Depending on the brand, Unilever either feeds women’s insecurities or tries to assuage them.

Unilevers hypocrisy New Dove ad breaks stereotypes but what about Fair LovelyScreenshots
Features Advertising Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 15:08

Dove’s new ad featuring the ubiquitous nursery rhyme “Chubby cheeks” is, in a word, awesome.

The ad begins with the voice of a little child reciting “Chubby cheeks” while the visual shows a female athlete beginning the day with her training. More voices join the “Chubby cheeks” recitation, including that of a teacher who is passing on, what has been traditional wisdom in India for decades, to her students.

The teacher’s pet is blue-eyed, curly-haired, rosy-lipped, dimpled, and fair-skinned. In other words, the aspirational model for millions of Indian school-going girls is someone who doesn’t look like them at all.

The Dove ad brilliantly captures this early conditioning of young girls when it comes to beauty ideals. The visuals, capitalizing on the Olympics season, feature sportswomen – sweaty, grimy, strong. And of different body types. Much like Nike’s “Da da ding” campaign.

Towards the end, the teacher’s voice lovingly asks, “Is that you?” Are you the blue-eyed, curly-haired, rosy-lipped, dimpled, fair-skinned girl who’s the teacher’s pet? The answer, a defiant “No”, is powerful and the confidence with which it is delivered is a good slap in the face for the million ads we see on television that feed women’s insecurities over their physical appearance.

Like, for instance, the Fair & Lovely ads which have been trying desperately to sound progressive:

If the woman had to be fair to find a groom earlier, she now has to be fair to get a job, buy a house and become anything at all in life.

What’s interesting, though, is that both Dove and Fair & Lovely are owned by Unilever.

While the former, a comparatively expensive brand, caters to an audience that will identify with the kind of progressive marketing that Dove has come to symbolize, the latter remains a “mass” brand that doesn’t bother with dissecting beauty standards. It just has a simple message to deliver: be fair or fail.

So with one brand, Unilever actively feeds women’s insecurities about their looks and with the other, it plays an assuaging role, telling them that they are beautiful in their own way. Or that they’re so dense, they don’t even know how beautiful they are.

Well played, Unilever. You win, whichever sort of woman you're targeting. But no medal for you. 

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