Why Dove's latest emotional viral sidesteps the 'Average' door

Social video experts Unruly review the latest viral by Dove.

When rapper Kendrick Lamar announces "I love myself" on his latest record, it’s a seemingly playful confession on an album otherwise chock-full of provocation and social satire.

Viewers just can’t resist a happy ending, especially when it happens to be real - 8/10 

But in reality, loving yourself is not without its difficulties. In fact, if Dove’s wildly successful advertising output of the last two years has taught us anything, it’s that the politics of self-respect and body image are more hot button than ever.

‘Choose Beautiful’ builds on the personal care brand’s previous work with another characteristically pared-down concept.

Self-evaluation binary

With the help of regular agency Ogilvy & Mather, Dove installed two signs (printed in charming ‘Facebook Logo Blue’) above the entrances of shopping centres in London, Delhi, Shanghai, Sao Paolo and San Francisco. One sign read ‘Average’, while the other read ‘Beautiful’. Then the makers took a step back and recorded what happened.

As that summary suggests, the spot uses this simple binary to probe modern self-image, as women choose to define themselves via the ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Average’ doors. In talking head interviews, the women explain how it felt to be asked to define themselves in this way.

They discuss which door they chose to enter, why they thought they did it and whether they’d do the same given another chance. Hitting the nail on the head, one participant wonders, "Am I choosing because of what’s constantly being bombarded at me? Because of what I’m being told?"

This question lies at the heart of Dove’s refreshing take on beauty in advertising.

Real Beauty Sketches

Anyone who had a functioning internet connection in 2013 will remember Dove’s most celebrated take on this concept, ‘Real Beauty Sketches’.

‘Real Beauty Sketches’ is the fifth most-shared online video ad of all time and in the Guinness Book of Records as the most viewed ad of all time

A viral phenomenon in the purest sense, the moving and conceptually-brilliant spot has been shared over 4.5m times since its release.

Currently standing as the fifth most-shared online video ad of all time and in the Guinness Book of Records as the most viewed ad of all time, ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ presents the kind of organic success that brands fight tooth and nail for and understandably boosts expectation for their follow-up efforts.

But Dove and Ogilvy have maintained cool heads despite the pressure. Building on the style and themes of the original spot with 2014’s beauty patches and now ‘Choose Beautiful’, the brand have crafted an inimitable niche for themselves. A winning combination of unabashed sentiment and uplifting messages, the brand’s output shows how truly viral content can mark a brand indelibly. 

Empowerment paradigm

Beyond Dove, we also find traces of the company’s legacy in the current renaissance of highly-shared public service ads, with documentary spots like 'Love has no labels'; and ‘Slap her' frequently rising to the top of Unruly’s Viral Video Chart.

Viewers just can’t resist a happy ending, especially when it happens to be real. Which brings us to Choose Beautiful’s touching end. You’ll know the cue as soon as the violin score starts swelling.

But as the participants stand before the doors, considering the choice between defining oneself as ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Average’, then confidently stride towards the former, the message of ‘Choose Beautiful’ is communicated wordlessly and succinctly.

The best moment of the entire ad appears in the very last seconds, when a girl pulls an intentional fake-out and then runs giddily for the ‘Beautiful’ door. In fact, the clip is so perfectly effective, Dove has it running as a GIF on the accompanying website

Whether you think you’d walk through through the ‘Average’ door, the ‘Beautiful’ door or sneak in the secret ‘Beautifully Average’ side entrance, there’s no denying that ‘Choose Beautiful’ is another step forward for Dove. In its quest for clean, perfectly moving advertising, ‘Choose Beautiful’ certainly bypasses the ‘Average’ door. 


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