Baby Dove’s misguided campaign around breastfeeding

Lauren Joyce on July 6, 2017

Earlier this week in the UK, Unilever came under fire (at least 150 complaints to their equivalent of the Advertising Standards Bureau) for a campaign they’ve launched for Baby Dove which highlights people’s different opinions towards parenting.

This is a classic case of good intent married with a dearth of genuine audience understanding.  

I can tell that the brand is trying to demonstrate that it supports parents, irrespective of how they choose to parent (leveraging the ‘real’ parenting’ trend) but there’s a number of issues with the executions.


Example 1: Feeding when crying

I am confused as to who this execution is targeted to.  The copy reads: “36% are for feeding when he cries” but doesn’t indicate who these people are?  Parents (but particularly mums) feel incredibly judged (Dove’s own research says that 9 in 10 mums feel pressure to be a perfect parent)  so for this campaign to even highlight the differences in opinion, instantly makes people on both sides of the statement feel like they’re not parenting the right way because around half of the people disagree with their approach.


Example 2: Breastfeeding

The copywriting is offensive and nonsensical.  It starts by addressing a broad audience and is tonally factual but moves on to speak directly to breastfeeding mums in an aggressive, targeted manner.  I would argue that had the factual tone been maintained, the last line “what’s your way” would have been the prompt to start a conversation rather than a disregarded endline thanks to provocative statement “put them away”.

The execution shows complete ignorance towards the sensitive nature of breastfeeding and emotional weight that breastfeeding mothers carry.

It seems that due diligence hasn’t been done on this campaign because even the statistics on different campaign components don’t match. The breastfeeding poster says: 75% of people say breastfeeding in public is fine but the website quotes the volume as 66%.


Example 3: AI Mum

This execution (launched earlier in the year) shows an image of a “mum” created through AI.  Again, I can see the good intent here (I’d say they were aiming to point out unconscious bias and possibly take some cues from Graham) but in reality; the image looks exactly like every ‘stepford’ mum stereotype featured across the media spectrum….maybe they were trying to be ironic but irony didn’t translate well wrapped in the polished brand cues of Dove.


Is it all a big trick?

Dove arguably drove the advertising movement around brand purpose.  Their campaign for Real Beauty is now 13 years old and was built from a universal insight that has crossed geographic, cultural and age barriers to connect with people globally.  Their strong stance for realistic depictions of women in advertising has set a great example for other brands.  What they did well was stand for something.  They said; inauthentic representation is wrong.  And ignoring their own ingredient for success is where they’ve gone wrong with the Baby Dove campaign. It doesn’t clearly stand for anything.

So with the Dove brand having such a strong history in supporting women and promoting positive body image; a big part of me wonders (and hopes) if this is a stunt.  A stunt designed to demonstrate the judgement that parents face and that in a few day’s time there will be a huge reveal with some sort of amazing support service or something that parents need.

But then again… I could be wrong.  Perhaps it is just the result of a campaign developed by a team of people completely outside of the intended audience.   Desktop research and consumer groups (no matter how insightful) are no substitute for having a target audience member sitting at the decision making table and if the industry gender balance in the UK is similar that of Australia, the campaign was developed under a 35% male gender bias.  

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