Yvette, Kari B., and Yet Another Girl all sent in links to articles about Dove Ultimate Go Sleeveless deodorant. The campaign for the deodorant focuses on the fact that it supposedly makes your armpits look better. Here’s one commercial (via The Consumerist; it’s not the best illustration of how much Dove is pushing the attractiveness angle, but it’s the only commercial from this ad campaign I could find):
According to research cited on Dove’s website, 93% of women think their underarms are unattractive and thus may refuse to wear sleeveless clothing.
Libby Copeland at Slate sums up what’s going on here:
Dove’s empowerment-via-shame marketing approach for Go Sleeveless has its roots in advertising techniques that gained popularity in the 1920s: a) pinpoint a problem, perhaps one consumers didn’t even know they had; b) exacerbate anxiety around the problem; c) sell the cure.
Ladies, it’s not enough to shave and deodorize your underarms. They need even more prettification than they’ve been getting. How this deodorant does that, I don’t know. But it does. You’re welcome.
Stephen Colbert discussed Dove and advertising based on insecurities recently:
Andrew — April 18, 2011
Good thing you posted the Colbert segment; if I were only going by the ad spot posted above, I never would've guessed that Dove was presenting the deodorant as some kind of magical 5-day beauty strategy.
Of course, any company selling deodorant is already capitalizing off of a completely invented anxiety around a non-problem. The vague promise of making a body part prettier does seem to raise the stakes, but it's not a huge leap from the danger of being publicly humiliated by your own shamefully natural smell, as deodorant ads have traded in for decades.
mclicious — April 18, 2011
I had no idea my underarms were unattractive. I have to side on the use-your-deodorant-and-shower-regularly camp, but I also live in the desert, so everybody stinks if they don't. My biggest problem with deodorant companies is that it's impossible to find a deodorant (one that works, at least--Tom's makes me smell like I have worse BO than if I never showered) that doesn't have antiperspirant. We're not naturally supposed to smell bad, but we are naturally supposed to sweat. Also, with so many women with metal allergies, I'm surprised they haven't realized it's really awful to have itchy armpits. If my underarms are unattractive, I'll wager it's from the rash I get from the aluminum I'm allergic to.
But I digress. It's funny, because this is probably the one Dove commercial I've seen that otherwise doesn't make me angry, mostly because it uses a woman who could possibly be not completely white, and a woman who is not totally skinny, and it does both without screaming, "Hey, look! We're using a real woman because that's what we do at Dove! Aren't we progressive?" So that's kind of cool.
Molly W. — April 18, 2011
Maybe I'm totally naive, but I thought the point was that some ingredient in the deodorant helps reduce/soothe razor bumps, which ... doesn't actually sound that far-fetched to me.
eHow.com suggests that harsh deodorants/antiperspirants can aggravate razor bumps in the armpits, implying mild ones wouldn't: http://www.ehow.com/how_4778777_stop-razor-burn-bumps-armpits.html (Granted, eHow.com is not exactly the gold standard for information on the Internet.)
Of course, even if the claim it makes is true, the campaign is still doing the a/b/c thing Copeland identifies; razor bumps in your armpits is not exactly the end of the world.
Also, I think it's interesting they're pitching the unattractiveness angle. I would think the fact that razor bumps are *uncomfortable* would be a bigger selling point.
m — April 18, 2011
Also a good measure of how already absurd beauty standards are taken for granted. I don't know how many people grow up tp get hairless armpits, but it sure isn't the majority. However, most people today seem to think of hairy armpits as completely unacceptable, and this not only cements that notion but pushes it lower into the public conciousness. It's worrying to say the least.
Angie — April 18, 2011
I don't particularly like Dove's commercial, but some women actually do have an issue with having their underarms exposed so it's not like it's that ridiculous of a product. I read the accompanying links and a lot of the comments and the commentary made it seem like Dove created this issue out of thin air. I have scar discoloration, ingrown hairs and cysts caused lumpiness, and the fact that I have light skin and dark hair means that even when I shave it looks like I have crops for armpits. I don't wax because I have sensitive skin so that's not an alternative solution to remove surface stubble. And I've gone extended periods of time where I don't shave and it actually causes more irritation because the long underarm hair chafes my arm/side chest and causes red bumps, so I need to remove the hair. It's not some sort of "pressure to be hairless to feel more feminine" b.s. My friends once commented on how lucky I was that I don't have body hair (I'm Asian). I told them that while that it's true I don't have any leg or arm hair, I still have to shave my underarms. My white and blonde-haired friends were surprised when they saw my dark armpits, but my Indian, Italian, Middle-Eastern girlfriends knew exactly what I was talking about. I still won't buy Dove's deodorant because I'm loyal to my brand and I would laugh if someone actually judged me based on my armpits, but I don't think anything is wrong with the product existing. Women wished they had long eyelashes before Latisse; women wished they had nice armpits before this deodorant. If anything, I think they should've marketed their product to focus on it preventing itchiness and pimples and made it more of a health issue than the "ugly vs. pretty" issue.
