Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dove good? Capital One evil? weigh in

The studio gets an awful lot of junk mail, but yesterday we got a real 'winner' from Capital One. Generally, this sort of mail goes directly into the round file, but this one felt squishy, like there was some sort of sample inside, so I passed it to Ben. The 'prize' inside was a small rectangle of bubble wrap.

sheesh. What a dirty trick.

The late Bill Hicks, in his onstage act, would sometimes ask if there were any marketing people in the audience and invite them to go ahead and kill themselves. I don't go there, but I get his point. I believe really good marketing for a good product is an art form. If you've never thought much about it (likely if you're reading this blog you have) check out the work of past CLIO winners.

Obviously Capital One wanted to increase the odds of someone reading their ads by first enticing them to open the envelope. Not a terrible idea. But I can think of a dozen things they could've put in the envelope that would've been funny, or useful, or both, leaving me appreciative and more willing to read the info inside.

I will never again open a Capital One envelope. I don't care if it buzzes or whistles or smells like mint. They blew it. The letter is from Pat L. Wright, Director of Small Business Solutions. I plan to contact Pat L. Wright at Whomever is responsible for this bubble wrap trick should be fired.

Now, on the other hand, this made me think about who is advertising well. The first company that comes to mind is Dove. I've mentioned Dove before. I don't know if the Dove Campaign for Beauty was started just to sell products or to change minds. (Logically, it would be both.) I don't care, because the result is that they are indeed changing minds.
Here is "Onslaught" retrieved from the Dove website:

I'm off to make art. Should I make a Dove Poppet to support their Self Esteem program? I'm open to suggestions. As always, thanks for being here.


Carl V. Anderson said...

The Dove ads are certainly inspiring. I saw the print ads for the various women they were using several months ago and I honestly thought each and every one of them were beautiful. Of course I've always had a bit of an open mind about this and weight and age have never had to be in that narrow window of what Hollywood/society calls beautiful for me to find a woman attractive. That isn't to say that I don't think the "perfect model" woman isn't beautiful, but there are so many "imperfect"--i.e. not fitting that mold--women who are stunning and alot of that is about self confidence and self image. I commend Dove for the ad campaign. It is not only a brilliant strategy to sell their product but they in turn sell a more important product: the idea that you can love who you are and that you are beautiful.

I think a Dove Poppet or some creation the ad inspires you to make would be very cool.

lisa said...

Right on, Carl. I grew up with a sister who struggled with her weight daily. Eventually, in her forties, she realized how beautiful she was and it was like the sun came out. She's 61 now, and still beautiful.
I'm going to print a copy of the blog now, enclose it in an envelope and send it back to Cap One. And I'm going to be thinking of more ways to support Dove's efforts.

Rubius said...

Well said.

The first thing that came to my mind with the bubble wrap thing is 'oh god... how much plastic are they willing to waste???'

I also very much appreciate the 'real beauty' campaign. It is something I have been waiting for in marketing for a LONG time. I remember cheering the first time I saw their ads. I still stop to watch them over any other ad out there (as much as I also despise most marketing).

lisa said...

Rubius: yes. waste of paper too. I like Seth Godin's advice on many things, and it certainly applies here. He says to look around for 'always.' What do different companies/advertisers 'always' do. Find that out, then do something else.
I'd like everyone who has daughters or knows girls to encourage them to go to the site. This message isn't new, but the Dove site is an extremely effective messenger.

Anonymous said...

Look, I hate to be overly critical of an ad campaign that provides a corrective to a lot of what's out there, but if Dove didn't know that this campaign would sell more soap (and, you know, cellulite cream, which offers a panacea for a "problem" that we wouldn't even think was a problem without the beauty industry) it wouldn't exist. But more than that, Dove is owned by food and soap megacorporation Unilever. Unilever also sells a product called Fair and Lovely, which is designed to bleach pigment from skin and is marketed in India, Africa and Asia. Campaign for Real Beauty? I think not. Unilever is also responsible for the entirely repulsive Axe body spray commercials that I turn off every chance I get.

As one commenter on Metafilter put it when this topic came up there, "Is it meaningful for one small piece of a vast corporate empire to take what is supposed to look like an ethical stance when all of the company's other organs are busy churning out the same old poison? No, I don't think it is."

lisa said...

