Dove: Real Beauty Sketches

- in CASE STUDIES, The Drum



From 2005, Unilever’s Dove brand of personal care products has celebrated women’s natural beauty in its ‘Real Beauty’ marketing campaigns.

Market research suggested that only 4% of women describe themselves as beautiful, so the Dove Real Beauty campaign for 2013, created by Ogilvy Brazil, was tasked with raising the self-esteem of the other 96%. No short order!

Unilever asked us to make women feel better about themselves. We wanted to move women, to find an idea that could actually prove to women that they’re wrong about their self-image. Hats off to Unilever – they didn’t approve a script, they approved a social experiment that could’ve gone either way.

Anselmo Ramos, Creative Director, Ogilvy Brazil


Ogilvy came up with the idea to run a social experiment that turned on its head the tendency of women to be critical of their appearance. It involved women being filmed going through a process of self-discovery, seeing themselves through their own eyes and those of strangers.

For the experiment, FBI forensic artist Gil Zamora sketches women he can’t see on different days – firstly based on their own descriptions of themselves, then based on a stranger’s description, without Gil ever knowing when the subject was the same person. The resulting sketches are then revealed to the subjects for comparison, with the sketches from the strangers’ descriptions being the more accurate and flattering. The women reacted strongly to the sketches, some with tears, as they realised that they were doing themselves an injustice.

he campaign was presented on YouTube as a branded, documentary-style film (in six-minute and three-minute versions) with the tagline ‘Women: You Are More Beautiful Than You Think’.


  • 170 million views on YouTube
  • Most-watched online branded content of 2013
  • 3rd most-shared branded video of 2013


The Dove Real Beauty Sketches branded content marketing campaign strongly reinforced Dove’s ongoing Real Beauty strategy. It was successful in tapping into women’s emotions and making people think again about how they judge their own appearance.

The film went viral very quickly (more than 15 million views within a week of its launch) and inspired conversations, debate and articles in media as diverse as Adweek, The Telegraph, Facebook, Bloomberg, Mashable, New York Times, Forbes, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today – as well as wider adoption of the concept, such as the ‘Men: You Are Less Beautiful Than You Think’ spoof video.

This case study was originally published in the 2014 Edition of Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM), co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.