CCFC Condemns Unilever for Hypocrisy, We Say Bull

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We always thought it was funny that Unilever would champion girls' self-esteem via Dove (courtesy of Ogilvy) and premit mass objectification of lusty ladies via Lynx/Axe (courtesy of Bartle Bogle Hegarty).

Boston's Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is less amused.

"The hypocrisy is Dove positioning itself as a brand that cares and is trying to teach girls to resist this messaging," said associate director Josh Golin. "At the same time Unilever, in the form of Axe, is putting out some of the worst messaging there is."

Our take? Unilever's just a parent company.

Brands -- and the agencies they hire -- have lives of their own. Instead of policing its companies and controlling their content (consider Wal-Mart), at least there are positive messages going out alongside the negative ones.

Given the opportunity to choose, people who see all the options have an amazing ability to pick the message that suits them.

And it's not like Unilever's the only company guilty of said "hypocrisy." How does BET get off showing naked, sweaty, gyrating women in music videos all week long, but broadcast gospel music -- choirs and all -- on Sundays?

Because it knows its demographic. That's right: the average BET watcher probably can watch music videos and enjoy gospel on Sundays without thinking twice.

People are guilty of the same "moral inconsistency" that Unilever's getting staked for. But is it really hypocritical, or is it part of being a multi-faceted person whose morals simply aren't always guided by brand messages?

And the same mom, touched by Dove's wise branding message, might buy Dove shampoo for her young daughter, but permit her teenage son to use Axe deodorant. She may never consider that action hypocritical.

Do you?

Written by Angela Natividad    Comments (17)     File: Brands, Cause, Opinion, Trends and Culture     Oct-13-07  
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Comments

a global conglomerate guilty of hypocrisy? what on earth is the world coming to?

shocking.

Posted by: veedub on October 12, 2007 01:10 PM

This is the worst kind of hypocrisy. No question about it. The Dove creative is great, and yet, we sometimes forget the fact its just another strategy to buy soap. In this day of transparency, maybe it wouldn’t taste as foul, if they used Axe/Lynx images in their “Onslaught” spot.

And Unilever's just a parent company? Come on, please don't be so naive.

Posted by: twilliambloke on October 12, 2007 01:30 PM

mobbed-up? Many believe, that just as Tyco is rumored to be a front company for Yakusza, British and American racketeers are whispered to control the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever, owners of Lipton Tea, Dove soap, AXE where double standards are practived with a wink and a smile.
;P



Posted by: Prince Paranoia on October 12, 2007 02:05 PM

We were having the exact same conversation in the office today and we came to the conclusion that at least one of unilever's brands is doing the right thing... Who knows, if it continues to sell enough and make them money, they'll eventually adapt all their products. Not Axe obviously. A good start, much work to do...

Posted by: alex Poulson on October 12, 2007 02:43 PM

No, it's not just a parent company, it's where they evaluate their portfolio of companies and decide who's going to occupy what space in the market. It makes the Dove campaign ring very hollow when you know they're actively and knowingly pursuing just the opposite with Axe. That's not a knock on the agencies' creative work, but unfortunately does discredit their campaign.

Posted by: okay. on October 12, 2007 04:02 PM

No, it's not just a parent company, it's where they evaluate their portfolio of companies and decide who's going to occupy what space in the market. It makes the Dove campaign ring very hollow when you know they're actively and knowingly pursuing just the opposite with Axe. That's not a knock on the agencies' creative work, but unfortunately does discredit their campaign.

Posted by: okay. on October 12, 2007 04:03 PM

I think the question is quite simple.

What Unilever's Dove brand is doing is telling young girls worldwide that the female image in advertising is far from the real one, making them more conscious of what real beauty is.

On the other hand, Axe ads are really focusing young men in a humurous, fictional way and I don't believe any guy out there really takes it literally. If Dove Self Esteem Fund reaches its goal, we all hope it does, then Axe ads wont affect girls self esteem because they already know its just bollocks.

Just the other day, when Onslaught was out, I took a peak on the Digg page of the ad and the same guys that use Axe every day were digging it to "get the message across" and "spread it" because "it's realy important".

Posted by: morph on October 12, 2007 06:36 PM

Next May, many (more than 50%, I bet) of the mothers who talked to their daughters about this at one time or another will be the same ones taking their daughters to the hairdresser for an updo, the professional salons for a manicure, pedicure, and eyebrow waxing. Then off to the rental place to get a formal, and if she's a bit "un"shapely, the daughter will get a new bodyall forming undergarment for another half of a Benji F. to smooth out any bulge. Some may even go to a photographer for the special event.

