Best of 2020 No. 8: Dove puts a new face on 'Real Beauty' in homage to health workers

Unilever brand chief realized 'these conversations about beauty, however relevant they might have seemed a few months ago, now seem superficial'

Published On
Apr 09, 2020

Editor's Pick

Through Jan. 1 we're counting down 2020's best brand campaigns and ideas.

No. 8: Dove campaigns are known for digging beneath the skin. But in the middle of a pandemic, the brand highlighted what the surface reveals in a campaign featuring the faces of health care workers, battered and marked up by wearing masks as they toiled away on the COVID frontlines. The effort from Ogilvy Canada was a celebration of their courage in caring for patient after patient, all while under-equipped and in danger for their own lives. It also included donations of desperately needed funding and PPE.

Original story:

Dove has put a new face on Real Beauty advertising through a “Courage Is Beautiful” campaign, breaking in the U.S., showing faces of healthcare workers marked by the protective gear they’ve been wearing during the coronavirus crisis.

The idea came from WPP’s Ogilvy Canada spotting photos of healthcare workers on the front lines, taken by Italian photographer Alberto Giuliani, says Alessandro Manfredi, executive vice president of the global Dove brand.

“There was a feeling we got that courage is beautiful,” Manfredi says. “We thought why not try to show people who were doing this and also ask people to join us to thank these people who are risking their lives? We did it in, I have to say, four or five days. Then we needed to know we have the images that were right for the U.S. and took two more days for the U.S. It was the fastest campaign I ever saw in my entire life.”

The initial ad broke early this week in Canada, with a U.S. version featuring more photos of U.S. healthcare workers rolling out now, to be followed quickly by ads customized for other countries with local photos, Manfredi says.

The U.S. version carries a tagline noting Dove’s donations to Direct Relief to care for healthcare workers in the U.S. It’s part of parent Unilever’s broader global commitment of around $108 million in supplies and cash, which has also included a donation of 200,000 masks in New Jersey last month and a National Day of Service May 21, in which all essential items made in Unilever factories will be donated to relief efforts through Feeding America and other charities. Dove so far has donated $2.5 million in products to Feeding America and another $2 million in conjunction with Vaseline to Direct Relief, Manfredi says.

Given the subject matter and restrictions on getting people together for production, Dove didn’t want a polished expensive-looking production, Manfredi says. “I think the less resources you have, the more creative you are.”

The Dove team realized in early (virtual) meetings during the crisis that “this communication we have on air is really not relevant anymore,” Manfredi says. “I can’t be more passionate about Real Beauty and self-esteem. But sometimes even these conversations about beauty, however relevant they might have seemed a few months ago, now seem superficial.”

Dove isn’t giving up on beauty self-esteem issues. But it’s adapting self-esteem workshops, originally developed for schools and other public organizations, for home use.

Dove also is rolling out a campaign created by Edelman as part of a commitment with the U.K. government to spend more than $50 million globally to encourage hand washing. The 30-second version includes a countdown of the 20 seconds it takes to wash hands properly, with the message: “We don’t care which soap you use, we care that you care.”

But Dove is the biggest soap brand in the world, Manfredi says, which is one reason it made sense to take a lead in the global campaign.