While some of the fundamental marketing questions still need to be answered (do users associate this clip with Dove? Will/Does it influence purchase decisions / loyalty and more…), its phenomenal viral exposure cannot be argued. A powerful demonstration of potential.
The distortion of body images when representing beauty is a very old tradition (If I remember correctly, Michelangelo’s Adam on the Sistine Chapel misses a rib and sits in an anatomically impossible, yet arguably flattering position). However, there is no doubt that in our times the very rigid types of female looks represented by mass media, and further distorted using digital wizardry, has become an oppressive force threatening the emotional, and often physical well being of women everywhere. (Some thoughtful words on the subject and comments worth reading on Dana Boyd’s blog )
The strength and appeal of the subject is apparent in the ripple effect of user created content around the same theme. The Dove clip drove many web users, especially personal bloggers, to try and explore digitally manipulating themselves. You can find videos in the related videos list of the clip on you-tube.
Liat Bar-On, who is among Israel’s most widely read personal bloggers (placing her in the top-10 will be a careful estimate) created an interesting project that takes this exercise a step further.
Bar-On uploaded untouched photographs of herself to Flickr and called upon users to modify her image with flattering, yet quite alien, results. Liat’s blog, written in Hebrew, often deals with feminine identity and body perception themes, but since her Photoshock project is largely visual, you can enjoy it even if you don’t read Hebrew. Many comments on flickr say – “you are better off without the Photoshop treatment”.
I find the user created responses to Dove fascinating, it is as if through retouching themselves, and manipulating their own digital representation, users can reaffirm their feeling in their true body, and experience an apparent sense of liberation through mutating themselves, looking at it and being able to recognise how ridiculous and distorted standards have become.
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Foot-note: Cyberspace’s role in the way users project, explore and develop their identity through personal expression and social interaction is a favourite subject. In an article I published about the subject about two years ago, my main argument was that the basic experience of the self online is a contradictory mix of a sense of liberation (the opportunity to reinvent yourself, being free from historical prejudices you may have collected or are related to your social group etc.) and a feeling of anxiety for pretty much the same reasons (the pressure of getting across right, losing your familiar social assets, the sense of your body etc.). It’s interesting how users tap the different poles of this experience as they explore their individuality.