Dove shows the girls behind manipulated selfies

The brand revisits an iconic ad format to tackle the ubiquity of photo altering apps and pandemic-related body image issues.
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Dove is revisiting the theme of image manipulation and its effect on young girls in a more digitized age with “Reverse Selfie.”

The TV, social, digital and earned media campaign links back to the “Campaign for Real Beauty,” launched by Unilever in 2006 alongside the then-newly created Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which called out airbrushing and other alterations of photos appearing in media.

But today, photo editing apps, filters and FaceTune take those kinds of alterations out of design departments and puts them into the phones of any person, making unrealistic beauty ideals no more than a tap away. Throw in a pandemic that has forced us to be on camera more often and increased time looking at other people’s altered photos on social media, and the result is a growing body of evidence that it is impacting peoples’ body image, with it resulting in increasing feelings of dysmorphia among those who have previous issues and an increased interest in cosmetic surgery among those who hadn’t.

Taking a page from its own original campaign, Dove reveals each and every alteration done to a photo in reverse, revealing the true subject of the campaign: a young girl, in her bedroom, who is using the extra time alone to get the “perfect selfie.”

Ashley Boyce, marketing manager for skin cleansing and Dove masterbrand at Unilever Canada, tells strategy that it’s choosing to revisit the digital distortion idea because editing tools previously available only to professionals are now ubiquitous, and used by young people.

According to Boyce, the campaign insights are based around the fact that Canadian girls who regularly manipulate their photos digitally have lower body esteem than those who don’t, and that 80% of young Canadian women, by the age of 13, have downloaded a filter or used an app to manipulate their looks.

With girls in their bedrooms “editing away their identities,” and increased screen-time and increased exposure to manipulated images, she says now is the time to act.

Boyce says it’s important to address the issue of body image, a longstanding positioning that ties back to its Dove Self-Esteem project, which offers tools like the brand’s Confidence Kit to help navigate challenging images. This campaign is similarly aimed at parents and other adults, encouraged to talk to “a girl they love” about self-esteem and images on social media.

“We’re committed to redefining beauty, challenging stereotypes, and celebrating what makes women unique,” Boyce says. “We need to raise young people’s self-esteem so they can navigate social media in a way which is positive and creative.”

In order to maximize the impact of the campaign, Boyce says it’s tapping a broad array of media, which includes not only TV but also YouTube and TikTok.

Ogilvy UK was the lead on the creative effort, with Ogilvy Toronto – a longtime partner on Dove’s beauty-related campaigns – supporting the effort in Canada. Mindshare Canada is handling the local media buy and Edelman handling public relations for the Canadian launch.