Dove hair dye ad: the blind leading the blind

A still from the Dove hair dye ad Feeling Is Believing

A still from the Dove hair dye ad Feeling Is Believing

Campaign: Feeling Is Believing (TV spot)
Brand: Dove Color Care
Agency: Ogilvy

By Lisa Wade, PhD

This Dove commercial for hair dye is just fascinating. It features a woman (Kate Crofts, a professional model) talking about what colour means to her. She observes that colour is sensual, drawing connections between certain colours and the feeling of a cool breeze, the sun on one’s skin, a taste on one’s tongue. She says colours are moods: blonde is bubbly, red is passionate. Dying her hair, she says, makes life “more vivid”, and makes her want to laugh and dance. That’s why she does it.

She then explains that she’s blind. The commercial uses her blindness to suggest that hair dye isn’t about colour at all. It’s about the feeling having dyed hair gives you, even if you can’t see the colour. “I don’t need to see it,” she says. “I can feel it.”

By using a woman who is (supposedly) blind, the commercial uses the element of surprise to detach the product from the promise. The sole purpose of hair dye is changing how something looks, but this ad claims that the change in appearance is entirely incidental. Instead, dying one’s hair is supposed to make all of life more vibrant, every moment incredibly special, every pleasure more intense, and fill you to the brim with happy emotions. It’s completely absurd. Fantastically absurd. Insult-our-intelligence absurd.

And yet, it’s also exactly what nearly every other TV commercial and print ad does. Most ads promise — in one way or another — that their product will make you happier, your life brighter, and your relationships more magical. The product is positioned as the means, not the end. Most hair dye commercials, for example, promise that (1) if your hair is dyed to be more conventionally beautiful, (2) you will feel better and people will treat you better, so (3) your life will be improved. This ad just skips the middle step, suggesting that chemicals in hair dye do this directly.

So, I’m glad to come across this utterly absurd commercial. It’s a good reminder to be suspicious of this message in all advertising.

• Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College, California. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This piece was originally published at the very excellent Sociological Images and has since been syndicated at Toronto Standard.

One Comment

  1. Janae Cook wrote:

    Great assessment, if the ad’s product was really hair dye. Dove’s color care is shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair, not hair dye. Funny thing is that the version of this ad I’ve seen is not the full ad. The abbreviated version of this ad (shown on CBS.com) seems to be more clearly selling the idea that her hair, when using the Dove shampoos and conditioners, is more awake and alive – and that’s what she can feel. And I agree. When my hair isn’t dry and frizzy using the wrong types of hair products, when it’s silky and conditioned, I feel beautiful.