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Real women, real results: A look at Dove's best of Silver Anvil-winning campaign

August 8, 2006

Copyright © 2006 PRSA.  All rights reserved.

The following article appears in the summer issue of The Strategist

By Taylor Simmons

In a crowded market for beauty products, Dove was, quite frankly, just another brand — and a way to get clean.
That changed last summer when Unilever, Dove’s manufacturer, and Edelman, its PR agency, introduced Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB). The campaign was conceived as a way for women to feel better about the way they look and take pride in who they are, regardless of age or size.
For its excellence in PR strategic planning and execution, PRSA presented the 2006 Silver Anvil Best of Award to Dove’s CFRB. (In addition to winning the Best of Award, Dove’s campaign also received a Silver Anvil in the category of Marketing Consumer Products: Packaged Goods.)
Stacie Bright, senior communications marketing manager, Unilever, and Larry Koffler, senior vice president, consumer brands, Edelman, accepted the award at the Silver Anvil Awards Evening June 8 in New York City.
“Dove has been dedicated to real women and widening the narrow definition of stereotypical beauty,” said Bright.

Celebrating real women
Targeting women of all ages, the campaign aimed not only to increase sales of Dove products but also to enhance women’s self-esteem and appreciation of their bodies. As the CFRB Web site says, “Real women have real bodies with real curves. And Dove wants to celebrate those curves.” Referred to as real women throughout the campaign, non-supermodel-type females are the girls, teenagers, mothers and wives — women — Dove aimed to inspire.
Six models, ranging from 6 to 14 in size, helped promote Unilever’s new Dove Firming product. With the slogan “tested on real curves,” their skin received attention from numerous high-profile media outlets, from “Oprah” to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

For years, the beauty industry has relied on idealized portrayals of women to engage female consumers.
To compete with the bevy of beauty products, Unilever distinguished itself from other brands by taking an unprecedented, somewhat controversial approach to its marketing.
They decided the key was to engage women on an emotional level by abandoning the traditionally cynical approach of presenting perfect women as beauty role models. Advertising Dove’s six models in print and billboard ads did just this.
To add scientific validity to its hypothesis about how women feel about their appearance and how media generally portray images of beauty, StrategyOne, Edelman’s opinion research division, conducted a study of more than 3,000 women in 10 countries. The results, which inspired the campaign, showed that only 2 percent of women around the world described themselves as beautiful, while 13 percent of women said they were very satisfied with their body weight and shape. In addition, 75 percent of respondents strongly agree that they wish “the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness — age, shape and size.”
The marketing effort was designed to inspire women to discover and enjoy their beauty and imbue the Dove brand with a forward-thinking, stereotype-debunking beauty philosophy. By using images of ordinary women in its marketing, Dove ventured to break through the clutter in the health and beauty space.

The goals of the campaign were to:
• Generate sales of Dove beauty products and new product line, Dove Firming
• Use CFRB to create dialogue and debate about the definition of beauty
• Receive national TV and print media attention
• Gain local market coverage in the hometowns of models featured in the campaign
• Drive consumers to the CFRB Web site to share their views on the campaign
• Create a call to action for consumers to join the campaign through an online pledge that triggers a donation by Dove to self-esteem programs

The younger audience
Part of Dove’s campaign included reaching girls at an early age to foster positive self-image and inspiring young women to change poor perceptions of themselves to strengthen their self-esteem.
Through the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, established in 2002, CFRB tapped into Unilever’s existing partnership with Girl Scouts of the United States of America to educate and inspire girls 8 to 14 to reach their full potential.
By 2008, campaign officials anticipate having reached 1 million young girls from the online program.

