Dove Real Beauty Sketches: People’s Insights Volume 2, Issue 29

What is Dove Real Beauty Sketches?

Dove Real Beauty Sketches is a short film which promotes the idea that women are too critical of their own appearances and they are actually more beautiful than they think. A part of the Dove Real Beauty global marketing campaign launched by Unilever in 2004, Real Beauty Sketches was released online in April 2013.

The film

In the film, women are shown describing themselves to a forensic sketch artist who cannot see them and is sketching their portraits basis the descriptions. The women are shown to be critical of their own appearances.

Then the artist sketches another portrait for each woman, based on descriptions of random strangers who the women were asked to interact with the previous day.

When the two portraits were compared, the second one was found to be more attractive reinforcing the idea that women are more beautiful than they think. The sketches elicit strong emotional responses from women who are clearly moved. They admit that the portraits drawn based on their descriptions by strangers looked more beautiful than the ones drawn based on their own descriptions.



Dove Real Beauty Sketches


Dove’s Purpose




In 2004, Dove conducted a worldwide study which revealed that the depiction of beauty in entertainment, fashion and advertising has restricted the definition of beauty. In a report The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, , Dove found that only 4% of women surveyed across 10 countries around the world consider themselves beautiful.

dove real

Body image issues among women can adversely impact their self-esteem. In a society that constantly enforces extremely rigid beauty standards women are subjected to constant scrutiny and judgment about their natural appearances.

The Real Beauty campaign is part of Dove’s l mission which to empower w omen by convincing them that beauty is and always should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. Dove aims to educate and inspire women to accept a wider definition of beauty and to celebrate their natural beauty be comfortable in their own skin:

“Women are their own worst beauty critics. Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. At Dove, we are committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. So, we decided to conduct a compelling social experiment that explores how women view their own beauty in contrast to what others see.”

The most ‘viral’ video

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches video has been extremely successful in starting a conversation in media and among the public about women and their perceptions and the definition of beauty.

Mashabale Viral


The video was released on April 14, 2013 and by April 21 it had more than 15 million views. According to video analytics firm Unruly, in just about two weeks the video has been shared by 3.17 million people on social networking platforms-which exceed the number of shares attracted by any other ad in the same duration. On Twitter, Dove used a hashtag #WeAreBeautiful to interact with the audience making the video a viral success.

Dove Real Beauty Twitter Responses


Just a month after the three-minute video was released it received more than 114 million views and was uploaded in 25 languages to about 33 of Dove’s YouTube’s channels. It has now become the most watched video ad off all time-a record which was once held by Evian Roller Babies (111 million views).

People shared the videos, along with messages of love and support for the cause. The frequency of participation was extremely high and positive. This has impacted the brand’s reputation positively and raised brand awareness. Dachis Group Social Data below shows that the campaign’s earned impressions is way more than the owned impressions and more people have initiated discussions about the campaign than the company itself.

Dachis Group Data

Business Insider attributes the film’s success to “some careful media planning.” According to Dove Skin VP Fernando Machado:

“The brand partnered with YouTube and Unruly to facilitate the distribution and seeding strategy. PR served as a key channel, generating initial placements with media such as the Today Show, Mashable, Huffington Post and Channel 7 Morning Show in Australia. The film was distributed to top media around the world and was quickly shared by women, men, media and even other brands.””

The campaign has been credited with eliciting a strong emotional response from viewers and the participants alike.

Facebook Responses



Power of Good Content

The hype surrounding the video proves once again that content is the key to the success of any campaign. David Waterhouse, the global head of content and PR at viral tracker Unruly Media has praised the content of the Dove Real Beauty Sketches which he feels is the main reason behind its phenomenal success. In an interview with Business Insider he said,

“I think what made this campaign perform particularly strongly is the content, which elicited the intense emotional responses of ‘warmth, ‘happiness’ and ‘knowledge’ from its target demographic — one of the key factors behind a video’s sharing success. But, more importantly, we are really seeing social motivations behind sharing becoming a lot more important. Brands have to give people a reason to share the video.”

The Accenture Video Solutions Survey 2013 has pointed out that there is an increase in video consumption among people-in fact more than 90% people watch videos over the internet globally. With the proliferation of multiple screens and an increase in multitasking, original creative and compelling video content for the digital medium is the need of the hour to engage with the consumers.

