Case Study: Evolution

People are becoming more and more aware of heavily retouched images that surround them everyday and everywhere. The U.K government is supporting banning heavily retouched images and Dove’s advertising campaign “Evolution” launched by Unilever in 2006 was a part of Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty to promote their Self-Esteem fund. Within this fund, Dove’s goal was to reach out to a million girls and boys through the program. Dove believed that beauty should be a source of confidence, not anxiety and wanted to encourage and instil these feelings in all girls, women, boys and men.

The “Evolution” advertisement went viral. The clip takes us on a 60 second journey from real to retouched, reinforcing how easy it is to distort our perceptions of beauty through clever lighting, make-up and digital manipulation. It evidences how far a person depicted within an image can be utterly transformed, dared I say rendered unrecognizable. No wonder our perceptions of real beauty and femininity is twisted. This illustration is artificially constructed and not real but women everywhere compare and measure up to such images everyday. Dove wanted to show its consumers that the ‘beauty’ portrayed in advertisements is unrealistic, majorly constructed and something we should always be aware of.

A large part of the advertisements appeal is due to its modest style. Tim Piper, writer and co-director of the ad stated, “ I wanted the girl to look as bad as possible in the beginning so shooting on video with ambient sound and poor lighting was conceptualising not only to fit within our budget but to enhance the video. The concept was an excuse to merge before and after images and create not only a positive message but a piece of eye candy that resembles art more than advertising.”

Since 2004 with it’s Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove has paved way for embracing more realistic depictions of feminine beauty. These campaigns use real people in their advertisements and promotions, confronting beauty industry stereotypes. The women depicted come in all shapes and sizes enlightening women and men alike to embrace these depictions and bodies are the real feminine beauty: natural and varied.

Whilst this is all well and good it’s interesting to mention that Unilever, a company, which owns Dove, also owns Lynx. Lynx advertisements appear in stark contrast to those created by Dove. Lynx feature solely stereotyped feminine ideals: thin supermodels all falling into a lustful frenzy for the male protagonists, all wearing the delicious scent of Lynx of course. I understand that Dove and Lynx have entirely different motifs and are completely different companies; nonetheless I find it surprising that the same company runs them both. The adverts depict a completely different set of values and perceptions of reality. Piers Fawkes, editor in chief of aggress asking whether its times for Unilever, “to stop playing 20th century branding games and grow up by dumping one of the brands and really live to a set of values rather than talk about several?”

Another act to challenge the use of Photoshop and airbrushing was illustrated by artist Daniel Soares. Soares painted Photoshop toolbar stickers on seriously sexy H&M advertisements to reinforce that such images have been constructed, something which as consumers we should always be aware of. Overall, the aim of these campaigns is to remind everyone that what is being depicted in advertisements is unrealistic and misleading: remember these brands are trying to sell you a product. Advertisements create beauty standards and “ideals” but with campaigns like Dove, hopefully culture and society alike will begin to embrace more natural bodies and beauties.


The Inspiration Room (21 October 2006) Dove Evolution in Campaign For Real Beauty [online] available from<> [28 February 2014]

Biancann (30 March) The Real Beauty Campaign: Dove Evolution  [online] available from<> [28 February 2014]

Dove (n.d) Evolution, a Dove film [online] available from<> [28 February 2014]

Box of Crayons (19 March 2009) Tim Piper, Dove Real Beauty Campaign [online] available from< > [28 February 2014]

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