Dove sneaks revert-to-original Photoshop plugin into art directors' toolkits

Alan sez, "The makers of Dove have taken their 'Real Beauty' campaign against P-shopped models into the realm of hacktivism. As the video explains, they sneaked out a Photoshop plug-in (called an Action) that supposedly added a fake skin glow but in fact restored the initial appearance of a model prior to the usual sort of Photoshoppification."

Dove: Thought Before Action


    1. A week old and only 3 upvotes. Nobody downloaded this, let alone any art directors or photo retouchers who work at agencies (who probably wouldn’t use random filters found on reddit anyway).

      Neat idea for a viral campaign, though.

    1.  Who edited that video? Was it the agency themselves? Because if so then they seem to think (and what’s more, admit) that having news outlets call your brand sexist is just another form of generating buzz.

      1. If your business model is employing women in revealing outfits, that’s fine. However, I will not stand for that and male pilots. A glass ceiling – even at 30,000 ft – is a major turn-off!

  1. Yeah, please don’t forget that the same company behind this Real Beauty campaign (Unilever) also puts out some really really terrible and sexist advertisements for their other products. It’s really scummy that they do these sorts of promotions to try to show how much they Truly Care while simultaneously showing they don’t actually want to change their own ads.

    1. It’s a big ass comapny, and to the people inside it probably feels like lots of littler companies. Maybe the people in one of these littler sub-companies just want to do something a bit better than the rest of their big-company bretheren — you known, just do what you can and all that. And why not? Got to start somewhere.

      I don’t know any of that. Just speculating.

      1. I used to work for a Big Ass Company like Unilever, and this is spot-on. Each brand is run as its own miniature company and very rarely has any insight as to what other brands are up to. Some of them are run by awesome people doing cool things, and others are run by really scummy people doing nasty things. Support the ones doing cool things.

        1. No, no, no. Different brand teams might not have immediate firsthand knowledge of what is happening, but the directors above them are plotting a very specific course to “manage their portfolio of brands” and covering the checkerboard to reach all demographics with every possible marketing ploy to get you to buy their crap. The only reason this Dove campaign exists is the same reason Lynx body spray exists – to sell more stuff to suckers who think that a giant conglomerate has products that “represent my values”.

          1. Er, yes. There are often brand managers who oversee a larger picture and bridge different brands. But not always.

            Having spent 8 years with Procter & Gamble’s brands, while some of them worked more holistically and cross-branded and such — and were quite successful — others existed in their own little universe. The brand manager for Folgers would have no idea what sort of ad strategy that Ivory soap had, for example. The point is that it’s silly to think that an ad strategy by one brand is dishonest and scummy simply because another brand in the same parent company is doing some scummy and sexist things with theirs.

        2.  It’s just another case of a big-ass company being photoshopped to look like a small-ass company.

  2. Close to Boingboing posting a dubious ad for a dubious company. (This in itself is interesting though, evil company creates evil ad to try and fool simple minded people into thinking they are good, hacktivism being commercialised for the $)

    1. It’s not quite as bold-facedly disingenious as the Oreos fake Maker project commercial that fooled BB not long ago, but it’s nearly as morally reprehensible and hypocritical.

        1. That’s why the insurance commercials that all feature the overly cheerful lady in white are so annoying and tiresome: they’re so unfunny yet there are so many of them. 

          1. I really enjoy the ones with Dean Winters.  I wish they’d make more with him and add new ones more regularly.  I know it’s a one-track-meme, but hey, I find it entertaining.

      1. Yes, I love how it blames artists for photoshopping, as though they just do that without permission instead of at the direction of major corporations who want to carefully manage their public image. It’s insulting. How stupid do they think we are? 

