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The Genius and the Backlash of Dove's Real Beauty Sketches Video

Certainly by now most of you have seen, or at least heard of, Dove's Real Beauty Sketches video. It would be hard to miss considering is it the most viral of all time gathering 114 million views in just one month after its release. By viral video and marketing standards, this video was a huge success.

Like many things that rise to such high popularity, the ad received some backlash online and in the media. Critics didn't appreciate some of the ideas the video seemed to portray.

To me, the video was both a success and a failure. Let's explore both.

The Success

Number one, this video kicked every other video's butt in number of views. There is no denying this. And you don't get that many views and that much exposure on social media without striking a chord with people.

The sketch, for the few of you who haven't seen it, depicts a group of women who describe themselves to a professional sketch artist who has never seen them. After that, a second group of men and women, who have just met the first group, are given the task of describing those same women. The women being described are then shown the two sketches side by side. Of course, the sketches described by other people depict the women in a more traditionally attractive light.

The presentation and emotional response from the women being drawn is quite affective. The video ends with the words "You are more beautiful than you think." That powerful phrase resonated with people and the video quickly went viral. Dove certainly understand this concept as is proven by this video and the brand's other Real Beauty campaigns.

The Failure

While this video achieved more than the brand could hope for, there was some backlash from journalists, bloggers, and others about the real meaning this video was portraying. For example, the video was still portraying the second sketch as more "beautiful" than the first, meaning those with features described in the sketch "big jaw," "fat round face" and others are not beautiful. This still plays into what the ad is supposedly fighting against, an unrealistic ideal of beauty.

Others, like Meghan Daum at the New York Times, pointed out that Dove was pretending to fight a cause that it profits from -- the unrealistic ideal of beauty. Daum and others claim Dove serves to benefit from women's insecurities just as much as any other beauty brand and that they are just as aware of it as any other brand.

So far, the backlash hasn't seemed to affect the increasing views of the video and Dove hasn't issued any official statement against the backlash.

Flickr user Daquella manera

Video success like this is celebrated by the brand because it met its goal of high visibility. It's really a marketer's dream. On the other hand though, this backlash is something that could potentially hurt Dove in the long run if not addressed properly. So far, Dove hasn't issued any official statements against the backlash of the Real Beauty Sketches.


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