Kaitlin’s Propaganda Analysis

Dove Real Beauty Campaign

Ideology and Purpose of the campaign

In today’s society, women feel pressured to look a certain way. The definition of beautiful has a lot to do with our weight, hair, eyes, body type, and the list goes on. In most advertisements, models are very skinny and do not have any imperfections. In today’s world, many people look at the models and do not realize they have been photo shopped. They then compare themselves to these photo shopped models and they get a lower self-esteem. They start to feel as if they are not beautiful, or normal. However, in 2013 a company called Dove started portraying women how they actually look, to make them feel beautiful. It all started with the Real Beauty Sketches video. This video has a forensic artist draw a picture of a woman how she describes herself and then draws another picture of the woman according to how someone else describes her. In the end the women found that other women perceive them as more beautiful than they see themselves. The ideology of this campaign is that women should be confident about themselves; going against what media these days is portraying as beautiful (Media and Cultural Analysis). The purpose of this campaign is to actually get women to feel good about themselves and empower other women to feel the same way. If Dove can show imperfections on their ads, it should make people feel better about themselves, and quit comparing themselves to the photo shopped models that companies such as Victoria Secret is portraying. The campaign itself was set up with different strategies and tactics. Dove uses billboards, magazine ads, and videos to show real people being happy with their “imperfect” body. They use real people as a strategy to get more people on board with the Real Beauty Campaign while also advertising for their products.


            In a way this is a struggle over power. Dove is trying to get more people on board with the Beauty Campaign so that more people feel better about themselves and so more people buy their product. When we look at L’Oréal products, the women are all the type of “beautiful” the media is portraying. They have on large amounts of makeup, are all skinny and look like they have a perfect body. Dove is using real people of all different sizes which could make them a more powerful company. People will see others just like them on Dove’s commercials and it will make them want to buy this as compared to the other products with photo shopped models. If all products would portray women the way they actually are, this would resolve the struggle of power. All companies would be equal and it would go back to just being about the product.

The parties that are involved are all of the companies that are selling body products and are in competition with each other. Customers are what is at stake. According to David Aaker, in the early 1990s, Dove was worth 200 million dollars and after the campaign, is now worth 4 billion dollars. Now that Dove has been seen successful, other companies have started to use models that portray how actual women look, without Photoshop.

To answer the question “what has happened to lead up to this?”, I would say photo shop has lead up to this. Photo shop has made women feel like they do not fit in and are not pretty compared to the women the media portrays. In 2006, Dove came out with its Evolution Video. This video showed how an average women went from looking like herself to someone unrecognizable after all of the makeup and photo shop. According to Melissa Rayworth, some advertisements were using such skinny models that they had to photo shop out the skinny bones. Even skinny girls were getting photo shopped. Dove has quit using photo shop which has gotten millions of women on their side.

Identify the propagandist

The propagandist in charge of this is the company Unilever. They are the creator of Dove as well as the Real Beauty Challenge. According to Fernando Machodo, who is the global brand vice president of Dove, Dove started the real Beauty challenge to inspire women to rethink their real beauty and how other people see them. The propagandist used the real Beauty Challenge to convince women that they are more beautiful than they think they are. While doing this, they gained more customers because women liked what Dove stands for. Unilever has the most to gain because the more women supporters they get, the more customers overall they have.

Unilever uses other women to do the speaking on their ads. They are showing pictures of real women that are not photo shopped. They use women’s true beauty to show others that they are beautiful just the way they are. This supports the propagandist’s ideologies because it is showing women that they are beautiful without being photo shopped. They are showing women that the media represents women wrong, by changing their appearance to meet the “pretty” standard that the world has today.

Structure of the organization

            According to the Huffington Post, Dove executives are the leaders of the campaign. The Huffington Post reported that in the early 2000s they began to look for a new way to set Dove apart from the other companies. Their goals were to one, get more customers, and two get women to think of themselves in better ways. Their first study asked 3000 women to state whether they thought they were beautiful or not and only 2% reported that they thought they were beautiful. Dove wanted to change this. The members of the Real Beauty Challenge are the women that are on the billboards, and that were involved in the Evolution, and the Real Beauty Sketches videos. You can become a member by being in one of the videos, buying dove products to support their Real Beauty Challenge or, vote on some of their billboards. The culture involved is made up of women that have come together to help redefine the word beautiful. They are the ones that help other women believe they are pretty even if they are not as skinny, or have as “perfect” of skin as the models on TV. The information flows well because women everywhere see it. When they see it, they start to realize that they are beautiful and what the media is portraying as beautiful is just fake.

Target Audience

            The target audience for Dove’s Real Beauty Challenge is women all over the world, of all different ages. According to the Huffington Post, women in 10 different countries were involved in the initial study of the Real Beauty Challenge. I think it was important to target women all over the world because, every country has standards for what they think is pretty. For example, I chose to use the website that showed how one woman was photo shopped to fit the beauty standards of different countries to show that even in different countries, people are photo shopped to fit standards that the media sets for them to be beautiful. I think that the Real Beauty Challenge targets women of all ages because if young girls see advertisements showing them that it is okay to not fit what media portrays as beautiful most of the time, they will feel better about themselves. I think that it is important for Dove to win over younger generations, because they will not only have the support of the younger girls but their mothers as well which boosts their business. I think that it is important to target older generations as well because older women need to feel good about themselves too. One of the billboards, had an older woman on it that had a box that said withered, or wonderful. This showed that people may view it either way, but the woman is smiling, portraying her happiness, even though she is not “perfect”. Women of all ages, all over the world were, and still are inspired by Dove’s Real Beauty Challenge, it has made them look at their own beauty in a different way.



