. The video has short interruptions of various adjectives that can be substituted for the word ‘Beautiful.’

‘More than just beautiful’ is a series of visual recordings focused on creating an extension of the dialogue about beauty, which was started by Unilever’s Dove.

It hopes to convey the idea that everyone is different, and associations to the word beautiful are irrelevant. Not even a cosmetic product advertisement should make women feel compelled to look or feel a way unless they want to.

P.s: I wrote this Short Opinion piece with a design response (video) for a class in 2018, it felt relevant to this day in the discussion of emerging influencers, following social media fads, Body positivity, related stress, and anxiety. A recent campaign of Dove focusing on health and Hygiene in the time of COVID.

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