Dove Real Beauty Sketches was intended as the company's latest self-aware, tear-jerky campaign. The sun-dappled spot shows women describing their own looks to a former police forensic artist for a sketch. Afterward, strangers describe the women's looks to the artist, and predictably, they're far more generous.
The lesson? Women are their own worst critics, and in the end, those in the Dove ad weepily question their own poor self-image. The closing tag line announces: "You are more beautiful than you think," followed by the company logo.
"Dove hires FBI to teach women they're beautiful," crowed the headline over at Shine.
But most other critics have argued that Dove is a beauty brand that profits from women's insecurities. (To boot, it's owned by Unilever, which pushes skin-lightening creams in India and also owns Axe – not exactly a feminist line.)
"Dove, don't you dare suggest that the hatred comes from within. It's being handed down to us from a never-ending supply, sustained by companies just like you," wrote London-based blogger Linnea Dunne.
"The problem is that a beauty product manufacturer depends on its audience wanting to be beautiful. And try as it might to convey that beauty comes from within, that's not where it's going to make its money – and, actually, it keeps failing miserably, every single time."
(Here's how Toronto writer Anupa Mistry aptly put it: "Dovesplaining.")
The campaign was also parodied this week with a version made for men.
"Tell me about your eyes," this forensic artist asks one dude. "A lot of people say they're an abyss, because they just don't end," comes his reply. Another guy decides his face has the balance of a "white Denzel Washington." Female strangers are then called in to reassess the men, comparing them to eyebrowless lawn gnomes.
This campaign's tagline? "Men. You're less beautiful than you think."
Funny, but also indicative of larger double standards: while men may be pressured by beauty brands to get laid, they don't have this style of patronizing to put up with.