Video throws Axe in Dove campaign

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

As part of its Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove is asking women to free themselves from society’s unreasonable beauty stereotypes, but a recent Internet video questions the Dove campaign’s legitimacy.

In Dove’s Onslaught TV advertisements a fair, redheaded girl smiles at the camera while images of models and beauty products fly across the screen.

A recent video parody posted on Youtube reveals the company may be responsible for promoting those unreasonable body images.

Entitled “A Message from Unilever,” the movie parodies Dove’s commercial by using clips of women from Axe Body Spray commercials as a substitute for the models in the original version.

The segment ends with a play on Dove’s recent advertising tagline: “Talk to your daughter before Unilever does.”

Women depicted in Axe commercials portray the beauty ideals Dove is attacking, yet both companies are owned by Unilever, a ‘surprising’ contradiction according to Rye Clifton, the creator of the video.

Clifton made the movie after learning about the connection from a colleague.

“The Real Beauty campaign is a great message for their target, just as Axe is a great message for their respective target ... but it is just that " a marketing position,” Clifton said.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Campaign initiated the “Ax the Axe Campaign” to expose what the Dove campaign really is and help people to look at it in a larger context.

“We don’t think corporations should be the ones trying to teach media literacy,” Josh Golin, associate director of the CCFC said.

He added, “If Dove was really concerned about the harmful effects of exploitative marketing on young girls, they would call attention to the Axe campaign themselves.

Although he admitted the campaign draws attention to important issues about body image, Golin said it is important to realize the motive behind Dove’s advertisements.

“It’s not to help girls resist these messages, it’s to sell Dove.”

Clifton does not want the Axe ads removed, however, he wants to show the contradiction between the two marketing campaigns.

“This video was just more palatable to the general population and easier to share than an article or other document,” he said.

Lisa Lang, account director of Unilever, responded to the accusations:

“Unilever is a large, global company with many brands in its portfolio that speak to the lifestyles of diverse audiences.”

But Golin said the scantily clad women in Axe commercials are unhealthy for young men and women.

In a Toronto Star article, Geoff Craig, vice-president and general manager of brand building for Unilever, defended the Axe commercials, saying it is obvious they are spoofs on the mating game.

But Golin retorted, “Axe has become a popular brand among adolescent boys and that’s not because the boys are looking at these ads and thinking of it as great satire.”

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