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In Partnership with Radiocentre

Case Study: Dove Self Conscious

AgencyOgilvy & Mather
Brand:  Unilever
AwardYellow Pencil / Writing for Advertising / Writing for Radio Advertising / 2016      

One of the longest running relationships in advertising – Dove and Ogilvy’s creative work has pedigree, and history. With a series of new radio commercials entitled ‘Self Conscious’, the team at Ogilvy & Mather’s London office hit upon a fresh insight for the brand.

Case Study - Dove Self Conscious


Legend has is that the great ad man himself, David Ogilvy, coined the phrase ‘Dove is one quarter moisturising cream’, after a visit to see the soap’s manufacture. Sixty years later both the brand and the agency have evolved with the times, and they’re both still breaking new ground.

Ogilvy’s Global Executive Creative Director for Dove, Andre Laurentino, has worked on the brand for many years and believes the medium and the brand are natural bed-fellows. “Radio taps into the inner voice, it goes inside your head”, which is just what Dove and their Self-Esteem Project want to do.

Since 2004 Dove has had a mission to make beauty a source of confidence, and not anxiety. It’s down to Ogilvy & Mather to continue to create new work. One part of this is an open radio brief, established through a recent history of brilliant radio spots.

Back in 2013 Dove ‘Auto-Tune’ won a Graphite Pencil in Radio Advertising at D&AD. Beginning as a parody of the ubiquitous pop music technique, the spot gradually morphs to reveals a real voice singing. The pay-off being that the genuine, natural article embodies beauty more than digital ‘enhancements’. Laurentino likens this to revealing the reality behind a photoshopped image.


This was followed in 2014 with ‘Mother’s Body’, a poetic ode to the beauty of mums, read by poet Hollie Mcniesh. This spot evolved from a radio ad to become a film. Andre sees this as a testament to the power of radio, “That’s what radio gives you, intimacy. And we tried to replicate that intimacy, by using a director who filmed her friends and her kids.”


A Mother's Body

Taking on a brief previously set by Gerry Human, ECD for Ogilvy&Mather, Andre set to work on the project with the South African team, Simon Lotze and Miguel Nunes. Because of their home country’s history in this medium, Andre had high hopes, “There is something in the water in South Africa that means they write brilliant radio.”

Copywriter Lotze remembers the moment he made a break-though. “Having your teeth cleaned really makes you aware of your tongue, and I casually mentioned to Miguel how odd it is that you never really think about how weird it is. Or how it seems a bit too large for your mouth.”

“That got him to obsess about his own tongue, and we realised we’d stumbled onto a great insight: you think your body is normal until somebody else tells you there’s something wrong with it. This leads to you obsessing about the tiniest thing and becoming very self conscious.“

All parties agreed that the insight could provide some great content, and crucially the client was keen on the idea. So the copywriters set to work. “We started with a long copy press ad.” Reveals Lotze, “Looking at it, we realised it was actually more powerful when it was read to someone.” And so the press ad became a radio script.

Dove Self Conscious, Tongue

As the pair began to develop the idea, they realised it wasn’t just limited to the tongue. “The more we thought about it, the more we came up with other scenarios for odd things about our bodies that we never really think about, like blinking, breathing, swallowing, or our pulse. All of these become impossible to ignore once we do think about them.”

With three scripts developed, the team began to think about the production. “We wanted to find a female voiceover who could be quite matter-of-fact but subtly get under your skin with her delivery. An authoritative but gentle voice that made you pay attention to every word. We listened to around 40 different voices until we settled on Olivia.” Well-known for her work in television and films, actress Olivia Williams has had roles in The Sixth Sense, Emma and Anna Karerina.

The fist spot to be recorded was Tongue, which the team used as a pilot to demonstrate the idea could work. As Lotze describes, it worked, “Once we got our clients’ obsessing about their tongues and agreeing that the idea worked, we followed up with the other two.”

But the recording sessions would unearth problems that hadn’t been foreseen in pre-production. “After we had all three scripts recorded, we noticed things we’d missed when they were in script form… there was room for improvement. We deleted redundant words and lines to leave more room to let every line sink in. And we condensed the brand sign off at the end.”

Dove Self Conscious, Breathing

They returned to the studio with Olivia and the re-drafted scripts, but then problems arose with the tone.

“The delivery felt too hypnotic and subdued. We realised it needed to be slightly more conversational to really hit home.” Lotze remembers, “So we got Olivia in one last time, bless her.”  

Getting the tone spot-on would become the most challenging aspect of the whole project. “You shouldn’t be lecturing or superior, we just wanted a connection. Like a friend. We wanted this to be one of those a friendly voices, talking to you about things that you do without noticing.” Laurentino explains.

This need for reassurance harks back to the Dove’s brand positioning, which Laurentino describes as “eye-level”.

The commercials don’t mention soap at any point, the sole call to action is to visit a website. Dove invests a lot of resource into acting on their brand promise to encourage self-esteem. This includes sending staff members into schools to talk to young people about confidence issues.

Dove Self Conscious, Blinking

Laurentino tells of the delight in seeing people react to the ad “We get people tell us they’re still thinking of their tongue. What it does, and this is the magic of it, is makes you be in the person’s shoes. It takes you there. You feel it in yourself. And you go ‘oh my god yeah’, I can feel how a young girl could feel. Because I’ve just experienced it myself. “

D&AD Writing for Advertising Judge Angela Savidan believed the structure of the spot added to its power “What made it stand out from the crowd was the clever way in which it took the listeners along the path of its argument; gaining our attention, making us conscious of our own breathing, and then showing us how the same feelings of self-consciousness could blight a girl's life.”

For last word, we return to Laurentino’s passion for the craft of writing for radio, “Craft is what can make you connect or not connect. Craft is in the choice of words. It’s in getting Olivia back in the studio three or four times to get it right.”

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

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