Let’s be honest. Have you ever sighed while flipping through model-studded fashion magazines? Longed for that slender waist, those long lean legs, and curvy figure? Then perhaps you will be happy to hear that Leah Hardy, former editor of Cosmopolitan, recently revealed that her magazine resorted to photoshopping protruding bones of extremely skinny models to keep readers from seeing how emaciated the models were in reality. In this way, the beauty propagated by modern-day media is an elusive concept that does not exist in reality without alterations. People are being deceived—they just do not know it.
So there you have it—the glaring truth. Even the world’s leading fashion magazines, for all their extensive recruiting and colossal budget, cannot seem to find a single woman in the world who is not too thin nor too fat to embody the ideal concept of “beauty” they seek to portray in their publications. Thus they airbrush and photoshop their models’ bodies into perfection, spend hours on facial makeup to produce a ssaeng-eol (zero makeup) look, and market the finished artificial image of beauty as something that all women must strive for.
And strive for they do. Women go to great lengths to change their outer appearance, as they feel dissatisfied with their appearance, and constantly feel a need for alteration. Little do they realize that they are being manipulated; the beauty industry is using the artificially-created standards of beauty to play into people’s insecurities about the way they look.
▲ The Dove Evolution video, showinga plain woman photoshopped into a“beauty” sparked a lot of controversyaround the world. Provided bybusinessinsider.com
A G l o b a l B r a nd Goe s Non- Mainstream
It is herein that we see what makes Dove special. Since the year 2004, Unilever—the owner company of the Dove brand—has launched the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” Initially conceived after receiving market research from its Public Relations (PR) agency on how only two percent of more than the 3000 women across 10 countries surveyed considered themselves beautiful, the campaign aims to help women embrace their natural beauty and encourage them to have more confidence in the way they look.
The first major breakthrough for the Campaign for Real Beauty came with Evolution, a video released in 2006. It blatantly reveals howprofessional makeup and digital photoshopping can make an everyday, average woman look like a supermodel. Another milestone came with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches in 2013, which compared women’s portraits drawn based on self-description of themselves to those done by descriptions of them based on strangers, to reveal that women are more beautiful than they think. The short clips struck a nerve for many beautyobsessed women around the world, opening their eyes to the artificiality of what they had learned to think of as “ideal beauty.” The videos went viral on YouTube, garnering millions of views to this day.
Apart from the release of such thoughtprovoking films, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty also encompassed efforts
to reflect its company values of “beauty, happiness, care, and reality” into its real-life marketing as well. The company started to use down-to-earth-looking models for its advertisements, as well as models ranging across diverse groups from age, skin color, height, and weight. It recruited everyday women as models and used their untouched appearances to encourage viewers of the advertisements to challenge stereotypical images of beauty, not to mention encourage women to feel more confident in their outer appearance.
The company also decided to extend its outreach directly to the real world, by engaging in activities
such as offering photography projects to help young girls see their natural beauty. DovePositiveChange, a social media campaign that posts words of encouragement to people who tweet self-disparaging remarks concerning their looks is also taking place.
▲ One of the Real Beauty Sketches donein 2013, with the self-described sketchon the left and the stranger-describedsketch on the right. Provided bybusinessinsider.com
Meanwhile, in Look-Obsessed Korea…
With time, the Unilever headquarters decided to expand its Campaign for Beauty to its branches in other countries. Thus, since 2006, Unilever Korea has engaged in a variety of different activities, from launching “beauty talks” to appointing celebrity goodwill ambassadors like Park Kyung- Lim to instill confidence in people about their appearance.
At the moment, Unilever Korea is focusing more on spreading content provided by the Beauty Campaign headquarters to the Korean public, rather than actual activities. “The speed by which the contents we share spread is amazing,” said Kim Joan (33, Mokdong), brand-leader of skin and facial cleansing marketing at Unilever Korea. According to her, the marketing environment is changing with the development of media. Official PR is not as important as it was in the past, as magazines, newspapers, and TV shows hear of the campaign through means such as Unilever’s social media and then spread news of the campaign to an even wider range of people. “Our role is simply to facilitate the whole process of spreading information, and to provide assistance when people have curiosity,” added Kim.
“Dove is a global brand that one out of three households in the world uses; this means that the company’s actions have great potential to change the way people around the world think,” explained Kim earnestly. Before the launching of the beauty campaign, women surveyed who were happy about their appearance reached only two percent. Now the numbers are at four. “Though four percent is admittedly still but a miniscule part of the whole, if you think about it, it means the number of women with confidence in their appearance has doubled,” Kim remarked. “Though we cannot know for sure how directly the campaign contributed to these numbers, we will continue to spread awareness on the issue to improve people’s flagging perceptions of their own beauty,” she continued. On that note, she was especially excited to herald the release of new content, another ad campaign relating a psychological experiment on how a beauty patch—or placebo—changed women’s attitudes about themselves. The short clip, released on April 10, is anticipated to stir up another buzz.
“People must realize that they are much more beautiful that they see themselves to be. It is our hope that the contents we release will help people realize that the beauty propagated by models and the media is but an artificial ideal—that it is their own natural beauty that really counts,” said Kim Sodam (27, Gaepodong), brand assistant at
“No matter how beautiful people become, if they themselves do not perceive themselves as beautiful they will never achieve true happiness. It is important that people take the time to set proper, realistic perspectives on beauty and learn to positively accept the way they naturally look,” added Kim Joan. And brands such as Unilever are certainly helping in the effort to establish healthier perceptions of what real beauty truly is.
▲ Kim Joan (right), and Kim Sodam (left), brand-leader and brand assistant of skin and facial cleansing marketing atUnilever Korea respectively. Photographed by Kim Na Young.