Entertain: Dove’s next act

Entertain: Dove's next act

Until now, the concept of a consumer packaged goods brand not just sponsoring but actually producing a major theatre production written by an award-winning playwright was unheard of. But that’s exactly what Ogilvy & Mather are doing with Unilever’s Dove Pro-age brand.

Body and soul ran for a week at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto last month. Starring 13 ‘real women’ between the ages of 45 and 78 without acting or modelling experience, the play was penned by renowned playwright and Order of Canada recipient Judith Thompson, based on audition letters the women had written to their own bodies and subsequent workshops. The result is an honest, engaging retelling of these diverse stories – the women come from every possible background and experience – with nary a beauty bar in sight. For Janet Kestin, co-creative director at Ogilvy Toronto, the play offered a completely new and different way to connect emotionally with the target audience. ‘What you accomplish is that depth, a really genuine relationship and connection that engages the audience on a more fundamental level, where advertising maybe is a bit of a butterfly,’ she says. ‘Somebody is making that choice to go see it. It’s not like advertising that invades your space and you flip the channel after two seconds if it’s not cool.’

Behind the scenes, working with real women meant that the brand and agency had to give up creative control after setting the original thematic premise of ‘Beauty has no age limit.’

‘This is a more organic process and everybody’s creativity has a place in it, so it’s a continuously evolving thing,’ Kestin says. ‘It truly is a journey, as opposed to a [traditional campaign with a] development and an end.’

And of course plays are subject to artistic reviews in the public arena in a way that ads are not – a new experience which can be intimidating. ‘It’s an experiment,’ says Kestin. ‘You throw it out there and hope that people will like it.’

Judging by the standing ovations received at every performance, it seems that people do.
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