        Furthermore, on the issue of “why people get so upset over clever (and/or viral) marketing,” I think of it like this: you’re at a party, and there’s that guy who always hits up his friends for favors or cash and doesn’t ever pay them back. You all know him, you’ve all got someone like that in your life. Maybe he’s genuinely charming, but you know it’s all in service of parting you with a few of your dollars. You see him across the room and he zeroes in on you. You can sense his desperation but maybe you get genuinely interested in your conversation. Then he asks for ten bucks so he can pay for a cab. He’s never going to help you move and he doesn’t care about what you have to say, but he’ll pretend to if he thinks he can get something for it. 

        We should always be critical of advertising–we should never drop our guard and think of massive, profit-driven corporations where no one individual is accountable to anyone (government, the public, their company) as friends. They aren’t our friends (they aren’t people). That doesn’t mean that Nabisco or Unilever aren’t making products we can’t use, but they don’t have our best interests in mind. What they have is a cost-benefit relationship to the consumer: how can I make as much money while offering as little benefit to my customer as possible? Or, rather, what can I get away with? And all those decisions and all of the responsibility are diffused over many people. Having a critical relationship to media and corporations is our only defense when they make bad decisions. 

        That’s why viral marketing is so irritating. They’re trying to close the emotional distance we need to keep between us. They’re imitating something they know we’ll instantly relate to completely uncritically. We don’t have to worry that the person who owns Colonel Meow or the people making all their Harlem Shake videos are trying to pull one over on us–they’re just participating in Internet culture. 

        I can’t stop Unilever or Dove from making ads like this, of course, but we need to have conversations about it. As an artist, I don’t have specifically have anything against commercial art–that sounds like a good job to me. It’s telling, though, that instead of taking responsibility for the content of advertising, they blame artists for distorted media. Your friend Joe doesn’t care that your girlfriend dumped you, but he’s willing to call her names if it means you’ll give him enough to pick up a six-pack on the way home.

  3. Because professional photographers and retouchers use “instant beauty” actions downloaded from these sites overflowing with kitchy images. Suuure.

    1. Have you been to Photoshop Disasters? Plenty of people making a living at photo manipulation are completely incompetent.

      1. Have good memories of that site. It used to be so good, but the person who started it sold it on and it immediately (like seconds after he sold it) nose dived and never recovered. At least, it hadn’t by the time I gave in and stopped visiting. So long, PSDs.

        1. Yeah, I remember. For about two weeks it was stunningly unfunny, and then I saw the announcement and it all suddenly made perfect sense.

    2. It took me a few years to realize it but one of the best places for photoshop actions is DeviantArt, home of the animu furry guro slash fic OC CHARACTER DONOT STEAL

    3. Designers and Photoshop jockeys working 60-hour weeks who just got another last-minute URGENT!! WE FORGOT!! assignment at 8pm on a Friday (or 2am on a Saturday) absolutely resort to Googling for “Photoshop CS6 action skin glow” out of desperation. Trust me!

    1. I know right? What utter bullshit.

      Even if you’re not turning Real Women™ into slightly better looking women, you’re sure as hell making the pictures look decent and consistant.

      Just an FYI for anyone that hasn’t worked it out yet: EVERYTHING IS PHOTOSHOPPED. That’s why professional ads don’t look like your mum made them.

      Now that the cats out of the bag can we move on from this tired campaign of nothingness?


        Turns out those photos, according to the May 12, 2008 issue of The New Yorker, were as digitally manipulated as any skinny model-festooned fashion spread. It’s mentioned in a Lauren Collins profile of the toucher-upper himself, Pascal Dangin, who works regularly forVogue, Dior, Balenciaga, and many others. Hear what Dangin has to say about the Dove project on page 100:“Do you know how much retouching was on that?” He asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”

          1. Right because real women are beautiful, wait, no, real women are ugly but with a little glow effect and a little  soft filter they’re do-able.

          2. As with anything organic and natural, women come in all shapes and sizes and aesthetic grades. But for the same reason you wouldn’t use an under-ripe, wonky banana in a cornflakes ad, you’re unlikely to use an unattractive woman in an ad for a beauty product.

