Top Performers of 2005: International Advertiser of the Year - Dove

Using "real" models and the universal single idea of real beauty, Dove had a campaign with PR appeal that worked in every country in which the ads ran.

The strength of Ogilvy & Mather's "campaign for real beauty" for Unilever's Dove brand is that it is a truly universal single idea that works in any country - and generates a similar reaction from its target audience in all of them. It has also sold a lot of bottles of Dove.

Whether you are walking down a street in Hong Kong or Hamburg, or sauntering through Times Square, you are equally as likely to be confronted by Dove's instantly recognisable images of real women - fat or thin, old or young - all designed to appeal to an audience that is constantly barraged with airbrushed images of skinny models.

The idea of using "real" models was originally conceived in 2003. O&M's first work in the series was its Firmer Skin campaign, which showed different-sized curvy women in plain white underwear under the strapline: "Dove Firming. As tested on real curves."

The follow-up work, the "campaign for real beauty", launched across Europe in late 2004 and consists of a set of poster and print ads depicting a number of real female faces. The posters had two tick-boxes next to each face that asked consumers to decide whether they thought the women were beautiful or ugly.

The idea behind the campaign dates from 2004, but the roll-out across Europe, Asia and the US has taken most of 2005 to achieve, and it is this year that the campaign has really had a global impact.

In every region, the work had to be re-shot using local models and the strategy tweaked to take local customs and cultures into account - no mean feat, particularly in Asia where it was rolled out across ten countries.

The campaign hit the region in the spring of 2005 with a massive media spend that saw the ads springing up on buildings, poster sites and train stations in every major city.

This was backed by a field-marketing exercise: hundreds of canvassers walked the streets in more than 1,000 public areas, polling women for their answers to the questions asked by the ads and collecting more than 800,000 responses in just eight days.

Primary tests conducted in six department stores across the region showed that sales of Dove products increased by 163 per cent over the first month that the campaign ran. The growth was sustained past the first push of the ads - secondary tests a month later showed that sales had increased by 135 per cent. By the end of 2005, Dove's market share in the Asia-Pacific region had increased from 19 per cent to 26 per cent.

The planning team at O&M had built in PR coverage as one of the aims of the campaign. In Asia, this ploy was particularly successful: the Dove models were featured in 618 separate newspaper clippings, reaching an overall circulation of more than 139 million.

But nowhere was using the media for free ad space more effective than in the US, where the campaign created a stir in the homes of more than 30 million daytime TV viewers.

The hook for the media coverage was a giant billboard in Times Square, which ran in the usual format, but with the addition of a text number for consumers to log their responses. Within a week, more than half-a-million people had responded to the poster, and the campaign had been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show every day for an entire week and on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. All this was backed by a national roll-out of the poster work in most major US cities.

Unilever's research arm, Economatrician, reported that the work was "2005's most- talked-about ad campaign". The media coverage generated was worth 30 times more than the paid-for media space. All this helped increase sales in the US by 13 per cent.

All that said, this category was a particularly close-fought one. The Dove campaign inched ahead of its rivals, Omo and McDonald's, mainly because of the way its message translates to any country or culture.

McDonald's case is a story of an unlikely business recovery thanks to a dramatic change in the way the fast-food giant markets itself globallyd's first shot at global advertising, a shift away from the confused jumble of price promotions and tacky brand campaigns that characterised its advertising of old. Devised in 2003, and rolled out globally in 2004, this year "I'm lovin' it" has gathered irresistible momentum, and the jingle that has become synonymous with the brand (available as a ringtone, car horn or doorbell) is recognised by 72 per cent of people in the 119 countries in which McDonald's has restaurants.

This year, McDonald's reported global sales growth of 3.4 per cent and record revenues of $19 billion. A remarkable feat, considering it has suffered one of the worst PR disasters in corporate history. Super Size Me, the docu-movie about the detrimental effects of living on nothing but McDonald's for a month, was a global box-office smash.

McDonald's reacted with remarkable speed, and its measured, intelligent press campaign to offset the media hysteria triggered by the film was hailed as one of the best written ads at the 2005 Campaign Press Awards.

Thanks to its refreshed and responsive marketing offensive this year, two million more customers head for the famous golden arches every day.

Unilever's Omo, meanwhile, took the brave step of reversing a 95-year trend in detergent advertising by embracing dirt instead of showing it as the scourge of clean clothes.

The "dirt is good" strategy was born at Lowe Brazil and is still being rolled out around the globe to critical acclaim - though it has a tough job ahead of it if it is to reverse the drop in global laundry detergent sales.

At the time of its launch, David Arkwright, the global brand director for Unilever Laundry, said: "Our teams across the world see no reason why soap-powder advertising should be formulaic and boring." This sentiment should only be helped by the appointment of Bartle Bogle Hegarty to the £135 million global account.

Recent winner: HP (2004).

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