Really Beautiful. By @HFoenander

By Henry Foenander



Really Beautiful. 

We were lucky enough to have Daryl Fielding in SCA On Wednesday. And what an inspiration she was. Daryl was heavily involved in the Dove: Real Beauty campaign, and after listening to her, i’ve decided that it is the work that i’m most jealous of, ever. 

Here’s why.

In my opinion, advertising is a social narrative, or at least, it should be. That means that our work should reflect how the public feel, and represent the zeitgeist. In turn, our work should effect culture, edging it forward. This makes what we do a conversation, we listen to what’s happening in the world, and respond to it. That response might change culture, so we listen again to see how it’s changed. 

Real Beauty was the poster girl of this. The world was bored. Bored of skinny models being photoshopped into their retinas. Bored of big brands shouting that your only worth something if you look like an airbrushed greek goddess. While other brands ignored the overwhelming boredom, Dove sought to change it. But to do that, it had to listen, it had to put an ear to the ground and listen to the stomps of angry women sick and tired of being told they’re not good enough.

 Then, they had to have the guts to do something about it. I think it’s probably very common to find an insight or a piece of customer feedback and think, well, it’s a bit risky using it. No one else was going against the grain, why should Dove? This is where a fantastic client, differs from a mediocre one. It’s the equivalent of jumping off a cliff, not knowing if there’s water or rocks below you. And it can cost jobs. I wasn’t surprised to hear Daryl big up Unilever on that one. 

The next brilliant thing the campaign did was keep fighting. Daryl mentioned a few times when powerful people had doubts and the campaign was a few words away from being crushed, but they kept fighting for it. I suppose that’s when you know you’ve got something special, when you can’t help but put your body (okay your job) on the line for it. 

Going back to the idea of narrative and conversation, once the campaign was up and running, people spoke back. Normally reviews of ads by anyone whose not in advertising are restricted to “that’s well boring”, “I don’t get it”, or just a simple “meh”. But Real Beauty had such traction and such resonance with it’s audience that it flew. Again, because the agency listened to what people were thinking and feeling. 

Finally, there was one tiny point that Daryl made, that completely confirmed that this campaign was a good thing to happen in the world. Daryl mentioned that because of it’s success, they had to have a conversation about what to do if other brands started copying them. They came to the conclusion that they’d just have to let them. 

The reason this brings a bit of joy to my heart is because they recognised that they had influenced culture, and to halt that influence spreading would not only be detrimental to the integrity of the brand, but detrimental to society as a whole. No brand should own ‘goodness’, they shouldn’t be able to keep their piece of progression hidden away in fear of poachers. But unfortunately, it does happen often. Brands will claim they ‘own that space’ and other brands are encroaching on it, but if that space is breeding positivity, let them encroach! I felt a strange mixture of pride, relief and jealousy when Daryl said this piece. Pride because it shows that the industry i’m entering is worth being in, relief because it means not everyone’s a d**k like some make it out to be, and jealousy because I want the opportunity to be part of a campaign like that. 

Thanks Daryl. 

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