Dove Calls Out AI's Unrealistic Beauty Standards in 'The Code'

The brand is ringing alarm bells

The latest iteration of Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty"—now in its 20th year and more necessary than ever—challenges generative AI's disturbingly narrow view of female faces and forms.

It does so with pointedly poignant style in "The Code," a short film directed by Juliana Curi:

In tandem with the eye-opening video, as well as digital, social and OOH assets, Dove has released the "Real Beauty Prompt Playbook." It can be downloaded from the landing page of Dove's Canadian website.

The playbook provides prompts for popular AI programs to create images that reflect the diversity of beauty, rather than relying on stereotypes to inform female images in ads and other media.

While the Unilever brand created the playbook to help those who use the technology do better, Dove has also pledged that it will not use AI to represent real women in its advertising.

Here, Laura Douglas, Dove Masterbrand Lead for Canada, discusses the study that inspired the campaign crafted by Edelman, PHD and Collectively.

MUSE: Tell me a bit about the new AI-focused campaign and the motivation behind it.

Laura Douglas: Dove developed "The Real State of Beauty: A Global Report." As part of the study, Dove spoke to over 33,000 people across 20 countries. The study showed that the speed and significance of AI could pose a major threat to real beauty representation. That's why we launched this latest campaign–"The Code"—which will raise awareness and provide a timely opportunity for Dove to renew its "Real Beauty" pledge.

There has been lots of talk—and dismay—about AI's limited view on beauty.

Much like the negative impact of photo editing that we brought to light 20 years ago, we believe AI to be an equivalent threat today. With women's and girls' perceptions of beauty already being heavily skewed by online content, the fact that AI can generate lifelike images with a clear beauty bias should ring alarm bells for everyone.

Even when they know images are fake or AI-generated, 1 in 3 women and girls feel pressure to alter their appearance because of what they see online. This is why it is crucial that we turn our attention to AI as the next potential threat if we do not help shape how it evolves.

The first step is to understand that AI is a reflection of society, and therefore it has learned its beauty bias through our existing narrow depictions. But AI can also be taught to depict more inclusive beauty representation.

I was floored when I watched 'The Code' and learned that by 2025, AI is predicted to generate 90 percent of online content.

AI is a fast growing threat to women and girls' body image and self-esteem. That's why we are renewing our vows to keep beauty real—by committing to never using AI to represent real women in its ads and pushing for greater beauty representation.

Is Dove the first brand to address the issue of AI providing a distorted view of beauty?

As far as we know, Dove is the first brand to address the AI issue, committing to never using such tech to represent real women in its ads.

On a personal level, how does it feel like to be involved in this long-running campaign?

As a young girl, I vividly remember watching the Dove commercials. I even participated in one of their self-esteem workshops, and like many others, struggled with my body image.

When I entered my marketing career, it was my dream to work on the Dove brand—not just because of my personal experience but also because Dove continued unveiling new truths to consumers in groundbreaking and emotional storytelling.

Most importantly, I saw the change they were creating for girls, women and the entire advertising industry. Over the past nine years, I've had the honor to steward this legacy brand, and I've transformed from a girl with a dream to a woman with a vision. I strongly believe brands and businesses have a responsibility to positively shape society.

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