            Aspiration aspiration aspiration.

          3. So I maxed out the replies. I worked as a production assistant on a commercial which required several handsome men. This was in the dark ages before Photoshop. The guys who came in, most of them I would not have given a second look to on the street. They’d open up their books and, wow, with good lighting and great camera work, these guys were all chins and dimples and chiseled abs. From their photos, I wouldn’t have recognized any of them in the flesh. It seems possible to me that given the proper lighting conditions and a skilled photographer an average woman with a little flesh on her could be made to look positively gorgeous sans Photoshoppery. So, yes, they could have selected some pretty looking women who were not normal model types and gotten, I think, great results without filtering and fixing. I wish they had gone that work instead of fluffing them all up in postproduction.

  4. Do we really think that Dove folks sat around and said, ‘How do we reach graphic designers and get them to stop photoshopping women?’.
    Of course not. The marketers sat around and said, ‘How can we create cheap marketing that will go viral and get posted on Boing Boing and let us reach our target market’. Kudos to Dove’s up and coming viral marketer for tricking us into delivering their advertising.

    Dove’s keywords: feminist, subversive hackers, but actually they are none of those things. Dove wants real women but only if they’re flawless:

    1. Unilever ever might not be an upstanding corporate citizen, Dove may not be the most socially responsible soap, and the ad may be a completely self-serving, but I still appreciate the message and think it actually sends the right message.

      1. I like their message. It is a refreshing change in the marketplace and I’m surprised that other companies haven’t followed suit. I don’t buy Dove but I have a positive feeling toward their brand. 

        I agree that the Photoshop action is clearly meant to “go viral” and seems so tame of a hack that only a wide-eyed 12 year old would think it had any impact on the Photoshop user. I guess companies are still trying to figure out how to make something go viral, but you wish someone on their team had reviewed and just said no.

  5. So it’s a positive message…

    …put out in a disingenuous fashion…

    …by a morally ambiguous company…

    …that takes the form of smug preaching…

    …but at people who probably deserve it…

    …although through the medium of deliberately mislabeled software…

    …you know what, I barely even use soap as it is. Somebody else can figure out exactly how outraged I’m supposed to be. 

  6. I doubt that this would be an effective piece of hacktivism, even if it wasn’t just a cynical publicity gimmick: for one, you can open up an Action to see what it does; and for the other, no professional user worth his salt is going to go very far with his photoshoppery without reflexively hitting cmmd-S every few minutes, so the revert would only undo the last few edits

    1. Well, I don’t know about you, but I set up Photoshop so it saves the last 200 history states and have a history window open at all times under swatches. I would be more than able to go back a step even if I saved.

      1. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to check the history after reverting, so I had no idea that the history didn’t revert as well. There’s always something new to learn.

  7. It will interesting to see if they use it for the adverts of their other brands:
    • Axe • Brylcreem • Dimension (shampoo) • Fabergé • Hamam (soap) • Impulse (body mist) • Lakmé  • Lifebuoy (soap) • Lux (soap) • Pears soap • Pepsodent • Pond’s Creams • Rexona • Sunsilk • Sure • Timotei • Twink (home perm) • Vaseline

  8. “Other brands within our corporate umbrella make you feel bad about yourself to buy their products. We know you don’t like this, so we’ll congratulate you for buying our specific products by condemning the aforementioned practices.”

    They’ve just replaced “beautiful” with “healthy”.

  9. Damn you mean they won’t be charged under CFAA… we could have put an end to AXE once and for all people!

  10. As a design professional working in advertising, i have to take offence to this. First off it’s fake as fuck. Sure you could add an action to bloat random areas of an image, but it would be VERY random, and most likely yield no discernable results. No designer would consider it genuine for a second. Secondly, i can’t effing believe they’re trying to make out the art directors and designers are the bad guys. W.T.F… All of the decisions to beautify models comes from client side – all those photoshop disasters you see, they come from the client saying ‘no, i definitely want you to mak the waist smaller. Smaller. A bit smaller. Almost there’. We’ve all felt that particular cringe, believe me.

