2006 Best of Silver Anvil Winner Case Study: Real Women, Real Results: A Look at Dove’s Best of Silver Anvil-winning Campaign


In a crowded market for beauty products, Dove was just another brand — and a way to get clean.  That changed in 2005 when Unilever, Dove’s manufacturer, and Edelman, its PR agency, introduced Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB). The campaign was conceived as a way for women to feel better about the way they look and take pride in who they are, regardless of age or size.  For its excellence in PR strategic planning and execution, PRSA presented the 2006 Silver Anvil Best of Award to Dove’s CFRB. (In addition to winning the Best of Award, Dove’s campaign also received a Silver Anvil in the category of Marketing Consumer Products: Packaged Goods.)  

Celebrating real women

Targeting women of all ages, the campaign aimed not only to increase sales of Dove products but also to enhance women’s self-esteem and appreciation of their bodies. As the CFRB website said, “Real women have real bodies with real curves. And Dove wants to celebrate those curves.” 

Referred to as real women throughout the campaign, non-supermodel-type females were the girls, teenagers, mothers and wives — women — Dove aimed to inspire.Six models, ranging from 6 to 14 in size, helped promote Unilever’s new Dove Firming product. With the slogan “tested on real curves,” their skin received attention from numerous high-profile media outlets, from “Oprah” to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” 

2006 Best of Silver Anvil Winner Case Study: Real Women, Real Results: A Look at Dove’s Best of Silver Anvil-winning CampaignResearch

For years, the beauty industry relied on idealized portrayals of women to engage female consumers. To compete with the bevy of beauty products, Unilever distinguished itself from other brands by taking an unprecedented, somewhat controversial approach to its marketing. They decided the key was to engage women on an emotional level by abandoning the traditionally cynical approach of presenting perfect women as beauty role models. StrategyOne, Edelman’s opinion research division, conducted a study of more than 3,000 women in 10 countries. The results, which inspired the campaign, showed that only 2 percent of women around the world described themselves as beautiful, while 13 percent of women said they were very satisfied with their body weight and shape. In addition, 75 percent of respondents strongly agreed that they wish “the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness — age, shape and size.” 

The marketing effort was designed to inspire women to discover and enjoy their beauty and imbue the Dove brand with a forward-thinking, stereotype-debunking beauty philosophy. The goals of the campaign were to:

  • Generate sales of Dove beauty products and a new product line, Dove Firming
  • Use CFRB to create dialogue and debate about the definition of beauty
  • Receive national TV and print media attention
  • Gain local market coverage in the hometowns of models featured in the campaign
  • Drive consumers to the CFRB Web site to share their views on the campaign
  • Create a call to action for consumers to join the campaign through an online pledge that triggers a donation by Dove to self-esteem programs 

The younger audience

Part of Dove’s campaign included reaching girls at an early age to foster positive self-image and inspiring young women to change poor perceptions of themselves to strengthen their self-esteem. Through the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, established in 2002, CFRB tapped into Unilever’s existing partnership with Girl Scouts of the United States of America to educate and inspire girls 8 to 14 to reach their full potential. 

In the media

The campaign received a wide range of media coverage, including more than 10 minutes on the “Today” show. On the day of broadcast, more than 60,000 people visited the CFRB Web site. The campaign also secured coverage from 62 national television programs, including “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “Access Hollywood.” 

CFRB also received feature coverage in high-profile print outlets, including unprecedented branding on the cover of People magazine, in USA TodayThe New York Times Magazine and Allure. The campaign received more than 1,000 placements in print, Web, television and radio, far exceeding expectations. According to Dove, sales for the products featured in the ads increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign.

Changing attitudes

“Real beauty is more than just being thin, blond and young,” said Larry Koffler, senior vice president, consumer brands, Edelman, upon accepting the award. “The campaign encourage[d] people to look and think about beauty in a different way.” 

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This article first appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of The Strategist