Dove Casts Stark Light on the 'Beauty Test' in Indian Arranged Marriages

How much beauty is enough?

In India, marriage is often an arrangement, as much the business of family members as of the couple. One of the inevitable results of this is that the two people who will form the couple become products in their own right, topics of haggling and negotiation, but this is felt most intensely on the bridal side.

"In India, when it comes to a woman and her beauty, she is at her most vulnerable when she is of marriageable age," say Zenobia Pithawalla and Mihir Chanchani, senior executive creative director and executive creative director, respectively, at Ogilvy India. "90 percent of single women in India feel they are rejected for marriage because of their looks. We decided to intervene at this point, where the woman needs us most."

For client Dove, the agency developed "Stop the Beauty Test," a campaign nourished by true stories.

Turn on YouTube's closed captioning for English subtitles:

People talk a lot about the commodification of beauty and the objectification of women. What this campaign does well is demonstrate to what degree being commodified and objectified quite literally makes you a product, something to examine with as little empathy as a new phone or a jacket, whose feelings you don't wonder about when turning it over in your hands. What does that do to a person? How does that impact the way they move in the world?

"Dove believes that beauty should be a source of joy for women. For this intention to have meaning and start getting realized in our culture, we had to choose the moment that matters the most, to inspire change," says Ogilvy India's vice chair and chief client officer, Hephzibah Pathak. "To add power to the campaign, we decided to stay true to the brand world of using real women, real stories. We collected stories of rejection from a nationwide research. The protagonists … are young women who have gone through this very same rejection and feel strongly about it."

The work is no exemption from the often treacly tone Dove tends to strike in matters of beauty, but one of the questions it closed with struck a chord: "How much beauty is enough?" It is dedicated to Mahak, Noor, Rajeshwari, Hemali, and Deeksha, whose experiences cover what Pathak calls "the five key beauty prejudices": height, weight, complexion, hair type and birthmarks. 

"In a country of 631 million women, it is unfortunate that there is such intense pressure to adhere to one definition of beauty," says Priya Nair, Dove's executive director HUL and VP of beauty and personal care in South Asia. "As owners of some of the largest beauty brands in the country, the onus to make beauty more positive and more inclusive is on us. Dove has always believed that beauty should be a source of confidence, not anxiety. With #StopTheBeautyTest, we want to go one step forward in that direction."


Agency: Ogilvy India
Brand: DOVE
Chief Creative Officers: Harshad Rajadhyaksha & Kainaz Karmakar
Vice Chairperson & Chief Client Officer, Ogilvy India: Hephzibah Pathak
Office Leader - Ogilvy India (West): VR Rajesh
Senior Executive Creative Director: Zenobia Pithawalla
Executive Creative Director: Mihir Chanchani
Chief Strategy Officer: Prem Narayan
Vice President, Planning: Abigail Dias
Executive Vice President, Account Management: Walter Noronha
Vice President, Account Management: Dharal Goshalia
Account Director: Sanam Chowdhry
Account Executive: Freea Bhikhaji
Client: Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
Executive Director, HUL & VP – Beauty and Personal Care South Asia: Priya Nair
Vice President – Hair Care, Dove Masterbrand: Harman Dhillon
Brand Manager – Hair Care: Sonam Kothari
Senior Brand Manager: Lipsa Das
Brand Associate: Raheja Om
Production House: Chrome Pictures
Director: Amit Sharma
Executive Producer: Abhishek Notani

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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