Research Proposal

The Impact of Dove Campaigns on Adolescent Females’ Self-Esteem

Statement of Purpose: Do the Dove Real Beauty Campaigns have a positive influence on adolescent females’ self-esteem and self-worth?  Do they have long term impact?  Could these lead to a reduction in self-deprecating thoughts/behaviors among American adolescent girls?

Background:  I spent two years working as a full time health educator in a high school setting. A portion of my responsibilities included teaching classes on health education topics.  I did a series of lessons related to self-esteem and perceptions of beauty.  In developing the lesson plans for this topic, I found alarming statistics related to adolescents’ self-perception.  However, Dove has created a series of media commercials and campaigns to improve self-image.  While the videos received positive feedback, I wonder what the long term effects of this sort of message are.

Significance: Poor self-esteem is widespread among adolescent females.  This poor self-perception leads to negative health behaviors including tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, early sexual behavior, anorexia and bulimia, and cutting.  Additionally, it is also linked to depression, social anxiety, and even poor academics.

I am considering evaluating a school health education program which may address issues such as this as part of my dissertation work.  This research would serve as a basis to that work.  As mentioned earlier, poor self-image is widespread among adolescents and establishing feasible methods to improve that will likely reduce some of the associated negative behaviors.

Description of Research and Methodology: An initial review of the literature will serve as a base to determine what research has already been conducted on this topic, as well as future directions.  To determine the effect of the campaigns, I would conduct pre-tests of knowledge/self-esteem prior to viewing the commercials in a classroom setting.  I would then conduct post-tests after viewing and then over time to evaluate long term effectiveness of the campaign.  It also may be of value to see what research Dove has conducted on the effectiveness of the campaign and compare this to other research.  However, I may face problems in finding enough specific research to support this case.  Additionally, long term effectiveness would take time to evaluate, and it may be difficult to control for other factors.


Ata, R. N., Ludden, A. B., Lally, M. M. (2007). The effects of gender and family, friend and media influences on eating behaviors and body image during adolescence.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(8), 1024-1037.

Study of male and female adolescents and different influences on eating behaviors and body image.  Provides information on both males and females which could be interesting to compare.  Also compares several different areas of influence, which could be helpful moving forward.

Dye, L. (2009). Consuming constructions: A critique of Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Canadian Journal of Media Studies, 5(1), 114-127.

This offers a critique to the Dove campaign, as the author argues that the message is contradictory, exploits women, and actually upholds the ideals of beauty it claims to reverse.  This could offer an explanation to why the campaign may not be effective in increasing body image among adolescents.

Gustafson, B., Hanley, M., & Popovich, M. (2008). Women’s perceptions of female body shapes and celebrity models: The dove firming cream advertising revisited. In American Academy of Advertising (Vol. 2, pp. 39-51).

This study examined whether the shape and physical appearance of models used in magazine advertisements influence attitude toward brand.  The study further compared the “real women” models in Dove campaigns to other brands.  The authors review the literature on social comparison theory, attitudes towards ads, and celebrity endorsements. Using the Q-sort method and personal interviews, the authors found a mixture of feelings regarding the use of plus-sized models, the Dove advertising campaign may not be as widely accepted as Dove proclaims, and the use of celebrities can influence likeability of advertising.

Herbozo, S., Tantleff-Dunn, S. Gokee-Larose, J., & Thompson, J. K. (2004). Beauty and thinness messages in children’s media: A content analysis. Eating Disorders, 12(1), 21-34.

Study proposes that media influences the desire for thinness and avoidance of obesity among young children.  The study assesses the content of body-image related messages in children’s videos and books.  This suggests that by adolescence these ideas may already be ingrained, further emphasizing a need for positive body image messages.

Johnson, E. A. (2010). Sent to You by Someone Who Thinks You’re Beautiful: The Effects of Regulatory Focus, Personal Involvement, and Collective Efficacy in a Social Marketing Campaign (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).

This dissertation piece actually looks at the effect of the 2004 Dove campaign on undergraduate males and females.  This offers a comparison between male and female interpretation as well as an in-depth look at the marketing campaign from a media theory perspective.

Johnston, J., & Taylor, J. (2008). Feminist consumerism and fat activists: A comparative study of grassroots activism and the Dove real beauty campaign. Signs, 33(4), 941-966.

Compares the Dove real beauty campaign to a grassroots campaign, Pretty, Porky, and Pissed Off.  Dove uses a multi-million dollar multimedia campaign whereas PPPO participates in street protests and cabaret shows.  This offers a comparative view of two campaigns aimed to change the way women are viewed, with feminine theory throughout.

Lachover, E., & Brandes, S. B. (2009). A Beautiful Campaign? Analysis of public discourses in Israel surrounding the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Feminist Media Studies, 9(3), 301-316.

This study assesses the Dove campaign’s effects in Israel.  Offering a feminist perspective, it discusses the effectiveness of the campaign to incite discussion and challenge traditional beliefs.  It could be interesting to compare the results of the campaign in America to other countries.

Neiger, B. L., Thackeray, R., Van Wagenen, S. A., Hanson, C. L., West, J. H., Barnes, M. D., & Fagen, M. C. (2012). Use of Social Media in Health Promotion Purposes, Key Performance Indicators, and Evaluation Metrics. Health promotion practice, 13(2), 159-164.

Provides information on how to use social media in health promotion, as well as how to evaluate campaigns. An important note is that urges organizations to set reasonable expectations.  Could be useful in developing an evaluation of the Dove campaign.

O’Dea, J. A. (2006). Self-concept, self-esteem and body weight in adolescent females: a three-year longitudinal study.  Journal of Health Psychology, 11(4), 599-611.

Longitudinal study that looks at possible influences in changes in self-concept, self-esteem and body weight over time.  Discusses role of media in these changes.  Also provides support for differences in perception based on initial body size.

Oswalt, S. B., & Wyatt, T. J. (2007). Mirror, Mirror, Help Me Like My Body: Examining a Body Image Media Campaign. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 5(2), 135-147.

This research study took place at a large southeastern university. The university health promotion staff developed a theory-based social media campaign to help students recognize the conversations and ideas that may reinforce negative body image concepts.  The messages featured ten ways to sabotage and ten ways to enhance body image.  Buscards, posters, and magnets were dispersed throughout campus.  Students in sorority houses, residence halls and undergraduate classrooms were surveyed.  The authors found that health promotion media campaigns may be effective in addressing body image and body dissatisfaction among female undergraduates.


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