The media that was used were videos, that were played on the internet as well as the TV, Ads, Billboards, and other videos that can be found on YouTube. All of the ads and videos had women that did not fit the typical definition of beautiful. The women were not photo shopped and that is unusual when it comes to women in the media. By using these techniques, it was able to be seen by millions all over the world. This caused women to start seeing their true beauty. I think that the billboards were a perfect example of how nonverbal communication is being used. The pictures of the people showed them smiling, which indicates they are happy with their bodies. Also, the pictures allowed viewers to see the imperfections of the people, perceiving them as beautiful instead of an imperfection. I think that because of all the different ways media is used the theory that best fits is the theory of exposure learning.  This theory is all about how many times a person sees something, impacting how they feel about it. According to Chapter 4 in our books, the more exposed you are, the more positive or negative attitudes you have toward the stimuli. I think that Dove had different advertising techniques to expose people more. I think that the billboards were used in order to catch the eye of people that were not in front of a TV all the time. For example, people that travel all the time would have never seen the advertisements if they had not been on a billboard. All of the different exposures kept reminding women that they truly are beautiful. Every time they saw the ad, they became more positive about self-image.

Special Techniques

            Dove used real women from all over the world to show what real beauty truly is. This was a special technique because usually companies photo shop their women in order to fit beauty standards. This allowed their media to stand out more than others did, because it was different. Dove also used check boxes on their billboards that allowed women to vote on which way they saw women. For example, the image below shows an older woman and people that saw the billboard could vote if the woman was grey or gorgeous. Again, this was a special technique because I don’t know of another brand that has done this. It gets people involved, and also gets their attention. I think that the special techniques used definitely added to the campaign in a positive way. I think that by using these two things, it helped get more supporters. In terms of visual rhetoric, I think that the billboards are an example of pathos. I think that showing the women on the billboards, just the way they are creates a certain emotion for the viewer.



Audience Reaction

There were two reactions to the Real Beauty Challenge. Some people think that it did great things, while others thought that it was bad. The people that thought it was good praised Dove for choosing to have women outside of the normal beauty stereotype (Celebre and Denton). People liked that Dove used older women with wrinkles, as well as some overweight women. People liked this because they could relate to the women that were in the advertisements. The Evolution video won Dove two Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards in 2007. Dove also won 150 million dollars in free media time, because the women appeared on different talk shows to talk about their experience (Celebre and Denton).

The people that saw bad in the campaign said, that younger adults are still making comparisons with the people on TV, which still could be harmful to self-esteem. Some people also think that Dove should have people with disabilities in their ads as well, to show that all women are beautiful. Some people think that because Dove left these individuals out, it is still somewhat a standard set for women. That being, disabled people are not beautiful.


            In the media, many ads portray women’s beauty as skinny women, with perfect skin. One of the biggest counterpropaganda pieces is Victoria Secret. There ideology is to make women feel sexy. They always have their models wearing very little clothes, their models are also all very skinny. They also are more than likely photo shopped. Les Wexner, the owner of Victoria Secret, is the one that is gaining the most out of the advertisements. Victoria Secret is totally opposite from the Dove ads. Victoria Secret really only targets skinny women, because that is all they advertise. These types of ads make women feel worse about themselves because these ads are showing how beauty is portrayed throughout the media. Victoria Secret uses the fashion show as a special technique to get themselves out there. I think that this is a type of propaganda that shows women how they are “supposed” to look, and this makes women think about how imperfect they are while comparing themselves to the Victoria Secret models. Some people think that Victoria Secret has went too far, they think that it is portraying women as sexual icons. The photo below is an example of the type of women Victoria Secret uses.victoria-secretEffects and Evaluation

The Real Beauty Campaign has made women all over the world feel more beautiful. They redefined beauty in a way that did not single out skinny girls with perfect skin and hair and so on. According to David Aaker, Dove sales have increased from 2.5 billion dollars when the campaign started to 4 billion dollars today. The real beauty campaign has caused women all over the world to stop and realize that the standard of beauty set for women is not truly what beautiful is. They have learned to embrace their imperfection and consider themselves as beautiful. The videos and ads served as propaganda. I think that it was propaganda because the ads and videos are trying to shape the perceptions that women have about themselves, as well as how others use the term beauty when describing someone. The ads and videos are also trying to change the behavior of people around the world. They tried to show that women are beautiful and we should not put standards on them. They are beautiful with all imperfections, and all body shapes.
















Works Cited

Aaker, David. “Dove: The Most Impressive Brand Builder.” Prophet Thinking. N.p., 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Bahadur, Nina. “Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How A Brand Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Celebre, Angela, and Ashley Waggoner Denton. “Magazine Issue 2 2014 / Issue 19.” The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Guadagno & Van Der Wal, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

CH 4: Propaganda and Persuasion Examined

CH 12: Understanding Visual Rhetoric

“Media and Cultural Analysis, Spring 2014.” Media and Cultural Analysis Spring 2014. N.p., 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Rayworth, Melissa. “10 Years After Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign, More Brands Fight for Real Women.” TakePart. N.p., 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Unilever. “Dove Reveals Woman Are Their Own Worst Beauty Critics.” Unilever Global Company Website. N.p., 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.



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