    Disingenuous & self aggrandising. It’s a real example of a brand treating it’s audience like cattle. f this ad man.

    1. A classmate of mine in art school worked a soul-crushing internship at Disney one summer. There he learned that the art director’s admonition to “Give her a little more attitude!” meant “Make Hilary Duff’s boobs bigger!”

    2. Yes, this!
      The ridiculous retouching and Pshop disasters are all on the client’s head. I’ve been on the receiving end of clients micro-managing image editing, and it’s a horror ride. For Dove to frame the art people as the bad guys is just…evil.

  11. Real Beauty, but still Unreal ingredients – my first port of call.  I use olive oil soap daily, and my skin is beautiful.  Just peachy.

    Unilever is a massive machine with masses of marketing wonks.  They hire reliably corporate people to get a reliably profitable result.  They’re nice, but seem to wish they were all creatives in advertising firms.  They will totally understand exactly how this photoshop thing plays out, how it affects each strata of their market and stakeholders.  They’ll understand the mechanics of it all better than any of us.

    Their intent may well have been to capture the attention of influential groups, such as Boingboingers, rather than to actually sell soap directly.  In the new world, consumers’ attention is fragmenting(/ed) and it’s beyond extremely hard to get the same persuasive message to the majority of consumers simultaneously.

    Anyway, they’ve got everybody who matters talking!

  12. The whole campaign makes my skin crawl.  Is physical appearance important, or is it not? Does your definition of Real Beauty extend to all women, or just the  “a little chubby, but still cute” demographic.  The average woman in this country is 38 years old.  She weighs about 160 lbs.  She’s got stretch marks and cellulite.  Strip this woman down to her underwear and put her in your ads Dove.  I dare you.  I double dare you, you fucking hypocrites. 

    1. The problem isn’t that “beautiful” people are used in ads. As egalitarian and fair as it may sound, the “average” person isn’t going to be what’s used to sell soap–“above average” (in terms of the given aesthetic of the culture and time) will be used to sell soap.

      The problem is that “fake” people are used in ads.  Humans, altered through photoshopping, or extreme (usually unhealthy) diet and lifestyle, are touted as the ideal we all should strive for.  That’s damaging in a great many ways and I do give Dove credit for taking it on. Yeah, I could look at is as a big corporation cynically playing into their demographic’s concerns, but there’s a lot of big corps. out there who put out ads with shitty, damaging messages and for whatever reason, this corp. is putting out a pretty good one.  Plus, even a big, faceless corporation has people in it, and I choose to believe this campaign is based is some of those people’s sincere effort to effect change in their industry. Call me a Pollyanna that way I guess.

      So, no, I don’t expect advertisers to highlight women with stretch marks and cellulite in their underwear.  I DO expect them to show normal, healthy women who (without digital fakery, surgery or starvation) fall into that percentile considered “attractive” by the demographic they’re trying to reach.

      1. – Beautiful people are used in beauty product ads.

        – Cool people are used in lifestyle product ads.

        – Smart people are used in educational ads.

        It’s ALMOST like advertising is using basic psychology to sell us things :O

          1. She has a huge following. There are people who are completely obsessed with her. And, they have definitely associated their brand with her – seems to be aimed at a young demographic, mainly male. Shocker.

      2. Except that Dove is merely a brand. And the corporation that produces it also creates many many more products all of wich are advertised with weird body standards and photoshop.

        You have a brand portfolio full of slimy “aspirational” lifestyle products like Axe and then you have the Dove brand for the people who dislike your other efforts. It doesn’t get more cynical then that.

        1. You can look at Unilever (or any company) as a huge, homogenous whole, and dismiss everything they do, or you can differentiate a bit, and when a “mere brand” does something different and positive,  say “OK, this right here–this is a good thing.  Do more like this.”  I choose the latter.

