Capitalist Onslaught

Despite my rant yesterday about cynical marketing campaigns based on social issues, I do believe that advertising can be a force for good in society. Even though, when you stop to think about some brands’ motives for more than a millisecond, entire campaigns suddenly seem completely bogus. For example, Dove has been running its Campaign For Real Beauty for years. It’s based on the idea of empowering young girls and women to be happy with their own bodies instead of chasing some fantasy ideal pumped out by the ‘beauty’ industry. As I’m sure you know, Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns Lynx/Axe, the brand that’s been telling young blokes for years to ‘Spray More, Get More’ alongside other irreverent messages that you’d struggle to misconstrue as being about female empowerment. You may also know that Dove products are choc-full of palm oil, the production of which is linked to widespread environmental and social issues in Africa and Asia, including deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses. All of which casts the Campaign For Real Beauty in a different light; when looked at within the wider context, it feels like a hypocritical, cynical smokescreen.

BUT. And here’s where the ethical waters get very muddy. If you take away any of that context and just consider the work on its own merits – which is how many people will view it – this kind of work can be a force for good. The beauty industry is a sinister force that pushes warped ideals onto insecure young girls. And the Onslaught ad above is a brilliantly crafted, extremely powerful piece of communication that I’d argue makes the world a better place. It uses intelligence and creativity to challenge the status quo, pose questions and inspire change. It’s an excellent ad and, perhaps, rather than feeling manipulated by a hypocritical, unethical multinational corporation, parents will feel challenged and inspired to think even more about the way they bring up their daughters. And that has to be a good thing, right?

Well, maybe. And maybe not. Because the whole thing’s a big capitalist conspiracy, isn’t it? Maybe Onslaught made parents like the Dove brand a bit more. Which might’ve made them more likely to buy Dove products. Which would’ve meant more forests torn down to make more palm oil. And more money made by Unilever to spend on more Lynx marketing telling young blokes to spray more and get laid more. Which might’ve lead to those young blokes objectifying girls rather than seeing them as equals worthy of respect. And I don’t really know where I’m going with this because the whole thing is connected in a way that makes my head hurt and makes me feel like a tiny cog in the vast machine of global capitalism. So, I’ll just say “great ad” and leave it there for now before I turn into a pound shop Chomsky.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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