Letters, May 19, 2008

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Debate continues about Dove photos

Does it matter? First, one doesn't hire Annie Leibovitz -- which is to say, pay her a million dollars -- for realistic, or even naturalistic portraits. She's an artist who transforms her subjects into icons. Second, no consumer studies these photographs. At best, they're glanced at and the subject's associations are good, bad or indifferent. Consumption of the product and increase in market share are what matters, not the good opinion of a handful of people who believe consciousness can be engineered by advertising. "Real" women is as artificial (read: false) a concept as supermodel. These models were not chosen at random on the subway. They were selected, which is to say, edited. The photography was styled and shot to approximate some notion we've agreed to call real. Hey, wake up: There's nothing real here, it's advertising.
Robert Sawyer
New York

Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" embodies much hypocrisy along with seldom-revealed distasteful dimensions and associations. Nevertheless, its professed goals and efforts are admirable, and they make an overall positive contribution against the rather extreme importance held by society and individuals concerning what stereotypically determine a person's good looks or not so good looks. In that regard, I would hope that the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty" will continue to credibly present the notion that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes and appearances.

On a less positive dimension, while "Campaign for Real Beauty" apparently has good professed intent, it bothers me that the related personnel have not been able to cause a more significant impact in our society. Despite this campaign's years of existence, there seems to be no snowball effect or behind-the-scenes efforts by associated personnel to genuinely influence other major companies that market cosmetics and the people who use and value these products. And, now, this recent revelation contributes further to its eroding potential impact for good.
Dr. Gordon Patzer
Author, "Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined"

Consumers want clarity, not colors

RE: Adam Werbach's "Seeing Green? Maybe It's Time to Go Blue." I would argue that we are not at a point of "green fatigue" but rather a point where we need to clarify, educate and set standards and regulations that are consistent and understandable. If fatigue is prevalent among some circles, it's because we have yet to offer the consumer clarity. Throwing in new terms or words such as "blue" doesn't help move us closer to a common understanding. I would hesitate to guess the average person wouldn't have any idea what "blue" means. I'm not sure I completely understand. In fact, surveys and articles point out the confusion consumers have navigating environmental terms and phrases, including a 2008 EcoPinion Survey Report that showed only 53% of consumers even understand what "green" means. "Sustainability" comes in even lower at 41%.

Let's call a dog a dog: It's the environment we are talking about. What we can do to lessen our impact on it and even improve it can come in many forms -- energy efficiency, recycling, water conservation, etc. But let's not add another word to the environmental lexicon and confuse people even further. Just as Werbach argues that consumers don't want scientific reports, charts or diagrams, they don't need philosophical marketing-speak either. They want honesty, clarity and a big dose of straight-talking. The environment may be better served if we all admit we are still learning.

We are at a moment when we can truly make a difference. Our charge as marketers, advertisers and communicators is less about building a world of happy people than it is to inspire, motivate and give us all clarity and the tools to do the job at hand.
James Jones


Re: People & Players (AA, May 5). Gary Fitzgerald was incorrectly identified as vice chairman of American Business Media. He is the chairman. Jean-Philippe Maheu was incorrectly identified as chief digital officer of Google. He is chief digital officer of Ogilvy. Peggy Walker is ABM treasurer.
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