New Dove Ad Targets Camera-Shy Women

by Nathalie O'Neill

Grab a tissue ladies, because Dove just released their newest ad campaign. The recently released video shows some pretty women playfully shying away from the camera before asking "When did you stop thinking you're beautiful?"

You'll all remember Dove's last ad campaign, the Real Beauty Sketches (which has become the most watched ad of all time). The Real Beauty Sketches was so popular because it played on reality—women are often overly critical when describing their appearance.

Dove hits on a hard truth with their Camera-Shy ad, as well. Cultural critic Slavoj Žižek argues that men and women have an inherently different relationship to the camera. Žižek says the camera is basically an extension of the male gaze, which means that most cameras shoot women as intended for a straight guy—just look at any Hollywood film, where the lens will most likely linger on the leading ladies' curves.

In theory, this extends to the way women view each other and themselves—through the eyes of a heterosexual man. So women are more obsessive than men when it comes to how a lens captures them; they simply feel greater pressure to look good. A 2011 Daily Mail study found that half of women "hate" looking at photos of themselves, and three-quarters avoid having their picture taken altogether.

But it's important to keep in mind what Dove is trying to do with these campaigns. If the Real Beauty Sketches and the Camera-Shy video were created by a non-profit aiming to improve women's self-esteem, I would be the first to loudly applaud them. But this is a marketing ploy.

With this clever branding, the camera-shy idea associates Dove with ideas of celebrating natural beauty and nurturing women's self-esteem. The idea behind this marketing is that women will want to purchase a product from a company they believe is on their side, when really, Dove is motivated by profits. Dove, after all, is owned by Unilever, the same company that produces Axe (advertised with half-naked toned women with lots of cleavage) and the leading retailer of skin-lightening cream in India. Just saying.

But don't feel bad if you teared up. It's cute, and it pulled at my heartstrings too. Just keep in mind that this is exactly what Dove is trying to do.