Thanks Nat! I agree. Seems to swing very near to a paradox. So, yes---the films like "Onslaught" have a positive effect, as does Dove's self esteem programs. But the parent company is part of the problem that created the need for the programs in the first place.
You could almost (but not quite) call Dove's new 'broader view of beauty" a side effect. So, let's say the motive behind the marketing is to 'sell soap'. I'm sure it is. Does this taint the positive effect of the programs? This is an interesting problem. How do we resolve it? Is it possible for us (consumers) to hold companies accountable for this? How do we begin?

lisa said...

oh, and Nat: On the Axe body spray ads--- awful. they remind me of the same sort of offensive commercials Carl's Jr. put out several years ago. I still won't eat at Carls

lisa said...

I'm a little bummed out. I went to the Dove site, filled out the forms and registered so I could comment on 'Onslaught'. I posted the following:
Ok. I need some help with this. I think 'Onslaught' is very powerful and it's a message I'm more than happy to share. I posted it on my blog and one of my readers pointed out that Unilever (who owns Dove) is responsible for the abhorrent Axe ads. Also that Unilever produces skin lightening products for sale in Asia and India. I'm having trouble resolving this issue and really don't know what to tell my readers. I'd appreciate any comments. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the self esteem campaign, but something isn't ringing true here. Thanks

When I posted the comment, I got a message that the comment would be 'reviewed, and if approved, would appear on the board.' Disheartening. I'll let you know if the message shows up, or if I find out any more. Let me know what you guys learn too.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I'm not sure where that kind of holding companies responsible logic turns into throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If I knew that the same small group of people were making all those decisions about which products to sell it would be easier to do, but most likely the marketing people responsible for the positive self esteem campaign are not the exact same people designing and marketing the products that are offensive. It isn't that small of a company. And don't read me wrong, I'm certainly not granting them clemency, companies should be more responsible. However the idea of mass protesting things can get so easily out of hand if you apply it to every aspect of your life. Dig deep enough and even the corporations you think are 'responsible' are polluting the environment, cutting corners, supporting causes that you don't agree with, etc. I've never been one for protesting products, films, etc. It seems like an empty gesture to me that makes no difference. Real change has to be effected at the governmental level where the rules on what can or cannot be done need to be tightened up and followed so there aren't so many loopholes for companies to exploit. I'm not sure if I'm making sense at this point, only trying to get across the idea that I'm not so sure we shouldn't still be happy with the kind of advertising Dove is doing with their beauty campaign because of other things going on in the company. I'm just never quite sure how far one should go with this kind of stuff and am test driving my thoughts a bit here.

ravyn said...

A thought that just came to mind reading your last comment, Carl.

If the Dove campaign message reaches young girls, at least they'll be better equipped to withstand the bombardment of the other kinds of advertising that are sure to be around for a while longer.

Should we continue this in the forums? i think it would be a great topic to really get into there!

lisa said...

Carl and Ravyn: Good on the 'baby with the bathwater.' just the phrase I was looking for. Right. It would seem that the Dove ads would reach a number of girls/women with a positive message--girls/women who would remain unaware of the scope or Unilever. It's funny---against these issues, the whole bubble wrap trick Cap One is playing seems rather childish and nearly harmless---emphasis on nearly. I'm with you in seeing the Dove ads in themselves as positive and effective, but I remain disturbed by the underlayers.

lisa said...

maybe we should head over to the forums. I hear there's a sofa in there.

David Niall Wilson said...

This sort of ethical dilemma is all-too common in today's world. It seems that there are always a few who really care (often younger, and usually in positions of lesser authority) trapped in machines bent on evil...and anything they do, good or ill, will be tainted by association...

This reminds me of that new TV show Eli Stone. He's a lawyer with a brain aneurysm -- he also appears to be a prophet with visions. They tried to disbar him, but since he's winning most of his cases, and is sincere, they let him keep his license.

Immediately after this, his associate / assistant - who did not know about the illness, confronted him and called him a liar and hypocrite, because she (probably correctly) pointed out that without the illness, he would not be changing and doing good in the world...that he's just trying to wipe the slate clean before he dies...

And you hear what she's saying...yet you like Eli, who sincerely seems to BE changing, for whatever reason.

