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Dove Beauty celebrates 20 years and promises to empower real beauty

Dove pledges not to use AI images in ads and doubles down on Real Beauty commitments.

Credit: Dove

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Dove Beauty recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a star-studded event in New York City. The event included A-list attendees like Drew Barrymore and Beanie Feldstein as Dove put a spotlight on its promise to continue celebrating real, authentic beauty, making beauty accessible to anyone. In the era of filters and artificial intelligence (AI), which creates generative AI images depicting women who aren’t even real, Dove is taking a stance against unrealistic beauty standards in the industry, which can have a harmful impact on everyone, especially women and girls.

Reviewed was in attendance to get the inside scoop on Dove's latest commitments.

What is Dove Beauty's Real Beauty campaign?

Twenty years ago, Dove committed to depicting real women of all races, body types, orientations, skin types, and abilities in its materials and communications. Two decades later, the company is not only sticking with this commitment but also extending it with a promise to never use generative AI images and to continue to display only real women, in every sense of the term. Dove launched its Real Beauty Prompt Playbook detailing how to get more realistic and representative results for those creating images and experimenting with GenAI tools.

Learn more about Dove Beauty's Real Beauty campaign

What is the impact of using AI images in beauty campaigns?

In its original 2004 campaign, Dove found that digital retouching had a negative effect on women’s self-esteem, with only 2% of women globally considering themselves to be beautiful. When polling women and girls again in 2010, the number had only risen to 4%. Dove conducted extensive research for this campaign and found staggering data to support its idea that unrealistic images of beauty, including those created by AI, have a negative effect on women. “Even when they know the images are fake or AI-generated,” Dove’s Global State of Beauty Report states, “one-in-three women and girls feel pressure to alter their appearance because of what they see online.” Dove’s report also found that women are twice as likely to sacrifice their intelligence for beauty than they were 20 years ago, at 17% of women today versus just 8% in 2004. What’s more, two of out five women today would give up at least a year of their lives to achieve their beauty ideals.

Not only can unrealistic images have a negative impact on how women feel about themselves, they can also objectify women and fail to capture unique traits and capabilities. After witnessing the cost of beauty within the entertainment industry, Drew Barrymore, who was part of a panel discussion at the celebratory event in New York, said she finally “had to submit and become a person who realized that I could never subscribe to it and that I would live a life where I would not be chasing a dragon. It’s a reaction to the toxicity and the pressure and the invitation to self-loathe all of my youth that I just said I am never going to be a part of that.”

Credit: Dove

Dove continues to redefine Real Beauty with its new campaigns.

What are Dove’s commitments to Real Beauty?

When Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty 20 years ago its mandate was to challenge the toxic beauty ideals woman often feel they must live up to by depicting only “real” women versus models in its advertising. The goal was to help change how society and the media view the concept of beauty. This led to advertising featuring women of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and hair types. One of the original women featured in the first ads, Stacy Nadeau, was at the event to celebrate the milestone. Today, at the heart of Dove’s renewed commitment is a pushback against using AI generated models in its materials.

“At Dove, we seek a future in which women get to decide and declare what real beauty looks like—not algorithms,” says Alessandro Manfredi, Chief Marketing Officer at Dove. “As we navigate the opportunities and challenges that come with new and emerging technology, we remain committed to protect, celebrate, and champion Real Beauty. Pledging to never use AI in our communications is just one step. We will not stop until beauty is a source of happiness, not anxiety, for every woman and girl."

With the advent of AI technology, Dove’s commitment to Real Beauty reinforces the company’s Real Beauty Pledge.

What is the Dove Real Beauty Pledge?

Born from the Real Beauty movement is the Dove Real Beauty Pledge, a long-term commitment to feature real women versus models and also to show women in real-life settings versus posed, highly edited shots. The purpose was, and remains, to help build body confidence and self-esteem among women and young girls. Two decades ago, the biggest threats were models that portrayed unrealistic beauty ideals and tools like airbrushing. Today, that has grown to include digital filters and, most pressing, AI. Dove's four key commitments include:

  1. The company commits to never using AI-generated imagery in place of real women in its ads, nor will the company use any type of digital distortion to present “unachievable, manipulated, flawless images of ‘perfect’ beauty” through using re-touching tools. Dove also promises not to use professional models or celebrities to portray “real” women.

  2. A commitment to representing the diversity of all women, particularly those who are underrepresented.

  3. Upholding a woman’s vision of her own beauty, sharing authentic stories and voices, allowing them to dress how they want and approve all images and stories before publication or dissemination.

  4. Building body confidence and self-esteem through initiatives like the Self-Esteem Project.

Credit: Dove

Dove is doubling down on its commitment to show real women in its ads.

