Opinion: Beale on ... Dove

You could get lost among Linda di Maria's breasts. Gloriously enormous, they are quite possibly the biggest homegrown breasts ever to appear in a respectable ad. Russ Meyer would weep.

Oh she's big, Linda. All over. Life-threatening thighs, bongo buns, Linda's a real woman, apparently. You can't have missed her. She's certainly the biggest star of the ad campaign for Dove's new Firming Range. Along with five other "real" women, Linda's stripped down to her challenged undies to demonstrate Dove's, ahem, "nourishing and effective combination of moisturisers and seaweed extracts".

The six convention-busters who have bared all at the drop of an adland cheque are not what you'd call skinny. I wouldn't pick a fight with any of them. Seems they were chosen to star in the ads because they are normal (echoes of Marks & Spencer?). So they have bits where your usual models don't have bits.

According to the PR that the campaign has spoon-fed the lazy tabloids, thunder thighs and blancmange bums are exactly what women want to see in their ads. "Research" has found that 60 per cent of women prefer seeing fuller-figured models to unrealistically thin ones.

Bollocks. From my equally scientific research, I have discovered two things. Blokes adore these ads. Women don't. Women think the ads are fun, different, interesting. But they don't lust over these bodies the way they do the fat-free variety. Dress these "real" women in the latest Chanel and stand them next to the professionals and then ask the same question.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the decision to use - how quaint - "fuller figures" was made with PR in mind. The ad's already generated forests of free publicity - mostly positive. It's neatly tapped into the obesity zeitgeist (almost half of us are porkers, apparently) and, of course, it's given all the papers an excuse to show six attractive women in their underwear.

And there's no denying that the ad has enormous, erm, stand-out. It's beautifully shot with arresting shapes and simple, bold colours and works at its maximum on posters. The copy, too, has been kept pretty clean - which is something of a triumph; so many beauty products descend into ridiculous, over-blown science-lab speak. This is a breezy feel-good ad, smiley happy people and, Goddamit, I want some Dove Firming Gel.

But, but, but. OK, maybe I'm being a little picky. And perhaps it's because I'm a wobbly size 10. But surely if you really stop to think about it, these ads are actually quite pernicious.

The whole premise of the campaign is that if you're curvy or well-built or a size 14 instead of a size 8 you're more likely to need firming up.

But there are plenty of size 10s like me with a few kilos of Mandarins stuffed into their saddlebags. And there are plenty of lithe size 14s.

Are we supposed to assume because they're curvy these women were all wobbly before Dove came to the rescue. Yes, there's not a hint of orange peel on these Dove thighs and bottoms. But was there ever? And another thing: all of the Dove women are pertly under 30.

In the end these ads eschew the real test - the before and after - for an easier shot: curvy thighs, bigger bums, rounder stomachs but no proof of the potency of Dove. And you'll notice that the absence of science-lab speak actually means there are no claims about effectiveness.

It's all very clever. The use of bigger women with their real curvy bits has allowed the Dove ads to side-step the usual issues about how the product works. It's got across a "firming" message without any pudding-proof.

So it's smart. But real, honest advertising? My wobbly arse.

Dead cert for a Pencil? For effectiveness, perhaps (the ad, not the

Firming cream).

File under ... S for shopping: must buy Dove.

What would the chairman's wife say? "But where's the science bit?"

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