While Dove enjoys the notoriety of "Pro-Age" TV spots being banned in the U.S., another Unilever brand, Vaseline, features a nude cast of hundreds in a spot called "Sea" by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, that has run so far only in the U.K. "Sea" is part of a multimedia global Vaseline campaign on the "'amazingness' of skin."
Bartle Bogle work
"It's rooted in the insight that women take great care of their skin from the neck up, but somewhat take for granted the skin on the rest of their body," said Emma Cookson, Bartle Bogle's global head of planning. "The strategy is to celebrate skin's 'amazingness,' and Vaseline's ability to keep it that way."
Almost poetic, the spot shows extreme close-ups of skin, and long shots of unclothed people against beautiful Icelandic landscapes, acting out the role of your 300 million skin cells-waterproof, healing themselves, regulating temperature. The actors stand in a forest, huddle on boats, lift their arms to the sun. The voice-over ends with the statement: "Your skin is amazing. Look after it."
At Unilever, Vaseline's global brand director is Steve Miles, who worked on the company's high-profile Axe brand and hired Bartle Bogle in late 2005 to reposition Vaseline as a more contemporary brand.
The spot encountered no problems in the U.K., but U.S. networks follow tough anti-nudity rules. (Meanwhile, the spot has been viewed about 20,000 times on YouTube). Ms. Cookson said there will be different versions of "Sea" for different markets. "At a campaign level, the idea will definitely launch in the U.S." she said.
One U.S. network that saw a version of the spot in November said it is prepared to run it -- with a few tweaks the agency offered to make. No air date has been set because the agency hasn't submitted a final cut yet, the network spokesperson said.
The push will be customized around the world depending on factors ranging from the brand's local status to cultural codes around skin, she said. "There's a hell of a lot of difference in the amount of skin and how you show it if it's Saudi Arabia, or Brazil," Ms. Cookson said. "We look for cultural and consumer tailoring, and also regulatory."
The U.K., for instance, has a more relaxed attitude toward nudity in advertising than the U.S. The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority's guidelines merely say an ad shouldn't "cause widespread offense."
Vaseline's "Sea" ad caused no offense, and Unilever's Dove "Pro-Age" spots drew only four complaints. British media coverage focused more on the age of the Dove women than their state of undress.
"The rules need to be flexible," an ASA spokeswoman said. "We don't want to be prescriptive because tastes change and because context, target audience and media are all-important in this issue."