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Placebo Effect: Dove's 'Beauty Patch' Makes Point, Sparks Controversy (Video)


Will "Dove: Patches" result in the first real blemish for the "Campaign for Real Beauty"?

Longtime readers know I'm a big fan of the decade-long campaign, having written extensively about the program's efforts to boost women's self-esteem and perceptions of beauty in my book THE ON-DEMAND BRAND.

And I frequently cover updates to the campaign here at GEN WOW – most recently with the outstanding "Beauty Sketches" effort.

But while I know "Real Beauty" has always had detractors, "Patches" is the first time I've actually seen press coverage of a blowback.

The video generated a lot of attention last week for essentially pranking women into believing they were participants in a new research study for a new "beauty patch" that was "developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty."

Yes, it really does sound that ridiculous.

But the women featured in the video bought in, and we get to see how their perceptions change while wearing the patch – only to find out that it's a placebo.

As is often the case, the video (from Ogilvy) hits you squarely between the eyes with a poignant reveal - and immediately generated 15 million views across 65 countries.

So why the fallout over a fake patch?

According to Advertising Age, many commentators in both mainstream and social media complained that this particular installment seemed to be more about promoting Dove than women's self-esteem. New York Magazine called it "garbage." And Gawker found more colorful language for it.

I personally didn't find the video too self-serving. In fact, if anything, this is once again the unexpected example of a beauty brand pointing out how preposterous it is to depend on beauty products to make you beautiful.

Real beauty, as the campaign drives home time and again, comes from inside - not a bottle (or a patch). Which is, you have to admit, as counter-intuitive a message as any to come from a brand trying to sell you beauty products.

If I have a problem with the video, it's only in how far-fetched the faux patch scenario is on its face - which for me does indeed call to mind New York Magazine's particular choice of descriptors.

But has Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" really jumped the shark?

Hardly. As Ad Age points out, for all the buzz about negative perceptions, 91% to 92% of social media sentiment is positive.

Haters gonna hate, as they say. But as we've seen in many high-profile social media storms over supposed brand missteps, the snarkier segment of the social media echo chamber may be especially vocal - but that doesn't mean it's persuasive.

So what's your view of "Dove: Patches"?

An unbecoming setup that ends with a beautiful message?

Or just plain ugly all around?

Read the Ad Age piece here.


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