Picture the two most varied images of women you can come up with and chances are they might coincide with two ad campaigns from Dutch multinational “Unilever”:http://www.unilever.com/. Over the past few years Unilever-owned “Dove”:http://www.dove.us/ has marketed themselves as a brand for “real women.” Their TV ads feature everyday women giving testimonials in favor of the soap company and its products. Off-screen Dove lives up to its image with the “Dove Self-Esteem Fund”:http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/, a non-profit subsidiary dedicated to being “an agent of change to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves.” In short, Dove seems to be the perfect personal care company.
On the other side of Unilever’s gender coin is a different brand with a very different message. “Axe”:http://www.theaxeeffect.com/flash.html sells sex. They also sell body spray, deodorant and shower gels, but the biggest thing they sell is sex. Axe commercials set a whole new standard for female objectification by portraying women as nothing but walking playgrounds for men who get all randy at the very sniff of a boy wearing Axe, often stooping to animal stupidity to get there.
By pushing both campaigns, Unilever makes it very clear that they don’t really care about the issues. Good business is simply good marketing and as long as it sells, principle doesn’t seem to matter. Does this mean that feminists should stop buying Dove, or misogynists stop buying Axe? I don’t know, but it’s worth noting the hypocrisy in pushing both images.
In case you haven’t seen either ad campaign, I’ve embedded samples from YouTube below.