Dove adds dose of irony to Body Wash formula

So what's the story?
In order to break away from the typical woman-loving-the-shower scene - only a Survivor contestant would enjoy it that much - Unilever Canada launched two new animated TV commercials late last month for its Dove Moisturizing Body Wash brand.

So what’s the story?

In order to break away from the typical woman-loving-the-shower scene – only a Survivor contestant would enjoy it that much – Unilever Canada launched two new animated TV commercials late last month for its Dove Moisturizing Body Wash brand.

‘The category is filled with literal expressions of how a body wash works, offering exaggerations about being out in a waterfall, botanical garden or in the shower,’ explains Michael Alexandor, category director at Unilever. ‘So we wanted to break out of that – at the end of the day, it’s about better skin.’

In the first animated spot, called ‘Twinkling,’ a thin blond in a slinky, cocktail dress stands on a city rooftop, gazing at the stars. ‘Some nights I stare at the sky and think, I’m just a tiny, insignificant speck,’ she reflects. ‘And then I think, no, I’m a tiny, insignificant speck with soft, creamy skin.’ Well, at least it’s something.

Similarly, in the latest installment, ‘Broken Hearts, Creamy Skin,’ a chic brunette sits at an outdoor café with a carafe of red wine. ‘After Nick and I broke up, my friend Cecilia helped me remember all the things I have going for myself,’ she tells us. ‘For example, she says, you have really smooth calves.’ The tagline for both is ‘Feel superior.’

So much for personality. won’t women get ticked off by the notion that soft skin is all you need?

According to Alexandor, the campaign is supposed to make us laugh. It ‘taps into the emotion of the little voice inside your head,’ he says, adding that this effect is entirely in line with popular culture these days. In fact, its AOR, Toronto-based Ogilvy & Mather, used the popular TV show Sex and the City and recent summer flick Bridget Jones’s Diary as inspiration. But Alexandor admits the challenge was in the execution. ‘It was about getting the tone right and then getting the right facial expression on the characters’ faces.’

Michael Gelfand, group creative director at O&M, points out that the new commercials are also refreshingly contemporary for the industry and that the demographic -young women in the 20- to 35-year-old range – will be able to comprehend the irony. And despite its urban feel, the national effort isn’t targeted at big-city girls alone. ‘Sex and the City and Bridget Jones have been big successes and I don’t think that’s only been in cities,’ he says. ‘[The spots] have a tone that lots of women can relate to and aspire to, because it feels modern and smart.’

So why not get Sarah Jessica Parker to play the part? What’s with the cartoons?

The animation is expected to stand out in a rather staid category – like one of Parker’s skimpy outfits might in church. But Gelfand suggests creating a picture of ‘who this woman is’ without having to rely on actors, is also a benefit. ‘Sometimes it’s easier to identify with cartoon characters because we can all see a bit of ourselves in them,’ he explains, ‘When you have a model, women are more likely to say ‘this isn’t me.’ But with animation, our reach was somehow bigger, and it was safe to put these words inside her mouth.’

I, for one, have always related to Betty Rubble. this product has been on the shelves for a while. What’s Unilever’s goal?

When the body wash launched in the mid-1990s, it was the second such commodity on the market. Dove holds the number-one spot in personal wash – in total, it has a 24% market share, mainly in its bar soap business – but remains second in body wash, after Olay. ‘We hadn’t really done any support since the launch campaign, so we tried to understand some of the critical issues preventing Dove from being number one,’ says Alexandor.

Research indicated a preference for a product with moisturizing ability, hence, the brand was relaunched with a new formulation that improved on that facet. Graphically, a cream drop was added to the packaging to get the message across at store level. The company is also incorporating a direct mail sampling campaign. ‘[Before our strategy] was more defensive. Now we’re trying to grow our business.’