          And again, I may be naive, but I choose to believe that there’s some folks holed up in the Dove offices who look at Axe advertisements as embarrassments to the industry and push to do something better with the little piece of the company they have influence in. 

      3. really, the problem is when you’ve got extraordinarily tall, thin, and beautiful people, then made even thinner by starvation and body proportions altered by plastic surgery…and then they’re photoshopped. at that point, when you’be basically gone from the limits of possible, given the right genes, luck, insane dieting, and surgery and it is STILL not considered beautiful enough… there’s no excuse for that. that’s fucked up.

  13. I guess they don’t warrant their software as usable for any particular purpose.

  14. OK everyone calm down. This isn’t really about Dove, it’s about Ogilvy Toronto (their ad agency in Canada) – note that it was posted on their Youtube account, not Dove’s. It’s part of the gigantic steaming pill bullshit that is advertising awards. The fact that it accidentally went viral is nice for them, but it wasn’t really made for public consumption.

    It’s what’s known in adland as a scam ad. They’re ads that are made by ad agencies for the purposes of winning awards. They’re aimed at awards judges (i.e. the bosses of the people who do the photoshopping), and while the client might see them and sign off on them, they’re not really intended to go out into the real world (for TV scam they run it once at 3am on a channel that no-one cares about). The fact that they don’t actually do anything for the clients is irrelevant. They win awards for being clever and if they make ad people feel good about themselves, so much the better.

    In theory as long as a) the client signed off on them and b) they actually ran somewhere (in this case uploading them somewhere also counts) then it’s considered fair game for awards, which I suspect has happened here. Scam ads are lame and sucky but rarely actually immoral. They’re just a way for frustrated creatives to do the ads they always wanted to, and sometimes they’re actually great and show the clients a better approach they could actually take. As long as you don’t pretend they’re real ads it’s all fun and lames.

    In many ways I’d like congratulate Ogilvy Toronto for getting their video completed well ahead of the deadline for the Cannes Lions (28th of March). Shows dedication to the craft of scam.

    Full disclosure: I, somewhat obviously, work in advertising. I have moderately enabled scam by writing backfill strategy for it.

  15. The thing I love about the Boing — no matter what happens, nobody is happy and everyone is up to something, overt or otherwise.

    The naked truth tastes rather bitter, I suppose.  But at least it makes me smile from time to time.

    And by the way, “chubby” girls are much more attractive than their sickly looking counterparts.  Carry on, Dove.

  16. Jerks

    I make NPCs for a virtual world I am working on. Using something like Skin Glow would have added a bit more realism to them. Imagine the crap I would have gone through if this info hadn’t been put out there.

  17. Fex – fantastic post, thank you!  Ads are just a means and often they are more about pushing a feeling or impression than anything useful.  The agencies also track the links to stuff like this and monitor threads like this one.

    Me – I’m one of those Creatives pushing pixels and it is quite common to be told “just fake it” in one form or another.  So I’m to refuse to do what the client asks because it is ‘stealing the model’s ‘real beauty”?  Trageting Photoshop artists as villians in this is like getting mad at the bus driver because the route doesn’t go down your street.

  18. Oh, and at the risk of being pedantic, an Action is just a script vs. a true Plugin for Photoshop.  You use them differently.  Plugins are locked and self-contained and you do not see under the hood, while an action is just a list of commands that can be reviewed and edited.  To have an Action ‘revert’ a file it would have to either force the History to it’s top (which can lose everything after if you aren’t careful) or force a saved state.

    I don’t think something like this would fool a pro, but I do see it as corporate-sponsored malware since it manipulates a user’s work file in a way different from what is stated in order to advance an ideology instead of provide a tool for productive work.

    1. They are lying about what their product does. 

      And they claim to be doing this to show the “truth” of what beauty is.

      I can’t recall who said it, but “The truth never needs to be supported by a lie.”