Laurie Brown — April 18, 2011
Oh, dear! My armpits are not attractive?!??!
Perhaps I should grow some roses under there or something.
larrycwilson — April 18, 2011
In the 1920s bad breath was renamed "halitosis" and Listerine sold as the medicine to cure it.
Will Richardson — April 18, 2011
Live in mild climate's and sweat's not that much of a problem.
Eat less meat and people smell less meaty... erm ;)
Corporations: Helping You Hate Every Last Body Part « Against All Evidence — April 18, 2011
[...] usual with such ads, Sociological Images has a write-up on the new [...]
Ari — April 18, 2011
Oh, and all curvy Latina women like salsa music and dance to it in the mirror.
Lisa — April 19, 2011
I saw a Dove commercial recently (not the one above) that began with something along the lines of "Tired of uncomfortable and unslightly underarms caused by shaving?" and the first thing I thought was "Ohh! An ad that advises me to stop shaving?!". Nope, "Buy better deordorant!". You'd think that after an advertising degree I'd stop being optimistic about the things I hear from the TV.
Fernando — April 19, 2011
Read through the comments expecting someone would criticize Colbert for calling a shaved armpit a "regular armpit".
Dana — April 19, 2011
Without arguing the particulars of this case, I think it's pretty much a given that the manufacturing of ideals (not pertaining to physical discomfort) IS quite prevalent in our culture.
Just to bring some levity...the Colbert sketch reminded me of this commercial parody:
GabyK — April 20, 2011
Sorry I tried to read all the posts to find out if anyone had mentioned it but I couldn't watch the colbert sketch - any chance of a written version or a diff link for us Englishers?
Champagne Ivy — April 20, 2011
While I still thought the bit was funny, I think Colbert was showing his privilege a bit by acting like it was ridiculous for women to be insecure about having 'natural' armpits, especially when he used a perfectly shaved photoshopped picture of an armpit as an example of 'normal'
:( Some of us do get razor burn, Colbert. I respect that you're doing something to fight marketers trying to give low self esteem, but you seem a little bit ignorant about how much damage marketing has already done.
jaee — April 21, 2011
Natural armpits are armpits that are unshaved and, if shaved, a lot, lot less smooth or fair than Veronica's or what Colbert's photo showed.
I'm a little surprised that there has been so much furore over Dove's ad. Haven't ads and products that claim to whiten, soften or perfect your underarms been around for a long time? I'm from Singapore and this is nothing new.
maybe cos it's Dove. even so, I do still tip my hat off at them for their "Campaign for Real Beauty" and their Self-esteem Fund. Of course, there's been a lot of criticism and who knows if it's all just a marketing gimmick. I'm not sure either but I still hope some of it is sincere. Shall wait and see.
CherylP. — June 3, 2011
Who goes around with their arms above their heads much anyway? I have bigger problems to deal with than if my pitts are attractive! It just seems so shallow to be so involved with a certain place on the body! That is absolute micromanaging! I am also not going to shove a large dose of chemicals in a sensitive area, where it can be absorbed into the body! We have enough pollution and free radicals to battle; we don't need to purposely introduce more! I guess Dove figures if they can't sell their batch of chemicals to people who care about odor, then they will get them with the beauty aspect (although I can't imagine someone who cares about smell, not caring about beauty!) So introducing a possible carcinogenic substance purposely each day to a vulnerable area is more important than health? I think we have to consider what is good for us, and not let a company who has a monetary stake in telling us what to think, and do, dictate it to us! Find natural ways to smell clean and fresh, and lovely, and cut down on one more possibility of attack on the health of our bodies! (Every little bit helps!)
CherylP. — June 3, 2011
And I also don't buy their obvious ploy of self-esteem as such a magnificent thing; it is an ad campaign, NOTHING MORE! It is like saying smoking gives you self-esteem; they want to sell a product, and look like good guys in the process! Don't be so naive to think they actually give a darn about anyone's self-esteem; it is all a gimmick to make you feel all soft an fuzzy toward them!
Blix — July 10, 2011
Why shave, especially if you are only going to complain anyway?
Malicetrix — July 29, 2011
Uniliver expiriment on animals. Another reason not to buy their products.
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A reading list from the @mktgchildhood Twitter timeline – Marketing, Media and Childhood — October 21, 2012
[...] Literacy Lineup:3. “Is Your Armpit Unattractive? Dove Can Help” at Sociological Images:Putting the lie to how much Dove (parent company Unilever) cares about your positive body image. According to [...]