The girls will get a taste of the beauty industry. Isn't that what prom is for nowadays? Some will find it fascinating, others may say yuck.

Please, Dove and your agency of choice, post prom pictures on your commercial next spring. Urge girls to go natural. And if you do, tell me I inspired the commercial, will ja?

We are all hypocrites. And I'm okay with that.
_and hey, sooner or later every female wants to catch a fish in the sea and the beauty industry wants us to believe.

Posted by: nancy on October 12, 2007 07:40 PM

I think the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood is absolutely right about Unilever's hypocrisy. Obviously Dove's advertising should objectify women too.

Posted by: Cameron on October 12, 2007 07:54 PM

i love how ad folks, and only ad folks, can have a debate about whether unilever, a huge fmcg conglomerate, really means what they say in their advertising.

Posted by: veedub on October 12, 2007 08:35 PM

Why bring in BET for this debate? BET hasn’t taken an official stance on objectifying women; otherwise, they would be game for criticism.

The hypocrisy in Unilever’s case is rooted in Dove’s attack on sexist advertising. Most of the images in “Onslaught” could easily have come from Unilever advertising. If Dove had simply embraced real beauty, it might have been okay (albeit still stereotypical advertising bullshit). The brand’s insistence on criticizing the tactics of its own sister brands is the ridiculous part in the scenario. Dove is out to redefine the beauty industry, but they can’t even convert their own peeps. It ultimately taints the sincerity of Dove. At least for anyone stupid enough to have believed the brand was sincere from jump.

Sorry, but the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is far more concerned about the negative effects of advertising messages on children than Dove.

Posted by: HighJive on October 13, 2007 01:39 AM

While I am not certain just how much of Unilever is involved in each product's advertising, I do think it's best to look at the positive effects Dove may be creating. Whether it's true advocacy or just plain product-promoting, the fact remains that there is a positive message being sent to the world. The whole Axe thing is another case altogether. And you're right, there is a different demographic per product.

Posted by: jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com on October 14, 2007 12:30 PM

At leas, Axe is like every brand, where you overdramatize the sex-appeal benefit. Big deal.

Dove, on the other hand, has always struck me as less than honest. It's just another strategy to make a buck.

Posted by: Jud on October 15, 2007 12:35 AM

I discussed this same paradox on a blog last week, "How does Unilever really view women?" at purethinking.typepad.com

I have difficulty coming down on either side of this argument and appreciate your clear stance on the subject.

PS. Love your blog and am an avid subscriber.

Posted by: Gregg Bergan on October 15, 2007 02:15 PM

No company 'views women' in any specific way. It's a company, not a person.

I'm sure smart businesswomen work on both brands.

Posted by: Mark on October 15, 2007 08:59 PM

A company that tells the public that sexist characterizations of women are wrong, while promoting such characterizations, is indisputably hypocritical. If the argument is that since other companies are hypocritical, that’s OK…well that’s some pretty counterproductive cynicism.

The Dove campaign goes further than just showing positive images, they actually say that these other images have a negative impact on self-esteem and they have established a fund to change this. Given this, it is appropriate to call them on the carpet for their Axe work. Are you really saying that corporations should NOT practice what they preach?

And on the subject of Axe, the brand’s Effie submission lists the target as boys, 11-years-old and up. How appropriate is it to tempt pre-teen boys with images of threesomes n the shower or sex in the supermarket?

This is an industry that loves to talk about brand truth and authenticity. It loves to talk about building social capital. Why the apologies for a company that seems content to pretend to care about these issues? If we really want companies to display higher standards, then let’s continue to make noise when they don’t.

Posted by: Kelly OKeefe on October 17, 2007 10:42 PM

A company that tells the public that sexist characterizations of women are wrong, while promoting such characterizations, is indisputably hypocritical. If the argument is that since other companies are hypocritical, that’s OK…well that’s some pretty counterproductive cynicism.

The Dove campaign goes further than just showing positive images, they actually say that these other images have a negative impact on self-esteem and they have established a fund to change this. Given this, it is appropriate to call them on the carpet for their Axe work. Are you really saying that corporations should NOT practice what they preach?

And on the subject of Axe, the brand’s Effie submission lists the target as boys, 11-years-old and up. How appropriate is it to tempt pre-teen boys with images of threesomes n the shower or sex in the supermarket?

This is an industry that loves to talk about brand truth and authenticity. It loves to talk about building social capital. Why the apologies for a company that seems content to pretend to care about these issues? If we really want companies to display higher standards, then let’s continue to make noise when they don’t.

Posted by: Kelly OKeefe on October 17, 2007 10:43 PM

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