New York — Dove, long billed as America’s beauty bar for nearly half a century, thinks 50 is fabulous— even in the face of our country’s youth-obsessed culture. Guided by that sort of plucky spirit, the Unilever brand is taking a bold step to challenge societal views on age, body shape and race, through a global advertising campaign that will debut Oct. 15.

The gutsy effort, dubbed Campaign For Real Beauty, aims to broaden the world’s definition of beauty beyond physical attractiveness, explained Silvia Lagnado, global brand director of Dove.

She clarified that the campaign, which spotlights real women, is not about self-acceptance.

“At Dove, we have a simple mission, to make more women feel beautiful every day,” declared Lagnado at the campaign’s launch event held here Sept. 29.

Dove has always striven to speak its marketing messages through real women, but never this loudly. And, while Lagnado, whose career at Unilever spans 17 years, admits there was some anxiety about breaking form, she seems confident that Dove can promote a broader definition of beauty and grow the brand at the same time. In her view, a closer tie to everyday women “makes the brand positioning more expressive, and more confident.”

Dove launched a similar effort last spring in the U.K. with a product ad for Dove’s firming lotion. The billboard featured six women of various body types confidently posing in their underwear. The ad, photographed by Ian Rankin, touched off a media furor and sparked a debate about society’s narrow definition of beauty, particularly concerning everyday women with real bodies. Largely due to that reaction, Dove launched a global effort to spotlight ordinary women. Several British newspapers, have reported sales of the firming lotion featured in the U.K. ad doubled within a month after the billboard appeared.

For the international successor to Dove’s U.K. campaign, the company worked with Rankin and Ogilvy & Mather to create five print ads that each feature a woman, all nonmodels recruited from different walks of life, and ask the viewer to make a judgment about her looks. The ads present viewers with a choice, effectively asking them to define beauty by choosing one of two responses.

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