In the media
Last summer, the Dove campaign received nearly four hours of  broadcast time, including more than 10 minutes on the “Today” show. On that day, more than 60,000 people visited the CFRB Web site.
The campaign also secured coverage from 62 national television programs, including “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “Access Hollywood.”
CFRB also received feature coverage in high-profile print outlets, including unprecedented branding on the cover of People magazine, in USA Today, The New York Times Magazine and Allure. The campaign received more than 1,000 placements in print, Web, television and radio, far exceeding expectations. According to Dove, sales for the products featured in the ads increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign.
Changing attitudes
“Real beauty is more than just being thin, blond and young,” said Koffler upon accepting the Silver Anvil. “The campaign encourages people to look and think about beauty in a different way.”
Since last summer, more than 1 million visitors have logged onto and shared their thoughts about how the campaign has changed their lives. “I realized that I don’t need the perfect body,” one woman wrote, “All that really matters is to love myself.” 

Taylor Simmons is an intern for The Strategist. She is a senior at Brigham Young University majoring in public relations.

Q-n-A with Larry Koffler, senior vice president, consumer brands, Edelman

The Strategist: One of the initial goals of the campaign was to spark dialogue and become part of the national conversation. This time last year everyone was seemingly talking about the campaign. In the early planning stages, did you imagine that Dove would become such a large part of the national conversation?

Koffler: The essence of the campaign was grounded in the brand’s mission, which is to make more women feel beautiful every day by widening today’s stereotypical views of beauty. The interesting thing is that the Campaign for Real Beauty has been a natural evolution from the brand’s heritage and roots.
We saw the brand as always embracing real women and Dove advertising has always featured testimonials so we had suspected that we would strike a nerve. But certainly we were not expecting the response that we got.

The Strategist: What aspects of the campaign were the most unique in creating that buzz?

Koffler: I think it really was the foundation of the campaign — the building blocks. The first one was grounding the campaign in research. Without having a foundation in the global research study, which showed that the image of beauty was unattainable, we wouldn’t have had the credibility in creating the materials, in pitching stories and being able to answer some of the folks that didn’t agree with the campaign. The research was critical. Certainly, research isn’t unique to Unilever or any company, but creating a concept where public relations served as a glue for advertising, customer marketing, retail, consumer promotions and online was somewhat unique. So that was a success factor. Some of the other success factors were the ability to frame the campaign as a dialogue, and to use real people as brand ambassadors.

The Strategist: Given that the campaign was PR-driven, how did advertising and public relations work together in this campaign?

Koffler: Unilever feels very strongly about the power of a 360-degree approach. We had advertising, public relations, customer marketing and consumer promotions sit down at the table at a very early stage and all think about the entire marketing communication architecture, not just our channels. So that certainly helped. I think we were able to drive when certain executions were going to run. For example, in talking about what was unique about the campaign or how it became a part of the national conversation, we were able to build our pieces of a puzzle around the entire communication architecture.

The Strategist: Not all company’s have campaigns of this size or magnitude. What advice would you give a practitioner from a smaller organization running a smaller campaign?

Koffler: First and foremost, I would go back to research. Companies might not be able to afford 10-country global research, but everyone can afford relevant research that will provide credibility. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to base your campaign on either consumer insight or industry trends. The other success factor was focusing on the issue as a dialogue. I think that speaks to two-way communication. Advertising has been defined as one-way, but brands are defined now by not what companies are saying about themselves but what the consumer says about the brand, opening the door to the two-way communication.
One of the things that we did well was an influencer campaign — we created the Dove Two Dozen, which is the two-dozen women in media and entertainment. We started with them and built the campaign around them. We gave them a preview of what we were planning. We treated them as VIPs and we had them become our own ambassadors.
The other success factor was using smart partnerships. We had one with American Women in Radio and Television. That’s something that any company can do: make sure they partner with the right organization — a like-minded organization — that’s going to be able to help amplify whatever the message is.
Lastly, there’s the media engagement mechanism. Put simply for us, walking the talk through the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. Through education, community outreach and philanthropy, every successful campaign will have a way for consumers to engage. — Taylor Simmons

Koffler will conduct a workshop on the Silver Anvil Award-winning campaign on Nov. 14 during the 2006 PRSA International Conference in Salt Lake City.


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