Aishwarya Ramesh

Grey hair, curly hair, short hair... This Dove ad welcomes them all

We are all familiar with the visuals of a typical shampoo commercial. A flawless looking woman with hair that cascades down her shoulders in slow motion, reflecting light off it while it does. This is the picture that almost all traditional shampoo ads paint. The beauty ideal for hair in India is crystal clear - long, black, and straight.

But what about girls with kinky curls? What about the girls who love the feeling of the sun on their neck when their hair is cut short? Dove's new brand campaign titled #AapkeBaalAapkiMarzi aims to celebrate these women. Keeping in line with their 'real beauty' campaign, Dove asks women to embrace their natural hair in its new commercial.

An earlier survey by the brand in collaboration with Hansa Research found that 71 per cent of Indians think short, coloured and curly hair is less beautiful than long and straight hair. Dove’s new campaign, developed by Ogilvy India, is based on insights culled from this research and aims to address stereotypes.

Harman Dhillon, vice president, Hair Care, Hindustan Unilever said, “Dove recognises and realises the impact typecasting can have on an individual’s being. For over 60 years, Dove has showcased the beauty in diversity. Through our campaigns, we try to create awareness around and widen the narrow definition of beauty. There is a lot more to be done to create a systemic change in mindsets and to celebrate the individuality and independence of women.”

According to Zenobia Pithawalla, senior executive creative director, Ogilvy India (West), “As a brand that celebrates inclusion, we decided to celebrate the inclusion of all kinds of hair in a society that has glorified just one kind of hair - straight, long and black. After all, the freedom to do what one wants with one’s hair is implicit in the fight for emancipation. We interviewed women across the country to arrive at these inspiring stories. These women were left in a dilemma at some stage in their lives, all because they didn't conform to society's idea of beautiful hair. Instead of succumbing to societal bondage, they continued to wear their hair their way and emerged even more triumphant because of it. These are their stories. Stories that helped us arrive at our campaign idea.”

Akanksha Patankar Mirji, a brand consultant and storyteller, says she liked the campaign. She points out that Dove as a brand has been evolving along with its audiences. "Consumer audiences are evolving since they have access to a lot more technology. That's why brands need to evolve in terms of how they interact with their customers," she points out.

“Since consumers are evolving, and the way that brands speak to them are evolving, it’s important for agencies to have a grasp on that. Kudos to the planners – they’ve done a great job in understanding the market,” appreciates Mirji. She also appreciates how the campaign is present in multiple languages and points out that in the South, women are genetically predisposed to having curly hair, so an ad like this would work in that market. “The agencies have done a great job in understanding the evolving consumer. My guess is that they went out and studied the market to find out if an ad like this would work,” she opines.

Mirji says that Dove may not be trying to target a new audience, such as Gen X or Gen Y. “While audiences remain the same, brands have developed a lot more sensitivity towards their audiences. The traits of a consumer today are not the same as those of consumers a few years ago – that’s the level at which consumer audiences are changing and evolving,” she tells us.

She then talks about her personal story - “I am someone who has been experiencing hair loss and greying but I have always believed that I don’t want to change that. I am proud of my greys.”

She says she is thankful for having a supportive family which stood by her but points out that she is familiar with lots of women who have stories similar to the ones being addressed in the Dove commercial. Mirji points out that women who are unable to talk about their stories secretly harbour the feeling that they aren’t able to celebrate who they are.

“Women are increasingly using their voice and it would help brands like Dove to marry their campaigns – like their real beauty campaign with their campaigns that celebrate diversity. I think those two really come together well and the campaign you see is the outcome of that.”

“Unilever’s endeavour has always been to be seen as a company that stands for relevant social issues. Dove as a brand has always had a social voice and creates conversations," she says.

Unilever as a corporate has understood that it can only be seen as an evolved brand if it tells good stories. Stories like these are relevant and the best brands these days are the ones that are telling the most relevant stories.
Akanksha Patankar Mirji
Akanksha Patankar Mirji
Akanksha Patankar Mirji

Neeraj Sharma, planning head at Rediffusion feels that the campaign makes sense from a strategy point of view. "Women's hair has a tendency to have a mind of its own and the insight that they've played on is that no matter what your hair type is, (Dove's) shampoo will suit it," he tells us.

Sharma points out that both the protagonists and the stories that they tell are niche, yet relatable. "I feel they have chosen these stories in particular for impact, but the core customer insight hasn't moved. They're still trying to appeal to young urban women and accordingly, they've chosen actors who don't look like conventional models to tell the story," says Sharma.

Neeraj Sharma
Neeraj Sharma

He tells us that this campaign fits into a larger brand narrative. "The thing with Hindustan Unilever as a company is that every one of their products stands for a purpose in the market. Every brand need not necessarily stand for a cause but this is a stance that HUL has chosen to take," he tells us.

His only criticism of the ad is that there is no real connection between the stories being told and the products sold. "There is just one shot of the product and the customer is expected to draw the connection between the story and what product they're trying to sell..." he points out, as he signs off.


Client: Hindustan Unilever

Brand: Dove

Agency: Ogilvy India

Chief Client Officer, Ogilvy India: Hephzibah Pathak

Office Leader - Ogilvy India (West): VR Rajesh

Creative: Zenobia Pithawalla, Mihir Chanchani, Varun Sharma, Vishal Rajpurkar

Account Management: Chitralekha Chetia, Deepika Das, Sanam Chowdhry, Rakshit Bohra

Planning: Prem Narayan, Abigail Dias, Akhil Menon

Production House: Curious

Director: Vivek Kakkad

Executive Producer: Shahzad Bhagwagar

Producer: Vincent Gomes

Cinematographer: Maciek Sobieraj

Associate Director: Divij Kulkarni

Production Designer: Manisha Khandelwal

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