Dove takes on hurtful labels in Hong Kong

Unilever's marketing manager explains the brand's first localised 'Real beauty' campaign for Hong Kong, which launched today through Uth Creative Group and PHD.

In a Dove 'Real beauty' campaign released in Hong Kong today, women are quite literally labeled with derogatory terms relating to their physical appearance. In the campaign video by Uth Creative Group (above), we see women wearing Post-it notes marking them as ‘pork chop’, ‘giraffe’ and other critical phrases that are unfortunately common. 

The 'Appreciate don’t adjudicate' campaign marks Dove’s first localised effort in Hong Kong, according to Dawn Ting, marketing manager for Unilever Hong Kong and Taiwan. It comes more than a decade after the personal-care brand first launched its global 'Real beauty' platform in 2004.

Unlike a recent localised campaign in Japan, which was drawn from a global beauty and confidence study which showed Japanese girls were the least confident about their looks (see "Dove tries to fix Japan's low 'body esteem'"), Ting said the Hong Kong campaign derives from local insights rather than research.

The global campaigns used in Hong Kong in past years were fitting—"It’s a universal truth that many women do not feel confident about their looks”—but the time seemed right for a truly localised campaign, Ting said.

“For the past two to three years, we have seen that the society has been harsher against women, and women are also often their own worst critics,” she said. The campaign is “by locals, for locals" and because Cantonese is famously colloquial and fond of wordplay, the use of Cantonese lingo is expected to resonate with the audience. Unilever wants to reach 60% of the female population in Hong Kong as well as 5% of young girls through activation activities with the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association.

While the campaign departs from the familiar social-experiment style used in Dove’s 'Real beauty sketches' and other 'femvertising' campaigns like P&G's 'Like a girl', the casting of real-life women is in keeping with the brand's other work, said Noreen Mang, account executive at Uth. And the use of critical labels is so common in Hong Kong that an experiment wasn't necessary. “Even if these women are proud of how they look, the society will still criticise them, calling them names such as ‘beany-eyes’ and ‘pizza-faced’,” said Mang.

The campaign also includes Wyman Wong, a renowned lyricist, who speaks out against the use of 'creative' wordplay to put women down. 

PHD Hong Kong said the campaign will be run across all digital channels as well as a prominent OOH display at the busy intersection outside Sogo in Causeway Bay. “The outdoor display itself has a visual effect that changes the way you view things,” said James Wong, head of strategy at PHD Hong Kong, referring to a lenticular effect that shows the labels attached to the women changing.

“What we are trying to do is to use the media to show the change of mindset, the before and after," he said. "Ultimately the aim of the campaign is to shift people’s perception. It’s really important to have an outreach because it is the first time we are coming out in Hong Kong with a local initiative."

OOH work has a lenticular effect that removes the labels as one passes by.

Campaign’s view: We applaud the brand for calling out the unpleasant and damaging examples of local vernacular. However, the campaign seems somewhat skin deep. It asks people to overlook non-conforming beauty standards and think of something flattering to say, but the examples still tend to pertain to physical appearance. For example, Wyman Wong comments that one woman is "pizza-faced, but looks very sweet". As Dove is a personal-care brand, 'Real beauty' has always walked a fine line—downplaying the importance of physical appearance while still subtly reinforcing its importance. But this campaign rings a bit hollow and it would be more convincing if the brand went further in encouraging consumers to judge people beyond their looks.

Update: Here's some feedback we received after posting this article:


Marketing Director Taiwan & Hong Kong: Sharon Hwang
Marketing Manager: Dawn Ting
Product Manager: Candice Wong
Assistant Product Manager: Fanny Cheng
Senior Marketing Executive: Ivy Tse

Creative Agency – Uth Creative Group Limited
Chief Executive Officer: Desmond So
Executive Creative Director: Milker Ho
Creative Consultant: Tim Chan & Ming Chan
Creative Director: Ada Lo
Senior Copywriter: Cola Chan
Senior Art Director: Kit Hon
Art Director: Casey Tsang
Business Director: Noel Yuen
Account Director: Maggie Yuen
Account Manager: Noreen Mang

Media Agency – PHD Media
Business Director: Bonnie Chu
Head of Digital: Michael Lee
Head of Strategy: James Wong
Planning Manager: Sherry Leung

Film Production
Director: Rick Chui
Executive Producer: Eric Lau
Producer: Irene Chan
DOP: Ronnie Ching
Art Director: woodwoodwind
Post Production: The Farm
Music: Click Music

Photography Company: cheez photo workshop
Photographer: Jacky Chee

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