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NEW YORK — As part of its Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove will continue to defy conventional advertising wisdom and show real women — curves, tattoos, scars and all — in its ads. The latest salvo in the Unilever brand’s CFRB — an effort Dove launched in the fall to challenge the current standards of attractiveness — is popping up on billboards around the country this week.

The ads, which introduce Dove’s skin-firming lotions, feature a group of six women — of various shapes and sizes — confidently posing in their underwear. Tag lines drive the point home: “Let’s face it, firming the thighs of a size 2 supermodel is no challenge” and “New Dove Firming. As tested on real curves.” The images, photographed by Ian Rankin, have not been altered or retouched. To cast these Average Janes, Dove passed over model agencies and looked for women in other locations. For instance, talent scouts found one of the women serving coffee in a New York cafe.

By July 8, the billboards will have rolled out to eight major markets, namely Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, New York and San Francisco.

The campaign, which includes print ads and extends online, follows a similar effort in the U.K. last year at this time. The British version, which was also photographed by Rankin and featured six scantily clad women — not models — sparked a media furor and ignited consumer chatter about beauty. Dove provided a forum for such debate when it launched its global CFRB in September.

The personal care brand — which blew past the $1 billion sales mark in the U.S. last year — prepped consumers for its bold, skin-baring visuals with television ads introducing its hand and body lotions range. The TV ads, which began airing in the spring, also show women wearing nothing but their undergarments. “It challenged the idea that only perfect skin is beautiful,” said Philippe Harousseau, marketing director for Dove, U.S. “And it challenges women to love every inch of their skin.”

Harousseau declined to comment on the impact CFRB has had on sales performance, but industry sources expect Dove’s entire hand and body lotions line to reap $60 million to $70 million in first-year sales. Promising women perfection (with the help of a stunning model) may be the norm in beauty advertising, but Dove will continue to plow ahead with its efforts to shake things up. Harousseau said, “You should expect to see communication from Dove dismissing the notion that only the thin, blonde and young are beautiful.”

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.