For the last several years, Dove has been busily branding itself as a socially conscious company on a mission to improve women’s self-esteem. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty strives ” to free ourselves and the next generation from beauty stereotypes.” This is supposedly done through thought-provoking ads, confidence-building programs, and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty (except for those that eschew using beauty products, I assume).
Dove’s “embrace” has included the now iconic print ads of women size six and up wearing underwear (which turned out to be heavily touched up) and commercials with very fit older women in the nude (how is her skin so smooth? Must be the Dove Pro-Age!). But the Campaign for Real Beauty hasn’t been entirely superficial. Dove aired this ad at the 2006 Super Bowl to promote their Self-Esteem Fund, which donates $1 to Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, or Girls Inc. when a customer enters a product code online:
The strategy has created a lot of publicity for Dove, and improved sales. And why wouldn’t we thrill at millions of people watching an ad that raises awareness about the importance of positive body image? Even though it’s obviously hypocritical for a company to sell beauty products by decrying beauty standards, it’s hard to throw stones when they’re donating money to good causes. (Although, when I was a Girl Scout we had to earn a “Beauty and Hygiene” badge, so I haven’t written off the possibility that this is some sort of conspiracy.)
But Dove tested my patience with “30 Rock Beauty Moments” at NBC.com, in which they insinuate themselves into the hilarious work of Tina Fey. “Sure, everybody has had moments where they feel their absolute best about how they look,” the intro reads, “and why should Liz Lemon and the rest of the crew at 30 Rock feel any different? Check out just some of the hilarious highlights that best define ‘Beauty Moments’ for 30 Rock.”
The page features five video clips from 30 Rock, all preceeded by the exact same ad for Dove Deep Moisture (which has absolutely nothing to do with self-esteem, btw). The clips supposedly focus on moments of the show when characters feel beautiful or sexy, but obviously those scenes are actually subverting expectations of feminine sexuality BECAUSE IT’S 30 ROCK. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO.
Unfortunately, Tina Fey’s funny loses some of its zing in the context of an ad campaign for soap. And by exploiting Fey’s feminist take on beauty, Dove reveals that, ultimately, it just doesn’t get it.