Dove: campaign for ‘touched up’ beauty?

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Businessweek reports that Dove improved the appearance of some of the models in its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. Pascal Dangin, a retoucher, told The New Yorker: “Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.” Digital manipulation in advertising is common; even in actual shoots acrylic dummies make-do for soap cakes and god-knows-what else for whiskies and oil.

dove girls.jpg

But given that the entire campaign was about ‘real beauty’ this news is jarring. Curiously, press release from Dove’s US website said this:

Six brave women – two students, a kindergarten teacher, a manicurist, an administrative assistant and a café barista dare to bare it, facing the world in nothing but their underwear and a lot of sassy attitude. Their images have not been altered or retouched in any way. Their message: Stand firm and celebrate your curves!

So, it’s Dove’s word against the re-toucher’s. Interesting to see what’s ahead. If this is true, it pokes huge holes at the very heart of the idea. And casts doubt about the agency’s honesty, as reported in Adage. As the article says: The most famous execution to date — and one that won both a Cyber and Film Grand Prix for Unilever at the International Advertising Festival last year — has been the “Evolution” viral video, which shows an attractive but rumpled woman transformed through a variety of makeup, styling and retouching tricks into a billboard bombshell. The kicker: “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.”

If the claims are true, was Dove right in manipulating the images? What say you?

UPDATE: Report from Brand Republic – Dove has denied that the campaign was significantly retouched. It said that Dangin worked with photographer Annie Leibovitz who shot the photography for the launch of the Dove ProAge campaign, a new campaign within the “Campaign for real beauty”.

Dove said that it had an understanding with Leibovitz that the photos would not be retouched and that the only actions taken were the removal of dust from the film and minor colour correction.

Leibovitz confirmed in a statement for Dove: “Let’s be perfectly clear — Pascal does all kinds of work — but he is primarily a printer — and only does retouching when asked to. The idea for Dove was very clear from the beginning. There was to be no retouching and there was not.”
Dangin said: “I only worked on the Dove ProAge campaign taken by Annie Leibovitz and was directed only to remove dust and do colour correction — both the integrity of the photographs and the women’s natural beauty were maintained.”

Guess the agency & the client come out squeaky clean in this, eh?

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