Top Spot of the Week: Dove, Ogilvy, Director Benito Montorio Take "Reverse Selfie" To Show Real Beauty


Robert Goldrich
Thursday, Apr. 22, 2021


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Dove, the Unilever-owned personal care brand, is renewing the fight for real beauty standards by pushing into the activist digital era with an impactful campaign.

The crucial issue of women and girls’ self-esteem is once again top of the agenda, as Dove uses its global platform to highlight the widespread damage caused by the trend for heavily edited selfies in Ogilvy London’s new campaign for the brand.

At the heart of the campaign is this 60-second film, “Reverse Selfie,” which has been released online ahead of a paid-for push starting on April 26 and is a sequel to Dove’s seminal 2006 film “Evolution,” which highlighted the false and unrealistic nature of the beauty ideals perpetuated by the advertising industry and the media.

“Reverse Selfie” begins with an image that a young woman has posted of herself on social media. The action then rewinds, reversing all the tweaks and staging that have gone into creating that image, and revealing the shockingly young girl behind the picture.

First to go is the filter which lets the woman choose impossibly full, perfectly coiffed locks, then we lose the tweaks to her chin, nose and eyes. Touch-ups used to remove a blemish disappear next, and then the woman’s lips are un-plumped until they return to reality. Then we see the removal of the hairspray and makeup the woman applied before taking the picture and suddenly we understand the shocking truth--it’s not a woman whose image we’ve been watching, but a girl barely into her teens.

“The pressure of social media is harming our girls’ self-esteem.” the copy reads. “Let’s reverse the damage.” Viewers are directed to Dove’s Social Media Confidence Kit online.

Dove EVP Alessandro Manfredi stated, “Fifteen years after the launch of our iconic ‘Evolution’ film addressing image manipulation in advertising, this new film tackles the issue of digital distortion again but this time, through the lens of retouching apps. Now that social media has grown to be part of our everyday lives, digital distortion is happening more than ever and tools once only available to the professionals can now be accessed by young girls at the touch of a button without regulation. Girls all around the world have begun to feel the pressure to edit and distort how they look, to create something ‘perfect’ which cannot be achieved in real life. After a year of increased screen-time, there’s never been a more important time to act. Dove wants to change this by highlighting this issue and providing free tools for parents and carers, to help the kids in their lives navigate social media in a positive way.”

Daniel Fisher, Global ECD on Unilever at Ogilvy and WPP, said, “At the time that ‘Evolution’ was released, the beauty industry was seen as doing the most damage to women’s self-esteem, but since then the world has evolved and now it’s selfie apps and the pressures of social media that pose the biggest threats. Not enough people are talking about the issue but hopefully this campaign will change that. As the father of two young daughters myself, I really hope it can make a difference.”

This 2021 campaign marks the beginning of a more activist chapter for Dove, as the brand steps up its efforts to change the toxic nature of the beauty industry and highlight the ever-mounting number of societal threats to the self-esteem of young women and girls across the world.

“Reverse Selfie” was directed by Benito Montorio through production house Independent, and the original photograph is by Sophie Harris-Taylor, who is known for her natural, candid images. 

The star of the film, Grace, was cast partly because she has first-hand experience of the issues the film tackles. To make it authentic, the photo featured in the “Reverse Selfie” film and the print executions were created with the same retouching app that is used by millions of teenage girls. 


Client Unilever/Dove Alessandro Manfredi, EVP, global Dove; Sophie van Ettinger, global brand VP, Dove Masterbrand; Edo Briola, global brand director, Dove Masterbrand; Hugo Rawlinson, Alix Colin, global brand managers, Dove Masterbrand. Agency Ogilvy London Daniel Fisher, global executive creative director, Unilever; Juliana Paracencio, global creative director; Liam Bushby, art director; Alison Steven, copywriter; Ollie Jarrott, head of copy; Matt Nankivell, head of art; Sian Hughes, design lead integrated; James Brook-Patridge, head of integrated production (Unilever); Sally Lipsius, Sue Lee Stern, film producers; Sarah Thomson, head of art production (Unilever); Chloe Jahanshahi, art producer; Ben Kay, chief strategy officer; Ila De Melloa Kamath, strategy partner; Cristina Diago, strategist; Justin Jackson, sr. social strategist. Production Independent, London Benito Montorio, director; Steve Annis, DP; Verity White, exec producer; Simon Eakhurst, producer. Editorial The Quarry, London Sam Jones, Scott Crane, editors. VFX Absolute, London Phil Oldham, VFX supervisor and lead Flame artist; Lucas Warren, Tom Clapp, Carl Godwin-Alvarez, VFX artists; Jonas McQuiggin, motion graphics & design; Sally Heath, exec producer. (Toolbox: Flame, Nuke, After Effects) Audio Post Grand Central Studios, London Munzie Thind, engineer. Music Big Sync, London Philip Kelin, composer/arranger. Photography Sophie Harris-Taylor, photographer; Lucy Barbour, stills producer; Justin Schurmer, retoucher.

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