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Unilever launched a “Real Beauty” campaign in 2005 across in the UAE and Saudi. MBC viewers across the Arab World saw the advertisements.1 The Unilever “Campaign for Real Beauty” website claims support for Arab women who are disheartened by the media’s portrayal of women with diverse physical characteristics in “Shaping the beauty idea – how far is the media responsible?” The cause marketing campaign aimed to increase sales of the Unilever Dove Product. Unilever considered this a social responsibility activity. In addition they dabbled with, but didn’t effectively launch a “self esteem” fund for young girls. Although the website presents objectives of the fund, there is nothing evident about its activities or impact.
Unilever is the same company marketing “Fair and Lovely”, a skin bleaching product targeting young Arab females. Unilever’s “Fair & Lovely” TV ads show a sad, dark looking middle eastern woman, who isn’t loved, is having a hard time with education and unsuccessful. Upon using Fair&Lovely, her skin tone becomes gradually whiter allowing her to graduate, get a successful job and win the man of her dreams!
Social responsibility must be a strategic decision followed up by coherent, all encompassing and transparent initiatives extending across all products and services, and all marketing communications and sales efforts. If a teacher treated her students with care and love in one class and resorted to threats and self-esteem lowering tactics in another class, she would certainly be viewed as psychotic. Shouldn’t the same criteria apply to corporations? When Unilever promotes real beauty with one product, and promotes skin bleaching with another, doesn’t the same apply?