Look Over Here – But Not Over Here?

November 27th, 2007

If you haven’t seen Dove’s “Evolution” video on YouTube yet, you should. It’s poignant. It’s irreverent. It’s surprising. It’s even a little frightening.

The video is meant to punctuate a self-esteem campaign the brand embarked on months ago by using a photo shoot to show how the beauty industry promotes a distorted reality of beauty. And its wild success inspired a second video from Dove, “Onslaught,” which warns parents to “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” With a collage of images ranging from underwear ads to plastic surgery procedures to infomercials, Dove further demonstrates the dangerous influence of ads and media on impressionable young girls’ self-esteem. Pretty thought-provoking, right?

Unfortunately, Dove forgot to mention that not every brand owned by its parent company Unilever exactly shares such provocative thoughts. You see, as a raging activist and blog community has been quick to point out, Unilever also owns Axe, a men’s deodorant whose brand predicates itself on the very images Dove attacks (one Axe campaign that has opponents up in arms encourages Axe wearers to turn “nice girls naughty”). Virtually any ad in “Onslaught” could be swapped out for an Axe ad — and that’s exactly what one industrious critic has done.  Rye Clifton, a strategic planner from the Martin Agency created a video to demonstrate Unilever’s hypocrisy, which appears just above the original when a search is conducted on YouTube. 

So what do you do when a viral video campaign gets a little too contagious?  Exactly what Unilever’s doing — not a whole lot.

Despite seemingly mixed-messages, Unilever has no intentions of pulling either brands’ campaigns, but instead, is embracing the natural “conversation” that’s been sparked. Throughout interviews with multiple mouthpieces, Unilever has stuck to its position that the Axe ads not only target a different audience, but they are also clearly meant as spoofs. Though advertising for Axe and Dove is handled by different agencies (Ogilvy & Mather and Bartle Bogle Hegarty respectfully), Edelman manages PR for both. Maybe that’s why company spokespeople are all singing the same tune.

Is the company right? Maybe, maybe not. But last I checked, the “Child-rearing and Moral Fiber” departments weren’t listed among Unilever’s facilities.  And while the debate over whether or not Dove is hypocritical continues on, at least the chauvinist pigs, a.k.a. AXE wearers, will smell a little bit better… 

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