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87% Vote That More Marketers Should Do the Same

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NEW YORK ( -- An opinion poll about Dove and Nike's "real women" ads found that 87% of respondents want other marketers to explore
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the use of advertising images that depict a variety of normal body shapes and sizes.

Both companies have recently fielded ad campaigns that specifically avoid the use of ultra thin, ultra-conditioned professional models in favor of women who are shorter, thicker and rounder -- females who are more representative of real-life women.

The out-of-the-box advertising efforts, first reported by Advertising Age, touched a nerve with consumers and were picked up by media outlets from The New York Times to NBC’s “Today Show.”

The story and poll also brought in nearly 100 written comments from readers.

“I actually get so tired of seeing the perfect woman on an ad that, whatever the product is, I lose interest,” said Wallicia McCaskill, marketing specialist for the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., Washington. “I don’t want to be constantly reminded that America wants me to look like the billboard lady.”

Jay Little, manager-direct sales for Arthritis Today, Atlanta, e-mailed that “to see ‘regular’ women in mainstream advertising is just what the doctor ordered.” He later elaborated, “All of the women in my life are ‘regular’ women. To hear them complain to me about their body image is saddening, especially when they look beautiful to me and many others.”

Katherine Lewis, PR account coordinator for San Diego-based Bailey Gardiner, wrote that having been raised by what she called a “feminist, bra-burning, MTV-hating mother,” the ads were a gift. “It’s about time that we, as marketers, recognize the social responsibility we carry,” she wrote.

Lola Basic, and account supervisor at Geoff Howe Marketing Communications in Kansas City, Mo., noted that "it is refreshing to see attractive images so outside the draconian standards of 'beauty' maintained by a small group of professional image makers who are completely removed from the reality of being human."

Dawn Bodenner, president of Bodenner & Associates Inc., Advertising in Albuquerque, N.M., said "It's about time someone depicted real women instead of some unattainable ideal wrapped in a small body with fake breasts. When I look at the Dove ads I can see myself. I say bravo to both Nike and Dove and hope their efforts the beginning of a trend."

Molly C. Ziske, metrics manager at Young & Rubicam in Detroit wrote, "As a mom with three girls, I worry that they'll strive for the figures they see in magazines. These ads at least make 'normal-sized' people less taboo."

Karen McFee, executive vice president of Mediasmith in San Francisco, pointed out that "maybe if the world of art directors wasn't so glutted with men, there would be a more realistic representation of people, especially women in advertising."

But not everybody felt the Nike and Dove campaigns were a step in the right direction. Reader Bianca Alonso-Mendoza of Miami wrote, “No would argue that we should feature C-students in educational ads, or (minor-league) players in baseball commercials. So why should advertisers like Dove and Nike promote, nay, extol, mediocrity when it comes to the body?”

Andrea Learned, president of Burlington, Vt.-based Learned on Women, wrote: “Brands taking the real-women approach will need to be transparent about the process of identifying and working with the women. ... Otherwise, can’t anyone just say ‘This is the butt of a real woman from Smalltown, USA,’ when it really is a model’s? Show the actual women and the stories behind the glossy ‘real women’ campaign, or risk losing the trust of even your existing customers.”

John DeBello, president Loma Media of San Diego, argued that "Consumer marketing is aspirational. Period. Dove's campaign works simply because it cuts through the clutter (man Bites Dog, media goes nuts). I will modify this opinion the day beer commercials are populated with 'real' beer drinkers."

In a similar vein, Gabor Csizmadia, creative director of CTS Advertising in Budapest, Hungary, wrote, "This print version of a 'reality show' works well, just like the original reality shows on TV. At first they draw a great deal of attention because they are so different and so 'shockingly' new. But to build a sustainable brand around them is another thing. The exception proves the rule: Advertisements, like films, are always about dreams rather than everyday reality."

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