Dove Takes a Stand Against AI – and the Audience Loves It


The Code


We’ve had Ads Of The Week before which have revelled in their use of Generative AI and got a strong positive response from the public. But there’s a darker side to the technology too, and Dove’s new ad shines a light on it.

For two decades now Dove has championed “real beauty” and a broadening of beauty standards. Their aim has been to fight the prejudices and biases that create narrow standards of beauty, which reduce confidence and self esteem among women and girls. The Real Beauty campaign has resulted in some classic marketing campaigns and played its part in a cultural shift which has led to more diverse images of beauty across the media.

And now Generative AI threatens to undo all that work.

The machine learning systems which power generative AI tools don’t have values or standards – they’re just very complicated algorithms and learning systems. But their outputs reflect the data they’ve been trained on, and that data does reflect the narrow idea of beauty that Dove has been battling. Dove shows that with a series of requests, like “the most beautiful woman”, to an AI image generator which return homogenous, conventional images of young, slim, airbrushed looking women.

Then Dove literally changes the script, adding its own filter to the AI Generator, “the most beautiful woman in a Dove Real Beauty ad”, and the image generator returns a far more diverse range of women by race, body type, disability status, and other characteristics. Even an AI image generator understands what Dove “Real Beauty” means.

But Dove isn’t pretending a filter solves the underlying problem. The ad ends with a promise – Dove will never use AI to generate or distort images of women. Dove becomes the first major brand to turn its back on AI imagery and content.

It’s a bold move but, judging by our Test Your Ad results, a popular one. The ad reaches its peak of audience happiness when it makes the “Let’s #KeepBeautyReal” pledge, after a strong surge of sadness and other negative emotions that began with the claim that by next year, 90% of content will be AI-generated.

Overall the ad scores 4.6-Stars, a very strong result for Dove. It’s not just their highest-scoring ad in our Test Your Ad database, it’s the highest scoring ad in the whole Toiletries category. What’s more, it gets Exceptional scores on short-term Spike and on Brand Fluency.

What makes it the best ever Dove ad? The Real Beauty campaign is popular and strongly identified with the brand, and the stand Dove is taking here is exactly in line with everything the brand has said and done in the past. Unlike some Brand Purpose based ads which smack of bandwagon jumping, this is an example of a brand which has given itself 20 years worth of permission to make this point, and people love them for it. And as public concern rises about deepfakes and misleading images as well as AI bias, Dove’s stance strikes a powerful chord.

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