Despite appearances, however, Unilever never downplayed "Real
Beauty," said Global Senior VP-Dove Steve Miles. All along, Ogilvy
has had a global "open brief" to create new work in the campaign.
This year, Ogilvy Brazil just happened to come up with a big
So why eight years between big hits? "I don't think really great
creativity is ever easy," Mr. Miles said, even if a strong insight
behind "Sketches" made it look that way.
Unilever, its PR shop Edelman and its media agencies MindShare and
(recently added) PhD, which handled work on "Sketches," also have
learned a few tactics for creating viral hits since
While that campaign got no paid media, "Sketches" has had such
support from the beginning, along with plenty of owned and earned
media. When early response to "Sketches" proved strong, Unilever
moved within days from distributing it in four countries to 25 and
boosted paid advertising behind it via YouTube, Facebook Twitter
and paid search, said Fernando Machado, global VP of Dove.
A first-day appearance on "Today" and two stories in The
Huffington Post on the same day helped fuel an explosion that saw
"Sketches" generate 4.3 billion PR impressions in less than a
But does it sell soap? IRI data show Dove's U.S. sales up 1% in
the four weeks ended May 19, right after the April 14 "Sketches"
release. That compares with a 3% rise to $1.5 billion for the full
"On something like this that's about long-term Dove love, I
would be much more interested in brand-health measures than
short-term sales," said Mr. Miles, and those indicators look good.
"We have plenty of product communications directed at those
Nor is he concerned about inevitable blowback in social media.
"If you want to be a brand that has a point of view and strongly
held purpose, you have to expect that not everyone will agree with
you," Mr. Miles said.
"If you look at Axe, I would argue that young men, like women,
do suffer from lack of self-esteem or confidence. The Axe campaigns
are tongue-in-cheek, designed to give them a boost of confidence in
a different way." Unilever tests Axe ads both with women and men,
he added. "They're enjoyed by both."