Shreyas Kulkarni

Dove’s ‘Stop The Beauty Test’ campaign scores applause, and criticism at the same time

Many were unhappy with the campaign considering parent company HUL's Glow & Lovely ads, and the lack of fresh imagery to counteract regressive practices.

Dove’s Stop The Beauty Test campaign which, for the second time, shines a light on the unreal beauty standards women are subjected to has caused a stir. Along with the cheerleaders, there is a noticeable number of people questioning and criticising the campaign.

The ad, which was released a couple of days ago, shows the the tests, not academic by any thought, school-going girls face every day in India. Skin colour, weight, hair style, pimples, the tests seem endless.

Accompanying the video ad was a print ad which built on the same narrative of how many beauty tests should a school-going girl take.

Dove India ran the first Stop The Beauty Test campaign in February 2021 and it told the real-life story of five women at the “arranged marriage meeting.”

Ogilvy India is behind both campaigns.

The new campaign is only a few days young and has clocked more than five million views on YouTube and the expected social media conversations.

Along with the applause for the ad, many questioned and criticised it online.

“… if Unilever wants to end the beauty test, then the power to do it lies with them. They need to start with stopping sale of Glow and Lovely globally. Unilever is the one who has profited from Beauty Test the most. They have sold Fair Skin for so so so long that the beauty test has become a standard thing,” wrote Naresh Gupta, co-founder, Bang in the Middle, on LinkedIn.

Hindustan Unilever, the parent company of Dove in India, owns the Fair & Lovely brand (now Glow & Lovely) which has for long been accused of inculcating an obsessive preference for fair skin in India.

Dove soap is known to have championed real beauty. In 2004, for the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty, Ogilvy and Mather (now Ogilvy), installed billboards featuring photographs of regular women and not professional photographers.

That campaign and the present campaign from Dove share one common goal - challenging unreal beauty tests women face.

Vigyan Verma, however, would disagree with the 2022 campaign. He is the founder of The Bottom Line, a brand consultancy. In a LinkedIn post, he questioned the need to project such ills which exist in society.

He wondered if anybody had visualised the conversations which would, after watching the ad, take place in homes where girls are discriminated against. “Can it potentially plant a seed of doubt, a sense of inferiority where none may have existed thus far?… Real beauty should not talk beauty. Period.”

Dove’s ‘Stop The Beauty Test’ campaign scores applause, and criticism at the same time

It is not only the ad which has caught the eye of the people. Lipika Kumaran, a senior vice present at Futurebrands Consulting, asked on LinkedIn, basis Dove’s print ad, on the need for brands to perpetuate a regressive stereotype when they could have chosen to show “… fresh images and words that normalise happy young women, no matter what their physicality?”

Srinivas S, an independent brand consultant (former marketing head for Scooty and Wego) too posted a similar question on the professional networking site. “So what’s the assumption here? That the darker girls will lose the beauty test? Dark is really cool in fashion these days. In this context, Dove sounds very patronising and out of sync. The battle Dove took on in the early 2000s has now become the new normal. It’s time for #dove to recalibrate its strategy.”

Vani Gupta Dandia commented on Srinivas’ post, “And why keep the test for later ... The copy is badly written. The intent might be good but executed so badly, it should have been trashed by the brand manager forget ceo... Strange.” She is the founder of CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners, a marketing-driven management consultancy.

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