Unilever were behind the Dove campaign for real beauty ads which generated a lot of discussion on the blogosphere; some positive - but not all.
The most recent twist in the tale were accusations that the 'natural' women who stripped down to their skivvies had been heavily retouched in the photos.
The campaign has been a resounding success for the brand, nonetheless. Consumers are used to being duped. It is part of the transaction between us and marketers. The loss of innocence happened a long time ago. In fact, I would go as far as to say that we expect to be fooled by advertising. We want to live the lie.
If I were to buy a pair of Emporio Armani I am fantasizing that there is some association between me and David Beckham. The B roll in my mind's eye shows me as irresistible to women - lean and muscular. Sadly has nothing to do with the more mundane truth that nothing could be further from any kind of hard, objective reality. It isn't even an aspirational truth - that I could be something like Beckham - even Armani can't defy genetics. So I calculate, in the blink of an eye, that the Emporio Armani underwear brand is not for me.
But back to our friends at Unilever. The marketer has trained their big guns squarely on women. I can only imagine the kind of money they spend on market research to probe the inner workings of the minds of their customers and prospects (probably as much as Beckham was paid by Armani to loll about in his daks). In the new campaign for their brand Suave in the US the results of the research has plainly made it to the screen.
In their commercials for Suave hair care products young mothers are shown being made over with Suave products. Research finding #1: the hair is the first to go when you have kids. There is just no time. Finding #2 a hair do will make a woman feel renewed and give her sense of self (including sexuality) a boost - no need for fancy clothes.
Solution: Be a cheerleader for the time honored institution of motherhood. Promise that great looking hair (and therefor a renewal of your sense of self - no need to be solely the giving goddess whose family suck the life blood out from them).
The ads are genius in their simplicity. Maybe a little fanciful in their casting and literal in their portrayal of the endless focus groups - which I am certain they commissioned - but full of warm, simple charm. They are likable and, unlike Becks' Armani advertising, achievable.
The web is cleverly used to take the message to the next step - showing the transformation of our harried mothers into practically elegant women who are also mothers - with the help of Suave products (oh, and hair stylist Luke O'Connell - a small detail they forget to mention in the ads).
I like the tone and delivery. Unilever have staked out the territory pretty well - with simple, direct messages that don't promise unattainable glamor but unleash the 'yummy mummy' within. 89% of moms say they've let themselves go - 100% can get themselves back. Say yes to beautiful"
Meanwhile their Lynx/Axe campaign promises young men the world over that they will be irresistible to women.
There are some lies we simply need to tell ourselves. Who can say no to beautiful?