Unilever's 'Dove Real Beauty Sketches' is the Viral Campaign of the Year

Soap Campaign Tapped Into Perceptions of Women's Self-Image

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It's that time of year, folks: time to assess what worked in online video in 2013. This year, Unilever takes the crown of most-viewed video ad campaign with Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches."

With nearly 135 million views, Unilever got a massive audience for the series which bested some very strong competitors this year, including Google's "Chrome: For ..." campaign, Turkish Airlines' shenanigans with Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant, and Volvo Trucks' crazy splits stunt with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

"Real Beauty Sketches" debuted on April 14— eight years after Ogilvy Toronto's hit "Evolution" campaign. This spot not only impressed, but also tugged at heartstrings. In it, an FBI sketch artist asked individual women participating in a study to either describe themselves or a stranger seated next to them earlier in the day.

The results showed very different images— the self-descriptions would reveal the women's insecurities. The clip juxtaposed the two descriptions to highlight the distorted-- inaccurate and less attractive -- verbal pictures women painted of themselves.

In May, it took the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity's highest honor— the titanium Grand Prix — a prize only awarded for innovative and transformational work. In November, Unilever topped our Awards Report Chart.

Ad Age's numbers are provided by Visible Measures and they included all videos associated with a campaign -- not just a single video on YouTube. Keep in mind brands are also paying to promote these videos, so views are a reflection of both viewer interest and the budget the advertiser is putting behind them.

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