Unilever Unleashes 'Onslaught' on Beauty Industry

Dove's Follow-up to 'Evolution' Gets High Hit Count

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Beauty-industry advertising is coming under attack once more by beauty advertiser Unilever in a follow-up to the widely honored Dove "Evolution" viral video that broke today in the U.S.
The success of 'Evolution' has helped 'Onslaught' generate numerous blog mentions of it as a follow-up to the original.
The success of 'Evolution' has helped 'Onslaught' generate numerous blog mentions of it as a follow-up to the original.

And Unilever believes that will help keep building the brand, too.

Dove's "Onslaught" features a close-up of a cute red-haired preteen girl to musical refrains of "Here it comes" from U.K. group Simian's "La Breeze," followed by a barrage of beauty-industry images and ads featuring booty-shaking lingerie models, cheesy direct-response-style pitches promising cosmetic miracles, scenes of plastic surgery, time-lapse effects of yo-yo dieting and bulimia, all leading up to the tagline: "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does."

Pulling back the curtain
The video, like "Evolution," comes from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Toronto. And it directly supports the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which has set a goal to reach 5 million girls globally with programs by 2010. To that end, Unilever this year also will enlist yet-unnamed celebrities to appear at events to reveal how stylists, makeup artists, photographers and computer technicians produce their onscreen and on-page looks.

The success of "Evolution," which has gotten more than 12 million views on YouTube alone since its launch last year and likely more than 15 million overall, has helped "Onslaught" generate numerous blog mentions of it as a follow-up to the original.

It's also created a high hurdle to match.

As of 5 p.m. today, about 32 hours after the video was first posted in the U.K., Onslaught had generated more than 100,000 views on YouTube, placing it among the top 16 overall for the day, and the most daily blog mentions Dove has gotten since "Evolution," according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics' BlogPulse.

Like "Evolution," which got a boost with an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," "Onslaught" generated considerable coverage on NBC's "Today Show," said Stacie Bright, senior marketing-communications manager for Unilever.

Brand building, too
While the mission, as with "Evolution," is to build the Self-Esteem Fund and its mission, it's also to build the Dove brand, said Kathy O'Brien, marketing director for Dove skin care and the master brand in the U.S. (A last-minute switch by judges from nonprofit to the beauty category earned "Evolution" its opportunity for a film Grand Prix at Cannes earlier this year.)

'Onslaught' "does show our commitment to our mission, and we think it does have a positive effect on the brand," Ms. O'Brien said. "We feel a responsibility as a billion-dollar brand in the beauty industry ... to change the way beauty industry communicates with young girls."

Ms. O'Brien said Unilever hasn't heard any criticism from other beauty marketers and pointed to some similar self-esteem building or realistic-beauty advertising efforts by such competitors as Procter & Gamble Co. or Japan's Shiseido as indications that the unconventional approach is gaining some traction. "We think it's flattering that people kind of mirror what we're doing," she said.

Dove's U.S. sales growth has flattened in the past year after two years of double-digit growth, according to data from Information Resources Inc. But Ms. O'Brien said, "We're pleased with our progress through the year. We feel the business is healthy and strong, and we have great plans and great innovation that's about to launch in 2008."
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