Dove's released a new video, OnSlaught, following the success of their PSA "Evolution" last year. I'm a big fan of the campaign... it's emblematic of a new sensibility developing in corporations, who are trying to create productive relationships with their clientelle, instead of just repeating taglines and saturating media with their logo. Those who want to destroy capitalism will still object, seeing this as another method of appropriation. Those who would rather meet the market half-way... people like me... should see this for what it is: a step forward for the culture, wherein the interests of the company, the consumer, and the society are becoming more intertwined and symbiotic.
This new Dove video is interesting to me, as a media student. Intentional or not, the ad references one of the most famous PSA's in history, the "Daisy Girl" ad created by Tony Schwartz in 1964. Schwartz has discussed his own inspiration in creating the ad, saying that it isn't designed to tell the public what to buy, so much as to activate the latent emotions they already have. In that way, Daisy Girl differs significantly from previous "sales pitch" and newsreel ads. Instead of pitching adjusted informational content, Schwartz creates a visual and audio environment that elicits an emotional response and taps an audiences anxieties and preconceptions.
Some people call this fearmongering, or propaganda... I see it as a new respect for evocation and the psychology of politics. Daisy Girl was an audacious PSA that addressed peace and militarism as resonant concerns for voters during the Cold War, and it made an abstract statement that spoke to the specific fears of the public. If corporations have harnessed this method to misrepresent products and play on anxieties and stereotypes, I don't think it's Mr. Schwartz's fault.
Onslaught, I feel, renews Schwartz's productive use of mass media. On the most superficial level, we're shown an intimate portrait of a child, and then our gaze is reversed and cast upon the dangers that confront her. There's no mention, textually or audibly, of sex, objectification, or feminism, but with the juxtaposition Dove presents, viewers realize that they know this imagery is dangerous and offensive. Try to explain it and you get lost in the words. Show it, out of context, in a river of sensory overload, and we're forced to confront it and deal with our own innate response.
And when these things converge -- the abstract, oblique theories (feminism, psychoanalysis, media critique) and the gut reactions (the intuitive revulsion and anxiety that Dove elicits) -- when these yield the same result, I'm disposed to believe it: that the beauty industry, with its fashion and cosmetic culture, is an ideological payload being dropped that needs to be diffused and neutralized.