Skimming the surface

Every day, people I connect with on social media sites share hundreds of links. I don’t pay much attention to all of them, but every so often, so many people share the same thing that it’s hard to ignore. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches pretty much took over my newsfeed a few days ago. Everyone who shared the video, posted it saying it was ‘amazing’, one that ‘every woman should watch.’ So I did.

I’ll be honest with you for a second. I don’t particularly like Dove. I don’t like the way they advertise. I don’t like the fact that Unilever owns Dove, a company that’s constantly trying to talk about ‘real women’ and also owns Fair and Lovely, a product that basically tells Indian women, that if they aren’t fair, they can forget about attracting men, succeeding at their career etc. But I’m not going to go into that. ( Years before Unilever’s hypocrisy began to piss me off, David Airey wrote a piece about it that I recently discovered. You can read it here: http://

What interested me after I saw the ad, was people’s reactions to it. Creative people (designers/ film makers/ illustrators/ writers) often tend to put down other creative work. I may be generalizing here, but a lot of creative people are fairly quick to dismiss creative work that someone else did. But for this ad, there was only appreciation. Which I just couldn’t understand. Since a lot of the people I know work in design, their raving about this ad just confused me. I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t as angry when they watched the ad as I was. I’m not going to get into every detail of the ad that bothered me (Although a lot of what this blogger says here are the reasons why I didn’t like it: http:// I’m not going to talk about whether, as an agency’s piece of work, it was a successful ad, because going by the  10,420,126 YouTube hits and the amount of positive hype it got, I suppose it was.

What I want to talk about, is how creative people look at creative work. And in this case, why the reactions from most people seemed to be about the video as a work of art and not as a real advertisement by a real brand. Why did so many people look at it just as a film? Why then, as film-makers themselves, didn’t they analyze the scripting, the editing, the acting, the casting? Why as people who are constantly exposed to Indian advertising, did they not think “Wait, Dove India wants you to make your underarms whiter with their deodorant, but Dove USA tells you you’re more beautiful that you think”? Why did they not make the connection? Why weren’t they annoyed that a global brand addressed different markets so hypocritically? Why didn’t they look deeper? Why as copywriters, did they so easily buy into and get teary eyed over the message ‘You are more beautiful than you think’?

Why didn’t they look deeper?

This is what bothered me the most. More than the ad itself. Why were they willing to appreciate the ad without thinking about context? Why, after four years in design school, with courses that taught us to intelligently critique a piece of work, were only six people I know uncomfortable with the ad?

It’s important, I think, that we look deeper. You can call me cynical for saying this, people already have, but it’s important to look at more than the ad wants us to look at. Yes, I understand that in general, the ad seems to have people thinking more positively about themselves (or so they say.) I understand that a lot of people saw it as a wonderful message Dove was sending out. And I’m not here trying to argue the value different people could see in it. But I am saying, that we need to look deeper. And I do wonder whether people would feel the same way about the ad and about the brand, if they did.

I’ve assumed when writing this, that all of you have seen the ad. For those of you who haven’t, here it ishttp://



3 thoughts on “Skimming the surface

  1. Bang on! Couldn’t agree more. In fact the first time I saw that film, I had similar thoughts in mind but I dismissed them calling myself too cynical.

    But hypocrisy in FMCG advertising is not limited to just Unilever, it is as prevalent with its peer across the pond, P&G

  2. It appears to be human nature that professionals tend to be tunnel-visioned: lawyers are often more interested in legal technicalities than in moral outcomes, military equipment manufacturers are not really concerned about who and how their products kill ….. Toilet product manufacturers and their marketing service providers are no different. Sad but that’s the way the world works…..

  3. A well made point anya. At times I think what would be life like when we won’t be scared! No one, no FMCG company, no Govt. and nothing could manipulate us by the means of FEAR!

    As this the only reason we surrender to them.

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