Unilever’s Dove was well-known as a purpose-driven brand which aimed to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety. However, competitors had been encroaching on its ‘real beauty’ brand positioning. Research among consumers to understand modern perceptions of beauty showed that social media was damaging girls’ self-esteem.

Working with marketing communications agency Ogilvy, the strategy was to challenge unrealistic beauty standards for younger Dove consumers and their mothers, which would help Dove regain its distinctive role as a champion of women. A ‘Reverse Selfie’ social media film revealed the lengths to which teenage girls manipulated their social media ‘selfie’ images. Viewers were driven to advice and resources housed on, designed to boost girls’ self-esteem and parents were encouraged to ‘Have #TheSelfieTalk’.

A social media partnership with global artist and body confidence advocate Lizzo extended the campaign’s reach and engagement. After the campaign, brand affinity increased by 21% and there was an 11.9% uplift in cross-category value sales for the brand.

Objectives & aims

The rise of social media meant that more consumers were aware of filters and editing. This made Dove’s once radical brand positioning on representing real women start to feel generic. In addition, there was low awareness in Dove’s Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) to build confidence in girls. Ogilvy was tasked with:

  • Driving awareness and fame for the brand with a campaign reach exceeding 1.4bn global impressions.
  • Increasing brand power and short-term cross-category sales
  • Drive brand affinity and understanding that Dove ‘inspires women to feel good about the way they look’.
  • Drive an increase in awareness and downloads of the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) and its content advice toolkits.

Implementation, execution & tactics

Dove’s quantitative and qualitative consumer research showed that women’s confidence in their beauty had fallen from 85% to 50% in five years. Six in 10 girls and women blamed social media for making them feel worse about themselves. In addition, 66% of parents ‘did not feel equipped to help their daughters navigate social media’, and 34% of girls felt their ‘parents did not understand the pressures they were under’. These insights underpinned the campaign strategy to reveal modern, toxic beauty standards to younger consumers, to help Dove regain its strong, purpose-led brand positioning and to create long-term brand awareness and affinity.

The campaign leveraged the awareness around Dove’s award-winning 2004 ‘Evolution’ film, which showed the retouching undergone by a model in an advert and updated its format for a new generation of consumers. The Reverse Selfie campaign film highlighted all the retakes, editing, filters and impact of a teenage girl’s average selfie. Seeded in six and 15 second lengths using a paid and owned social media strategy targeting young women and their mothers, the film drove viewers to download free Dove Self-Esteem Project toolkits for teachers, parents and young people, housed on Once they were on the website, users were also encouraged to ‘Take the Pledge for No Digital’ and share it with their friends and own social media followers.

The film was also released as a TV advert.

A social media partnership with globally-famous singer and body confidence advocate Lizzo helped extend the reach of the campaign. Lizzo posted an image of herself naked on her Instagram channel under the campaign hashtag #NoDigitalDistortion and encouraged other celebrities and women to do the same. This increased campaign impressions and engagement.


  • The campaign achieved six billion global impressions – the highest ever for a Dove purpose campaign.
  • Lizzo’s post received two million likes and 35,000 in 24 hours, and became her second most liked post of 2021.
  • Unilever’s internal brand tracking index showed that Dove’s ‘brand power’ increased by five per cent, resulting in a 11.9% increase in cross-category value sales. Unilever’s internal research shows an ongoing correlation between uplifts in brand power, sales and turnover, and is therefore used to predict brand growth.
  • Kantar research showed that, after the campaign, Dove’s brand favourability increased by 19%, brand affinity increased by 21% and there was an eight per cent uplift in women agreeing with the sentiment ‘Dove inspires women to feel positive about the way they look’
  • Kantar research also showed that DSEP awareness increased from 17% to 67%. Weekly toolkit downloads increased by 4,000%


Marketing Society – Grand Prix, Winner
Cannes – 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze, 12 Shortlist
USA Effies – Gold