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Yes, Your Butt Will Look Fat in This Ad: Dove Seeks "Real" But "Flawless" Models

It's a sign of how successful Ogilvy & Mather's "real beauty" campaign for Unilever (UL)'s Dove is that even its casting call for models is scrutinized to the nth degree for its adhesion to realness. The brand will enjoy the publicity -- starting a debate about "real beauty" is the whole point -- even though some of the barbs are unwarranted.

Unilever and Ogilvy want a grab bag of contradictory qualities for anyone who wants to pose in their underwear for the soap bar: You must want to be in an ad but not be a "model"; must be "stylish and cool" but "no tattoos"; must be "real" but "flawless"; and must have "great sparkling personalities" but only your image will be used. (Oddly, being a Dove loyalist is not a requirement.) Feminist-y blog Jezebel was first out of the outrage gate:

The emphasis on being "real" but also being totally flawless is somewhat hilarious and tragic, in that the entire point of the Dove campaign is to challenge the definition of the word "beauty." Asking women to show up with "beautiful hair and skin" implies that there is already a set standard for such things, and that Dove does not, in fact, want to deviate from said standard, even though their entire campaign promises to do so.
The "no scars/tattoos" rule is particularly upsetting: god forbid we attempt to encourage society to view scars as something other than "flaws" or "imperfections" or look at body art as something unique and beautiful.
Wrong: It's completely reasonable for Dove to not want tattoos on its models. The images of these women will be used in a variety of different places -- billboards, online ads, magazines, TV -- and while your totally awesome "tribal" armband may look cool when your eyes are 6 inches away from it, it's going to look like a nasty black splotch from 50 feet or when you're reduced to a 3-inch square on a packet. Unilever is advertising soap, not your "unique and beautiful" body art, and it's difficult to get across a focused message about "clean" if the model is literally covered in ink. (Besides, they already used a model with a tattoo -- click below to enlarge -- and is that a heart or a turnip?)

So the Craigslist ad wasn't the best written piece of ad copy I've ever seen, but then it was penned by a stylist, not an English Lit professor. And while parts if it are annoying -- didn't we learn not to do ALL CAPS in the mid-90s? -- I can envisage exactly the kind of people they're looking for. They'll look like the sisters of the women in their previous advertising, and aren't they a whole lot more interesting than the endless runways of Eastern European teenagers that dominate Fashion Week?.

Given the presentation of the female image in 90 percent of other brands' advertising -- Ralph Lauren, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters are good examples -- the fact that Unilever expressly doesn't want runway waifs remains refreshing.

(The full text of the casting ad follows the jump.)

Related:

DOVE "REAL WOMEN" PRINT CASTING JUNE 28-30, 2010 in NYC ABSOLUTELY NO ACTRESSES / MODELS OR REALITY SHOW PARTICIPANTS or ANY ONE CARRYING A HEADSHOT!!!! REAL WOMEN ONLY! LOOKING FOR 3-4 REAL WOMEN for a DOVE PRINT CAMPAIGN!

AGES 35-45, CAUCASIAN, HISPANIC, AFRICAN AMERICAN, & ASIAN!

SHOOT: SUNDAY, JULY 18 in NYC! MUST BE AVAILABLE FOR THE SHOOT! RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000! USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE CAMPAIGN IN A TOWEL! BEAUTIFUL ARMS AND LEGS AND FACE WILL BE SHOWN! MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS! Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!! STYLISH AND COOL! Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

PLEASE SUBMIT SNAPSHOTS of FACE & BODY ASAP & WE WILL CALL YOU IN FOR A CASTING NEXT WEEK 6/28-6/30 in NYC!