Unveiled last month, the ‘Real Virtual Beauty in Games’ campaign aimed to increase diversity and representation of female characters in games, as well as support young girls with self-esteem education in virtual settings. The campaign was a collaborative effort between Dove, the non-profit Women in Games, and game developers Unreal Engine and Toya, spearheaded by the launch of an education course designed to help game creators reflect real-life diversity and avoid contributing to stereotypes and biases in design. The collaboration was also setting out to build a broader online character library for game developers, as well as deliver an experiential self-esteem education session on Roblox for users.
Leandro Barreto, global VP for Dove at Unilever, said the campaign formed part of a wider series of long-term actions designed to address representation in various settings, but was especially timely in 2022.
‘It has never been more relevant’
“The popularity of gaming has significantly increased over the last couple of years. With young girls spending the equivalent of one full school day gaming per week, it has never been more relevant to help tackle the issue of representation in the games space,” Barreto told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
The overarching goal of the campaign, he said, was to “transform gaming into a positive place for women and girls”.
So, why was the gaming world important or even relevant for a beauty brand?
“For over 60 years, Dove has been taking action to represent real beauty – working to debunk the beauty stereotypes that surround us on TV, in magazines and social media. Our actions have always been driven by women and girls. So, when research told us 1.3 billion women and girls make up half of the global games community, with 60% playing video games before the age of 13, we knew this was the next space we needed to tackle,” he said.
Whilst the gaming industry was changing, he said Dove research had indicated some video games still reflected “narrow beauty standards” that made “many women and girls feel underrepresented”, ultimately negatively impacting self-esteem. The brand, therefore, wanted to “help to catalyse” change for real impact at scale, Barreto said.
“As a brand, we must continuously ask ourselves how we can use our platform to make a positive impact and change.”
Building on long-standing commitments
In 2017, the brand launched its Dove ‘real beauty’ pledge to serve as a guideline when making partnership, advertising and social media decisions and it was invested in continuing to push for real women in ads. In 2019, the brand teamed up with Getty Images and Girlgraze for its #ShowUs initiative to build out a new library of stock photos that better represented the diversity and reality of women and non-binary individuals.
“Our goal is to reflect a diverse definition of beauty, which is why our ambition is to always showcase different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair colour and texture. We know we have a role in being a positive example for women and young girls, and we’re taking that responsibility seriously,” he said.
Last year, Unilever removed ‘normal’ descriptors across all packaging and advertising in a major move designed to fuel inclusivity and positivity across its global portfolio of brands, including Dove. At the time, the company said the move aimed to “champion a new era of beauty”.
“…Dove is committed to making a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to women and girls, continuously working to shatter the harmful beauty ideals that impact the body confidence and self-esteem of women and girls daily,” Barreto said.
Asked what Dove’s hope was for the future of virtual beauty in 5-10 years, the VP said: “At Dove, we are deeply committed to making a real impact on the beauty narrative – changing it to one that is more diverse and inclusive. We hope one day, there is a world where all women feel represented for all shapes, sizes, skin tone and abilities.”