Posted: May 14, 2014 10:00 AM
CNN recently ran a feature called, "The Beauty Patch: Bad for Women?" The patch was nothing more than a sticker, but the women were led to believe that this "beauty patch" would "enhance the way women perceive their own beauty." The results have some media outlets outraged.
Photo credit: Emma Kim/ Cultura/ Getty Images

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has been producing controversial ads for 10 years now. But this most recent one has sparked outrage in the media. If you're not familiar with the campaign, I'll fill you in.


Several women met with psychologist and body image expert Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, to whom they confessed their insecurities and the things they wish they could change about themselves. For example, one woman said, "If I was more confident, I would have the ability to, like, approach a guy, maybe." Dr. Kearney-Cooke then prescribed a revolutionary new treatment. The participants were to start wearing a "beauty patch," called RB-X. The second part of the treatment was that they had to keep a daily video diary.

RB-X was "developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty," according to the ad. The women recorded their video diaries, at first seeing no change, but by the end of the study reporting a boost in confidence and overall well-being. Of course, there is a twist. The patch was nothing but a sticker, and the changes in the women were purely psychosomatic, meaning the body felt different because the brain was thinking different. The patch was a placebo, and the results were pure placebo effect.

Tsk, tsk. scolded, "Shame upon you, Dove, for making these women seem dumb, and for not scripting at least one of them to act outraged that she had been duped."

Laura Stampler wrote of the campaign in April's issue of Time Magazine, "It makes women seem too gullible, too desperate, and overall helpless against the all-knowing master manipulators at Unilever."

One Bloomberg View headline even reads, "Are you a woman? Dove thinks you're stupid."

Why the fuss? Placebos are used all the time in medical studies because what you think is happening to you can have a marked effect on what is happening to you. There are plenty of self-fulfilling prophecies in this world. The Beauty Patch was one of them. Just because these women were physically affected by a change in their expectations does not make them stupid. And as for the manipulation?

What's new?

All along this campaign has been using emotional manipulation to endear us to their brand… I think that's called "marketing." Seriously, do you remember the Budweiser commercial where the little foal wants to grow up to be a Budweiser Clydesdale, and then he achieves his dream, though his handler hates to see him go? And did you not burst into tears when the now magnificent Clydesdale breaks rank and comes galloping to reunite with his former owner? I hate beer and it made me want to run to the store for a 12-pack. Dirty, dirty marketing tricks.

So, everybody just calm the heck down. Dove is just trying to get our attention, and it's working. And you have to admit, it's pretty neat to see what a difference you can make in your outlook just by changing your thoughts.

More on body image

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