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The Persuasionists - Keaton's 'Think Piece'

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David Thair | 15:10 UK time, Thursday, 21 January 2010

KeatonHHH&H Head of Strategy, Keaton Flassbender, discusses the strategy behind a famous campaign: Dove - Real Beauty...

With its Real Beauty campaign, Dove became the first beauty product to feature ugly women in its adverts. What we in the industry like to call, "Rotters."

(Previously, Marks and Spencer had used a fat naked woman in one of its ads, but nobody wanted any of that noise, and they immediately dropped her [breaking some floor tiles] and had to hire sixties model, Twiggy, to save their bacon [from the fat woman, who was trying to steal it and put it in a big sandwich].)

In the Real Beauty ads, ugly women dance around in their pants, seemingly unashamed of their appearance. Perhaps they are drunk. We are not told.

At first, this campaign seems a mistake. Nobody aspires to be an ugly naked lady. Whatever they look like, people buy beauty products in the hope of becoming more beautiful. That's why they're called beauty products.

Some commentators said this ad showed how ugly people are - in a sense - just as beautiful as beautiful people. But those commentators were fools.

All gifts are unevenly distributed, but no commentators claim that stupid girls are - in a sense - just as clever as clever girls, or that men who are bad at football are - in a sense - just as skilled as professional players. Allow the attractive their talent.

However, the Real Beauty campaign wasn't a mistake, and it did have a message.

What Dove were trying to say, was that ugly women should remember to wash. They shouldn't just give up on themselves and sink into squalor. Sure, they'll never be physically appealing, but they should still maintain basic standards of hygiene: brush their teeth, wash behind their ears, and for God's sake shampoo that hair.

Just because you're assaulted our eyes, it doesn't mean you should assault our nostrils too.

A noble message, and a great campaign.

The Persuasionists
continues on Wednesdays at 10pm on BBC Two.



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