What Can We Learn from Dove’s Most Viral Ad Video of All Time?

May 30

According to Dove published survey data, over half (54%) of women globally—equating to an astounding 672 million women worldwide—agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic. The three-minute “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” video that launched last month has garnered more than 114 million total views, making it the most viral ad video of all time. In the video, a forensic artist sketches women’s faces first based on their self descriptions, and then based on that of a stranger. The stranger’s descriptions yield more attractive and accurate sketches. The video ends with “You are more beautiful than you think”—reinforcing the core message of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, that women are often overly critical of their appearances and don’t see their true beauty.

Despite some criticism of the video’s approach and choice of women profiled, and evidence from psychological research suggesting the inaccuracy of women’s general dissatisfaction with their physical appearance, the video clearly resonated with a massive audience.

The ad was uploaded in 25 different languages to 33 of Dove’s YouTube channels and has been viewed in more than 110 countries. Additionally, 14 video parodies of the ad have been created and, to date, there are an estimated four billion PR and blogger media impressions.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the video’s creative approach and message—what was it about Dove’s strategy that made this ad so popular?

I agree with the following three components mentioned in a recent Business Insider article on the ad:

  • Emotional appeal – The unique testimonial style video made the viewer a part of the featured women’s experience, eliciting a strong emotional response from viewers.
  • Shareability – Video virality increases when viewers don’t exclusively watch it on YouTube, but also share it with their friends, all of which is related to compelling content. Of note is the fast momentum starting the day of the ad launch. During the first two weeks, there were 3.17 million shares—more than any other ad has managed in the same period—including VW’s “The Force,”  TNT’s “Dramatic Surprise,” and Melbourne Metro Train’s Dumb Ways To Die, the first, second and fourth most shared ads of all time.
  • Dissemination strategy – Dove did some careful media planning, first launching the video in four key markets: the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Australia. Dove also partnered with YouTube and distributed the video to top media; initial placements were generated on the Today Show, Mashable, Huffington Post, and the Channel 7 Morning Show in Australia.


Physical appearance is obviously something we all can relate to, which most definitely contributed to the popularity of this ad. As health communicators, we don’t always have the most “sexy” topics or largest of budgets, but Dove’s success is a reminder of the importance of developing content in a creative and compelling way; thinking through how to maximize shareability; and securing relevant media placements. What other characteristics of the Dove ad have made it so popular? What other recent successful viral videos or campaigns can we learn from?

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at 4:32 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Social Marketing, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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