Case study: Dove’s ‘Ad Makeover’ brings positive ad messages (and overbidding) to Facebook

No matter where any of us look, we are constantly surrounded with ads trying to tell us that there are things about our bodies and appearances we shouldn’t like. Miracle creams to fix cellulite, surgeries to enhance our bust, and pills to help you achieve the perfect weight.

Often these ads create thoughts and feelings about our body image that we would never have had in the first place. Dove created an Ad Makeover interactive campaign that puts women in charge of advertisements. The Ad Makeover lets woman share the message of self-love and acceptance through positive and affirming attitudes toward their and other’s bodies.


Dove is a personal care brand that has always been associated with beauty and building up selfesteem and confidence among women. Now, it has gone a step further by coming up with a new advertising strategy; combating negative advertising. And by that it means combating all the ads that in some way propagate the physical deficiencies which exist or may exist within women. Launched by Dove, the campaign revolves around an application called the Dove Ad Makeover which is part of the worldwide Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” what has been ongoing since 2004 and spans print, television, digital and outdoor advertising. [1]




The Ad Makeover is a Facebook-based venture allowing people to replace depressing advertisements, regarding things such as weight loss and cosmetic surgery with encouraging feel-good comments. Negative ads can be replaced with one of eight messages designed by Dove to give women a much needed self-esteem boost.

A few of the messages on offer were:

  • ‘When it comes to your body, love the one you’re with’
  • ‘Joy is the best make-up’
  • ‘Be your beautiful self’
  • ‘Every body is beautiful’

How was it done?

Michael Hines, Senior Planner from Ogilvy & Mather describes the original insight for the campaign:

“The Dove Makeover campaign was a move to update Doves original campaign to real beauty into a digital age, which main idea was telling woman that they are beautiful in every shape or form. In the age we are living right now, simply telling women that they are beautiful isn’t enough, you have to find a way to show them that – and that was the main idea to that campaign.”

“If you are a woman and you use a Facebook – let’s say you are a new mom – you get diaper ads and ads for baby products. If you post pictures of yourself in bikini, you get ads for boob job or plastic surgery. So basically most of the ads you see on your Facebook page are negative. It is a perfectly legitimate marketing tool, but it was being used in the wrong way by some advertisers. The solution for this problem has to exist in the same medium as the problem itself. Instead of just pointing out the problem, we wanted to get women in Facebook help us solve the problem.”

He adds that, “In order to make good results, we tried to think like our enemy and therefore we bought up a lot of popular search-terms, that negative advertisers use for their campaigns.”

Search terms like:

  • “Plastic surgery”
  • “I hate my body”
  • “Holiday”
  • “Bikini”
  • “Diet”
  • “Gym”

“And then we just overbid against these words – so in the time of the campaign, none of the negative ads were shown to people, because instead of them there were positive Dove ads.”

“Women are exposed to negative advertising everyday that preys on their insecurities and can impact their self-esteem. This campaign encouraged women to say goodbye to ads about muffin tops and belly bulges, and hello to positive beauty messaging. We chose to use Facebook because of its power and reach in social media, to propel these positive beauty messages to as many women as possible”, says Fernando Machado, Global Vice President, DOVE ® Brand Development for Unilever. [2]

“This application gives you the power to displace feel-bad ads with messages that help women feel beautiful instead”, says Dove. It works like this: You pick a message. You choose the target audience for your message. Then Dove starts outbidding the negative ads for ad space, letting women see your positive message instead.”

Gerry Human, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather London commented:

“Ad makeover shows just how effective creative ideas can be in the digital/social arena. We were thrilled to see how quickly millions of women embraced this idea and how much positive feedback was heaped on the brand.” [2]

The app doesn’t actually replace the negative ads from Facebook. Users who opt into the app can create their own uplifting images, for which Dove then essentially purchases ad space for, thus leaving less room for others who have less encouraging messages for your body – or any other advertiser for that matter.



The Dove® Ad Makeover app allows for:

  • A notification that an ad story has been published to be posted to participant’s timeline
  • Participant to choose keywords that describe other women who should see the ad story (from health and travel to fashion and beauty); message is published throughout women’s Facebook experience
  • Participant can opt to send app to friend(s) timeline




The statistics bear witness to its success:

  • 171 million banners with negative messages displaced and 5.5 million unique women reached. Dove’s initial goal was reaching 5 million users.
  •  Over 50% of the women who visited Dove Ad Makeover created a message, and 82% of the ads seen were created by friends of the viewer.
  • Facebook mentions increased by 71%
  • Project Impressions were 253 million!
  • Poll was conducted where 71% of the women said that they felt more beautiful. [1]

Ogilvy & Mather London’s ‘Ad Makeover’ campaign for the DOVE ® beauty brand  has picked up a Silver  in PR and Bronze in Cyber Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2012. [2]



 Watch the case film:




Considering the brand has been so successful offline, using more traditional forms of promotion such as television and events, it goes to show that companies will increasingly use social media, even though they might not appear to ‘need’ it. Global brand development vice-president for Dove Skin, Fernando Machado, said that Facebook in particular is a huge part of Dove’s marketing strategy stating that “other brands think advertising on Facebook doesn’t payback, but for Dove, this is the right thing to do”, which is clearly evident with their Ad Makeover application. [3]

With over a billion monthly active users, no wonder Facebook is high on the company’s radar. But another reason why The Ad Makeover was effective was because it changed the social experience of the Facebook user. They actually felt like they were making a change, a social change towards self-esteem and positivity.

The ability to pick and choose what medium of social media to use underlies the success of a campaign. Dove worked towards their women’s positivity movement by choosing the right medium of social media. Such a campaign could not have been possible on Twitter, for example, as there would be no direct participation, which is one of the key ideas behind social media. However, Twitter could be more suitable to another campaign that Facebook would not be suitable to.

Author: Merilin-Ingrid Münter







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