      And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      I’m glad there are guys out there who like chubby women.  Leaves more lean and fit ones for me!

  19. I learned everything I know about photoshop from Donnie Hoyle… Donnie would never condone the use of some ‘plug in’ for stuff like this… if you didn’t suck at photoshop you would know know how to do stuff like this too.

  20. This bothered me from a prospective as a software developer…

    According to what they claim, this company put out a piece of software that billed itself as one thing, but then did something else that the user did not want to do. To me, that’s the definition of a Trojan which is a form of malware.

    I hope that the writers of this piece of hackivism allowed their victims the ability to undo the change. If the intent was to do true damage, where does this stop? Is it okay to make something think they’re downloading porn only to reformat their hard drive because they degrade women? Or, maybe claiming to offer a religious hymnal, but instead play some sexual heavy metal tune because you feel that religion breeds hatred?

    Maybe I am not photoshopping some women in her undies for a beauty ad. Maybe I am trying to restore an old photo. Is it okay now to destroy my work? Do I at least get an apology?

    I don’t use photoshop, and I have nothing to do with the beauty industrial complex. I am not for hackavism. The hackavist sets themselves up as judge, jury, and executioner. They make a personal decision of what they feel is right or wrong and then met out whatever punishment they feel. And, they usually do it in an a way to hide their identity in order to hide from any sort of negative consequence for their actions.

    1. While I’m not sure how I feel about the ad, I noticed in the video it mentions that you can hit undo to get rid of the effect.

  21. I see the same problem with what Dove has been doing than with women’s products and magazines in general.  One side of the mouth tells women in this sweet, motherly tone to have confidence and self-esteem and to celebrate their own age, diversity, physique, etc. The other side of the mouth still speaks of the 24 500 ways a woman ought to alter her body because it will make you feel soooo good and healthy and beautiful WHEN you do (and, also, eeew).

    On Dove’s website, you can either be one click away from ‘advices how to help your teenage girl’s self-esteem’ OR some deodorant stick that will ‘beautify your armpits in 5 days’. They have a caption on the website that asks “What would you say to your 13 year-old self?”… Oh, I don’t know, but probably something along the lines of “PLEASE don’t start fretting about your armpits being all prettisome”.

    Sure, it seems really nice to say something cute about women with pounds and pores and wrinkles here and there, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still filling the world with products avowing that these wrinkles and pores and fugly armpits will be gone if you just buy the stuff, and you will feel so much more wonderful for it! That oxymoron is all over the place. Dove isn’t being that original, creative OR altruistic.

    Here’s something that would show a lot more earnestness in their little effort to save women from crazy unrealistic expectations than some contrived gimmick about Photoshop: Pull out the anti-wrinkle creams. Pull out the ‘armpit beautifying pit sticks’. Pull out any product that imply that perfectly natural, normal and healthy body features are diseased and ugly and should be fussed about. Stick with soap that cleans, creams that help actual skin problems and loofahs or whatever. The Dove men’s section doesn’t have anti-wrinkle and pretty armpits shit in it (yet). How about making that low-maintenance message equal-opportunity? Of course they wouldn’t. They’d lose way too much money and besides ‘women really WANT these products’, ‘supply and demand’, etc, etc…  But at least they’d be putting their money where their mouth is.

  22. This is utter nonsense.  You do realize that the Art Directors, Graphic Designers, and Photo retouchers are not the ones actually responsible for “manipulating perceptions”, right?.. that they’re just people working jobs, being told what to do and how to do it so that the final result gets approved by higher ups at the company (or some genius in *cough, cough* marketing)?

    Or does Dove/Ogilvy allow their graphics department to send advertising campaigns to print without approval?

    1. This whole thing reminds me of the “side order of toast” scene in FIVE EASY PIECES. Wow, you really stuck it to The Man Who Owns Denny’s by ruining that waitress’ day, didntcha?

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