The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

“Grand Prize Winner: Dove ‘Evolution’”. (2007, May 1). Creativity, “Special Report:  Creativity Awards”, pg. 46.

Grogan, S. (2010). Promoting positive body image in males and females: Cotemporary issues and future directions. Sex Roles, 63, 757-765.

Hamm, S. (2007, July 2). Children of the web. Business Week. Retrieved from

Harriger, J. A., Calogero, R. M., Witherington, D. C., & Smith, J. E. (2010). Body size stereotyping and internalization of the thin ideal in preschool girls. Sex Roles, 63, 609-620.

Heiss, S. N. (2011). Locating the bodies of women and disability in definitions of beauty: An analysis of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Disability Studies Quarterly, 31. Retrieved from

Jones, A. M., & Buckingham, J. T. (2005). Self-esteem as a moderator of the effect of  social comparison on women’s body image. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(8), 1164-1187.

Katz, D. (1960). The functional approach to the study of attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 163-204.

Marshall, C., Lengyel, C., & Utioh, A. (2012). Body dissatisfaction among middle-aged and older women. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 73, 241-247.

Neff, J. (2006). A real beauty: Dove’s viral makes big splash for no cash. Advertising Age, 77(44), 1-45.

Odell, A. (2010, June 28). Dove seeks women with ‘flawless skin’ and ‘no scars’ for its next real beauty campaign. New York Magazine. Retrieved from

Petrie, T. A., Greenleaf, C., & Martin, S. (2010). Biopsychosocial and physical correlates of middle school boys’ and girls’ body satisfaction. Sex Roles, 63, 631-644.

Smith, M. B., Bruner, J. S., & White, R. W. (1956). Opinions and personality. New York, NY: Wiley.

Springer, P. (2009). Ads to icons: How advertising succeeds in a multimedia age (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Publishing.

Stice, E., Shaw, H., Burton, E., & Wade, E. (2006). Dissonance and healthy weight eating disorder prevention programs: A randomized efficacy trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 24, 263–275.

Swami, V., & Smith, J. M. (2012). How not to feel good naked? The effects of television programs that use “real women” on female viewers’ body image and mood. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(2), 151-168.

Vivek, S. D., Beatty, S. E., & Morgan, R. M. (2012). Customer engagement: Exploring customer relationships beyond purchase. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 20, 127-145.

Young, A. F., Gabriel, S., & Sechrist, G. B. (2012). The Skinny on Celebrities Parasocial Relationships Moderate the Effects of Thin Media Figures on Women’s Body Image. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(6), 659-666.

From the editors

Angela Celebre and Ashley Waggoner Denton’s article was very thought provoking. In reading the title, I made some initial evaluations about the ad campaign, in my mind, before reading the article. Then, reading through their article, I expanded my thoughts and feelings toward the ad campaign. Given the evidence presented from previous studies, I am now unsure about how I feel about the campaign overall. What do you think? It is interesting how social psychological concepts can have simultaneously good and bad effects, as elicited through ad campaigns. Does “the good” outweigh “the bad”?

In analyzing “the good” of the ad campaign, Celebre and Denton apply the concept of social comparison. They suggest, and provide empirical support, for the idea that self-evaluations are higher when a target model is deemed more similar to the self. As such, it is important that “realistic” body type examples of women are displayed positively. I think this is an important point, as women represented in music, tv, and movies often set an unrealistic standard to compare oneself to. In addition, women that would be considered “real” often play negative roles in such media. I feel like these ads and proper, positive depictions of women of all sorts can have positive effects for society in general. They give girls and boys a positive image of women which could change public perceptions of “ideal” bodies and women and perhaps positively affect the treatment of women in society. What other positive societal outcomes may arise from such depictions?

On the other hand, “the bad”, as suggested by Celebre and Denton, is that these sorts of campaigns depicting the “real woman” can also have negative effects on body satisfaction in women (young and old). This makes sense to me, as well. As noted, some women and girls may still not live up to the standards depicted. A shocking note in this piece suggests that the Dove campaign was still very restrictive in casting! Moreover, the campaign may serve as a reminder of the thin body ideal. This is one point that struck me while reading this article. By using the term “real women”, it almost seems as if it might be increasing the salience of the difference between “most women” and “truly beautiful women”. A reminder that they might be “uglier” than what the majority of the media deems “ideal”. This may not be the case for most women, but it is something that came to my mind while reading this piece. What do you think about this issue? Further, I would wonder who gets to decide what a “real” woman is. Aren’t all women “real” women?

Finally, Celebre and Denton discussed “the ugly” of the ad campaign. Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns other brands like Axe. Therefore, on the one hand, Dove is trying to empower women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicity, but on the other hand, Unilever is potentially objectifying women in the Axe campaigns. One must ask at this point, is it all about the money? In my opinion: Of course it is. However, does it matter? Many social scientists agree that the idea of pure altruism does not exist. That is, deep down, all helpful or positive behaviors (particularly from corporations in the business of making money) have selfish motives. Ask yourself, though, if they are doing good and increasing some women’s self-image, does it really matter what their motives are? How else can the dissonance that results in learning about the Dove and Axe campaigns be reduced? I would like to hear your take in the comments section on this and the other issues raised in the article.

Adam Fetterman
Associate Editor

article author(s)