'Real Beauty' gets global breakout via evolution

PR bid strengthens self-esteem message of Dove campaign

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Unilever continued the worldwide debate about beauty in 2006 as the 3-year-old "Campaign for Real Beauty" reached more than 50 countries and took some new directions.

The new directions ranged from a Canadian-made viral ad that was one of the most downloaded videos on YouTube to new-product extensions such as Dove Summer Glow self-tanning lotion.

"Our mission is to make women feel beautiful, and widen the definition of beauty and inspire women to take care of themselves," says Fernando Acosta, senior VP-Dove and father of two little girls aged 1 and 8.

Unilever kicked off 2006 with the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, with the goal of educating and inspiring girls who believe in a definition of beauty that doesn't include them. Local country initiatives, such as working with the Girl Scouts in the U.S., are linked in strategy and direction by a global steering group.

The spot "Little Girls," created by the Toronto, New York and Chicago offices of Dove global agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, shows little girls who hate their freckles, want to be blond or fear they're fat. The commercial ends: "Let's change their minds. We've created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund because every girl deserves to feel good about herself."

In the U.S., "Little Girls" ran on the Super Bowl. In Germany, the spot broke in October in a coordinated media buy that scheduled the ad for precisely 8:14 p.m. on every German TV channel. An Asian version of "Little Girls," running in South Korea and scheduled for the rest of Asia, includes local touches such as a Korean girl who thinks her non-Western eyelids are unattractive.

Although the ads are eye-catching and thought-provoking, public relations is used as the lead medium in all countries, Mr. Acosta says. The campaign's impact is multiplied when celebrities like Oprah Winfrey talk about it in the media.

Mr. Acosta is particularly pleased that the spot "Evolution" got more than 3 million downloads on YouTube. Created by Ogilvy, Vancouver, the ad shows a perfectly ordinary-looking girl who arrives for a photo shoot and is transformed through makeup and Photoshop into a glamorous model. The ad ends with the line "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted."

"['Real Beauty'] works globally because it is anchored in true understanding and insights," Mr. Acosta says. "We say it very simply, and we touch a chord when we talk about women's hang-ups about beauty."
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