It's a great show.

It has no soap, Dove or otherwise, that I've seen so far...


lisa said...

David: Right. Always more comfortable to swim on the surface. But then, we're compelled to see what's beneath and sometimes seeing the machinations leaves us bitter. The solution must live somewhere between.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the lag in replying. I didn't mean to hurl a bomb into the discussion and then run away.

Generally, I think the baby/bathwater argument has some weight. I do think there is some good being done by this particular Dove campaign, in terms of utilizing unconventional models and challenging what is considered the salable standard of beauty in the industry. If nothing else, they are opening the door for other companies to use more realistic models (I just saw a Slimfast commercial where the "after" models were notably more healthy and curvy looking than they would have been a couple of years ago) and that's a good thing in terms of chipping away at the size 0 aesthetic that permeates advertising right now.

However. I do think it's a pragmatic/cynical decision on the part of Dove to launch this campaign, a fundamentally commercial calculation. If I'd heard that there was an independent foundation for fostering self esteem in girls and that Dove was donating money to it as an act of corporate contrition, I might *still* roll my eyes and say, "Well, it's good publicity for them," but when the foundation is actually created by the company, the suspicion that it is a corporate shill becomes inescapable.

As commenter David points out, it's almost impossible to hold these mega-corporations to account for all of their myriad sins and I don't want to set myself up as some sort of saint in that regard, either. I'm pretty sure that his contention that one hand doesn't know what the other is doing is also probably correct. I just find the whole thing kind of wearying and distasteful and an incentive to always look deeper. I'm not asking anyone to man the barricades or anything like that. But I do think that it's always in our own best interests to keep our eyes wide open.

lisa said...

Nat: Thanks for coming back! I think the truth is in the center. That, yes, Dove created the campaign to sell products and yes, the campaign effectively chips away at the false beauty standard.

I can't see a single commercial, tv show, movie or ad any more without imagining the conference table behind it. Once you see it, you can't escape it.

If you've got your eyes wide open, you're way ahead of most people. Looking deeper serves us well, but can leave us bitter. After all, ignorance is bliss.

Dove still wins this contest for effective marketing. No one here is talking about Capital One.

Is it possible to support the 'campaign for real beauty' without backing the conference table behind it?

Dan Guy said...

One of the things that amazes me about the Dove ad is that presumably the creators had to create and shoot all of those fake billboards, ads, and products.

Unknown said...

Just a word on the Capital One issue: If they'll waste a piece of (expensive) bubble wrap to entice you to open the envelope, they will do almost anything. C1 has been known to open accounts with very little information and not always from the person who received the mailing. Therefore, you must open each envelope and shred the enclosed credit card or loan offer. I know, they're not worth wasting valuable personal time on; it just grinds me every time I do it, but better that than identity theft. C1's greed has caused more that a few cases of fraud and they're rarely willing to accept responsibility. So protect yourself and take those few minutes to shred--its worth it.

Anonymous said...

Today April 22nd is Earthday and apparently it is intended to inspire awareness of, and appreciation for the Earth’s environment! CONGRATULATIONS CapitalOne your bubble wrap credit card offer arrived just in time and you are truly an inspiration.

I am so inspired by you, I am considering sending my check payment in a cardboard box filled with tiny styrofoam pellets. Imagine the mess you have to clean up when it is received and opened by your mailing department. It’s okay though at least I am as responsible as you are and protect my fragile check even if this means we have a little more waste to dispose.

I framed your previous mailers and proudly displayed them in my office, thinking they are something special and they would maybe gain in value, but now I am running out of space and decided to just send them back to you. I don’t open them anymore, I just mark them with “Acceptance Refused return to sender for recycling” and stick them back in the mail. I am honest, I am not the most conservative person when it comes to our environmental responsibilities, but each time I receive one of your bubble wrap letters I am truly inspired to do more.

I usually take a moment from my busy stressful day, sit back, relax, close my eyes, and picture the most beautiful site, a football field covered with your bubble wrap mailers. Try it, it’s one tranquil experience and interesting how many obvious reasons I can come up with why we need to cover a football field with your bubble wrap. Thank you CapitalOne, and please don’t forget to promote the idiot that came up with this marketing campaign he truly deserves it.