Dove hires FBI to teach women they're beautiful

Dove (Dove)

Dove's latest "real beauty" campaign just got grittier. No more real women laughing in their underwear or crying with happiness at the site of their image posted on a billboard in Times Square. For their latest efforts in self-actualizing beauty, the company hired an FBI sketch artist to hammer the point home: You’re beautiful.

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In a two-part experiment, Dove and its agency Ogilvy hired Gil Zamora, an FBI sketch artist to draw seven women as they described themselves. The artist wasn't allowed to view the women who sat on the other side of a curtain, he could only ask them questions about what they looked like. Using the information the subjects gave him about their physical traits, he drew their portraits. The women gave descriptions such as, "I kind of have a fat, rounder face," and "I'd say I have a pretty big forehead."

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The subjects had also been asked to spend time with strangers who gave the sketch artist a description of the women for him to draw.

In the end, the sketches produced from women's self-descriptions were less attractive than those drawn from strangers' descriptions. The women’s reactions: "I should be more grateful for my natural beauty," said one woman. "We should spend more time focusing on the things we do like."

It was a wake-up call for Kela Cabrales, a tech teacher and digital artist featured in the Dove documentary.  "I probably beat myself up way more than I should," Cabrales told The Huffington Post, after the video was first posted online. "I see my 8-year-old daughter, and she’s so happy and confident, and naturally exudes this beauty. And when I see her I feel like, 'Oh god, what pitfalls did I fall into, and how can I keep that from happening to her?' I don’t know what they are -- I wish I did. I really want to protect her."

As of Tuesday, Dove's video had been viewed over one million times on Youtube. By Wednesday, that number mushroomed to four million. On Thursday, it reached seven million.

Industry-watchers are largely praising the campaign for its innovative approach to a feel-good message. “Watching these women come face to face with the version of themselves in their mind and the version everyone else sees is extraordinary,” writes an Adweek blogger. Brandchannel also commended Dove for offering a "a glimmer of hope for young girls growing up today."

The 2,000 plus comments under Dove's Youtube video range from exasperated to emotional.  “When I saw this, I sat for 15 minutes straight crying so much," wrote one viewer. "The message is crystal clear and powerful, yet I still think of myself the same way these ladies did at the start. I wish I could think differently of myself.”

Blogger Stacy Bias had an entirely different reaction to the video. She found the ad to be skewed. “These experiences are so plainly curated," wrote Bias. "They chose pretty, well-dressed women of a certain class and they chose people of a similar attractiveness-scale and social class to describe them.” She also made the point that being “beautiful” should probably not be a woman’s main goal. Believing that others see us as beautiful? Believing that we are beautiful? I want people to question their negative self-perceptions, sure. But I would love for that to happen in a context where beauty doesn’t always end up valorized."

Dove's brand reps don't seem too concerned about any possible backlash.  "We’re seeing an overwhelming number of positive responses to the 'Dove Real Beauty Sketches' film," a representative told Yahoo! Shine in an emailed statement. "Dove is committed to creating a world where beauty is the source of confidence, not anxiety. We believe that all women are beautiful and are saddened by the fact that only 4% of women don’t think that they’re beautiful. We hope that the Dove Real Beauty Sketches inspires all women to see the beauty in themselves that others do."

It's yet another ambitious attempt by Dove to promote self-love. Their tactics haven't always worked. One past campaign included promising to let users “replace” weight-loss ads that make women feel bad about themselves. According to Business Insider, the ads didn’t fulfill their promise. Another campaign included launching a device that with one click, reversed the applied Photoshop to models. As Business Insider pointed out, the app didn’t work.

In an era of airbrushing, do you think Dove's message of "love yourself" is headed in the right direction?

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