Fueling debate around ‘real beauty’

But the campaign has also come under fire for several reasons. Some people found the message hypocritical, some questioned the use of ‘good looking women’ and others debated the relationship between beauty and women.

A large section of population has called it hypocritical for trying to promote healthy body image perceptions among women when its parent brand Unilever which owns Axe-a deodorant brand whose sexually explicit advertisements have been accused of objectifying women, and also Fair & Lovely, a fairness cream whose target consumers are mostly dark-skinned women in Asian countries.

Charlotte Hannah from Twirlit writes:

“[Dove’s] long-running Real Beauty campaign has shed light on some important truths about the media’s unrealistic portrayals of women, but given the fact that Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe (ugh) and the company that produces Fair & Lovely skin lightening cream (double ugh), the campaign comes across as hypocritical and patronizing—a way for the company to pander to women for sales while practicing the very evil it preaches against.”

People have also expressed grievances that it projects beauty as the yardstick by which women’s worth should be evaluated.

Jazz Rice


As Kate Fridkis, a blogger, Eat the Damn Cake, observes:

“Looking at the two portraits of herself, one woman described the one meant to be prettier as looking “much younger,” which seemed to be true of all of them. The more “beautiful” facial representations seemed to all be thinner and younger-looking. If that is the crux of beauty, then I guess we’re all pretty screwed by that obnoxiously inexorable bastard called time.”

Some viewers have also expressed that the video is somewhat lacking in a greater racial diversity.

Jazzylittledrops on Tumblr has pointed out:

“When it comes to the diversity of the main participants: all four are caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest is 40). … We see in the video that at least three black women were in fact drawn for the project. Two are briefly shown describing themselves in a negative light (one says she has a fat, round face, and one says she’s getting freckles as she ages)… Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.”

According to Bedatri Dutta Chowdhury, a 24 years old media professional:

“Ultimately Dove is trying to connect the concept of real beauty to a beauty product which is an artificial enhancer. It’s like, now when I’ll walk into a store I’d think of buying a Dove product because I feel Dove cares about my feelings and appreciates my natural beauty. There’s somewhat of a contradiction.”

MSLGROUP’s Nidhi Makhija points out that the campaign adds to feminism cause, in spite of the criticism:

“From day one, Dove has instigated people to challenge the idea of ‘real beauty.’ This campaign is no different. People’s reactions show that the campaign did indeed make them stop and re-think their own beauty. Some of the critics are re-thinking the concept of beauty itself. I think this sparks more conversation around feminism and beauty, and that ultimately is what Dove intended with Real Beauty Sketches and Real Beauty.”


Consistent Message

Consistency has been the key to Dove’s success over the years. The original campaign Dove Real Beauty (of which the Dove Real Beauty Sketches is a part of) started almost a decade ago but has never diluted or changed its message. People can now relate Dove with conversations about healthy body image and women’s empowerment.

Dove also launched other online videos:

i. Evolution portrays how our perception of beauty is often distorted by the manipulative advertisements

ii. Onslaught sounds a warning bell against the cosmetic, fashion and advertising industries cautioning parents and urging them to have healthy discussions about the concept of beauty with their daughters

iii. Amy shows a young teenage girl refusing to meet her friend because she thinks she is not beautiful while her friend cannot name one thing wrong with her appearance.

In addition, Real Beauty Sketches’was followed by another video, Camera Shy, which highlights how older women tend to shy away from cameras because they feel a sense of anxiety about their appearances.

Commitment to Beauty

Dove also launched the Dove Self Esteem Fund (DSEF), a Unilever initiative which aims at promoting healthy body image perceptions and building self esteem and confidence among young girls in the age group of 10-14 years. It commissioned a report Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem in the USA which revealed a self-esteem crisis among young girls which impacts their performances in schools and their relationships.

DSEF includes self esteem workshops, group activities, guides for parents, teachers, youth leaders and other influencers to interact with young girls about body image issues. The feedback to this initiative has been positive especially from parents.



MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

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As an example, 100+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on reputation, employee engagement and citizenship on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights.

We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities. We have further synthesized the insights from 2012 to provide foresights for business leaders and changemakers — in the ten-part People’s Insights Annual Report titled Now & Next: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement, also available as a Kindle eBook.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at