What is the Dove Self-Esteem Project?

The Dove Self-Esteem Project (DESP), led for the last decade by beauty ambassador and professional make-up artist Dre Brown, provides self-esteem education to help people build self-confidence. To date, the project has educated more than 100 million young people in 153 countries around the world. Dove’s goal is to educate a quarter of a billion young people around the world about the importance of body confidence and self-esteem by 2030. “We are the largest provider of self-esteem education in the world,” said Brown at the event, “[and] have tackled toxic beauty influences all over the internet.”

What is the Real Beauty Prompt Playbook?

The Real Beauty Prompt Playbook is a simple, downloadable guide that anyone can use, from novices to experts, alike, when playing around with popular GenAI tools like Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL E. Dove worked with AI experts to help people learn how to use AI to create images with more realistic results from common terms like “the most beautiful woman,” “a woman with perfect skin,” or even something as simple as “show me a typical nurse." Currently, results account for pre-existing societal biases scraped from across the Internet.

"Representation is more important than ever,” says Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, body image expert and Research Psychologist at the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of West England. “As AI technology continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is real beauty and what is manufactured by AI."

The Playbook can’t change what images are generated by AI overall, but they can teach you how to use different prompts to yield results that more accurately reflect real beauty. The Playbook is also designed to inspire overall change in the creation and curation of AI datasets (the collection of data points that trains AI) to be more inclusive.

What are the key tips from the Dove Real Beauty Prompt Playbook?

The Dove Real Beauty Prompt Playbook provides plenty of tips on how to receive more inclusive results when searching for GenAI images, breaking it down by several main attributes: age, race and ethnicity, gender and gender expression, skin, body, head, and clothing and accessories.

It’s designed to be a starting point, not a definitive list, guiding you to search for a subject (e.g., woman), descriptor (e.g., blue eyes), action (e.g., cooking), location (e.g., at home), and secondary descriptor (e.g., wearing a hijab). You’ll learn to use attributes that are important to you, like “curvy,” “middle-aged,” or “Asian” along with your desired search terms. The biggest takeaway is to use as much detail and descriptors as you can in your prompts, with simple, easy to interpret terminology. Start with the most important features and use modifiers from there so the AI looks beyond biases.

The result will hopefully be that AI generates an image that best matches the vision versus creating a stereotypical vision of what the image should look like. Instead of prompting “create a beautiful woman,” for example, prompt “create a beautiful middle-aged Indian woman with wrinkles working as a nurse.” Adding context gives an image more personality and uniqueness, portraying women in more realistic scenarios, whether it’s playing basketball or cooking versus passively staring into the screen in a bikini. With some generative AI tools, you can add negative prompts to note aspects you don’t want to include as well. Use this to remove things like nudity or NSFW (Not Safe For Work) images.

Bottom line: Being more descriptive in your prompts will yield more accurate and inclusive images that are reflective of real beauty. That’s at the heart of the Dove Real Beauty Prompt Playbook.

What is Dove’s The Code campaign videa?

The Code is a new campaign and short film by Dove that sets out to change how society and the industry perceive beauty. The idea, says Dove, is to create a future where, as noted, “women get to decide and declare what Real Beauty looks like—not algorithms.” Dove notes that GenAI tools often have inherent bias in both how they are trained to generate images as well as the interpretation of the language used to describe what is beautiful or what someone’s appearance should look like. Typically, says Dove, results are hypersexualized, lack diversity, aren’t inclusive, and reflect a narrow definition of beauty. This campaign aims to teach people how to bypass these biases.

What is Dove’s goal with The Code campaign?

Dove wants to use its expertise in the beauty space to help improve AI generation tools so they are more equitable, inclusive, and diverse in their representations of what real beauty is.

Dove’s goal is to encourage more women and girls to subscribe to the same ideals Barrymore mentioned she committed herself to after already being in Hollywood for many years and witnessing the pressures around living up to specific beauty ideals. “What I see Dove has done,” says Barrymore, “is take on these industries and defy, not with anger but with positive solutions. Dove did everything we are trying to do for ourselves, which is fight off societal narratives and create ones of our own.”

“Generative AI really allows you to be extremely creative and productive,” says Holl Fernandez. “There are so many doors it opens. But I think our biggest message, especially with the commitment we made tonight, is that we hope the industry doesn’t get lost in not making sure there’s diversity and representation. Everyone really needs to see themselves. When you can’t look on social media or TV or in a movie and see yourself played back, that to me is where we start to get in trouble."

“I hope that even with the embracing of AI,” she says, adding, “…there’s enough diversity and representation, even if the images aren’t real.”

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