Dove recently launched a mass marketing campaign, targeted apparently at the "average Russian woman." Clearly an adaptation of a Western ad, it works on the premise that the average past-her-prime woman is in fact far more beautiful than the idyllic young model. You can see the billboards dotting Moscow with slogans such as "Are women only beautiful at age 20?", offering customers a chance to voice their opinions online or through a toll free number.
In the advertising world, an "adaptation" is an advertisement that is created in one market, and then adapted to another, usually employing the same message and visuals as the original, but with a voiceover in the local language.
Some have argued that this is important because it maintains international brand continuity, but the reality is that often times, it alienates international markets because of different mindsets and cultural assumptions as well as poor translations.
This latest Dove effort is a prime example of how adaptation can go wrong. I'm not arguing against the validity of feminism in general, nor am I trying to downplay the importance of "inner beauty." Well, maybe I am. Maybe because everyone knows that it's because "inner beauty" is one of those wretched consolation prizes, like "good personality," which you grant to those who aren't...beautiful. This Beauty-Myth-for-consumerists may work in suburban North America, but not here.
But my main point is that the kind of mindset which values this alleged "inner beauty" carries more weight in other markets, such as in the West. And perhaps ONLY the West.
In the West, the big money is in the bank accounts of the older generation, and smart companies know that you advertise to those who can spend money on your products. Russia is a market where the wealth is in the hands of the relatively young. Sons have more cash than their fathers, and a hell of a lot more than their grandparents -- assuming they're alive. Ageing and the sense of embracing life's imperfections will not become an issue to the money generation for at least another 10 years. For now, the people with the cash simply don't respond to an ad targeted at aging, ugly people, while the aging demographic doesn't have the cash to make the marketing campaign effective.
This Dove campaign truly highlights the absurdity of adaptation-driven advertising. What's further absurd about this latest adaptation campaign is how the marketing people haven't even bothered to think through something as obvious as the language barrier. The advertised website for this campaign is www.campaignforrealbeauty.ru. I kid you not. In a campaign trying to appeal to the "average Russian," should you not at least try to speak their language? Or if you have to use English, at least make the site something more simple than two-thirds of a sentence. How about www.dove.ru?
The hallmark of an effective website or micro-site, which is ad-speak for a website created for the specific purpose of promoting an isolated event or campaign, is its simple, memorable name. It should be something that you can easily be passed along through word of mouth, minimizing the possibility of spelling errors. Can you imagine this one being dictated on the phone to a non-English speaker? "Da, da. Ve ve ve, tochka, kam pa yee ge he en, for rey al be a oo tee, tochka ru. Net, na kontse ee, kak bukva "y". It's laughable.
There's nothing wrong with maintaining brand positioning on an international level, but straight adaptations of international campaigns is so 1997. Word of advice for would be brand managers: the next time someone from head office sends you a pre-packaged campaign, point them in the direction of www.campaignforrealbeauty.ru.