How Advertising Will Undo Itself (scenario one)

naked ladies An AdAge story from earlier this week reports on charges of hypocrisy leveled against Unilever for two separate ad campaigns for two distinct products in its portfolio: Axe, a men’s perfume that is ascribed all sorts of woman-controlling properties in ads, most of which involve her removing clothing in the wearer’s presence, and Dove, a women’s soap sold under ads linking the product to self esteem and the destruction of unachievable standards in the beauty industry.

The backlash comes from a video, “Onslaught,” that we’re to believe was created by a Dove marketing professional, although only during his off hours, that stars a sweet young girl assaulted by such images as those featured in the Axe campaign. “Talk to your daughter,” the video ends, “before the beauty industry does.” (Parodies have already been posted: “Talk to your daughter before Unilever does” is the most pointed.)

Still, Unilever seems comfortable in the assumption that few viewers will realize the same company owns both products. And that in the mean time, the debate will just spawn further conversation. Not about the creation of unachievable beauty standards or using images of violence against women in marketing, however: but about Unilever products.

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  1. I don’t think the conversation is all about Unilever products — I think it’s about corporate responsibility. Unilever is comfortable in their assumption because they don’t care. Is it free media attention for them? Maybe. Time to take it to the shareholders.

  2. Increased corporate responsibility is one good thing that could come out of this discussion, but another might be an acknowledgment of the sheer volume of advertisements that are allowed to overwhelm all other voices in this “conversation.”

    So let’s take it to the shareholders, great idea, but let’s also shift the focus away from what Unilever can do about it to what, say, we can do. They can always create better ads—I’m having a nightmare vision of the great Axe v. Dove Peace Accord promotional campaign right now—and they will. Because: increased sales. But unless something changes they will also always control the terms of the debate. Not that I know how to change that. . . yet. Ideas?

  3. I’d love to shift the focus to what we can do. No ideas, beyond not buying and turning off the TV. I guess that’s a start.

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