Parent company Unilever has purchased six commercials to be imagined around the hit tv show's 1960's advertising agency theme, complete with similar costuming, characters and plot lines that mimic 'Mad Men.' Unilever brands Dove, Breyers, Hellmann's, Klondike, Suave and Vaseline will be highlighted in succession over the next following weeks, in a clever way to remind consumers of the longevity of popular products that were around when the hit tv show takes place.
But when the first Dove commercial aired this week, many fans were surprised at the contrast in tone to the brand's well-known "Campaign for Real Beauty" style of advertising, which celebrates the beauty of all women by employing models of all ages, skin tones, races and backgrounds. Industry insiders say the initiative forever broke new ground by spotlighting plus-sized models and women with wrinkles and sun spots in ads.
In the controversial spot which takes place at a made-up agency circa 1964, two suited male copywriters are trying to brainstorm ideas for a new Dove soap ad. A pretty secretary fetches the men coffee, and then apologizes for speaking out of her "place" before giving the men an ad idea that is so brilliant, the two celebrate by deciding to play golf for the rest of the day.
Some say it's the same tongue-in-cheek fun that the tv show plays with. Yet Amy Angelowicz of The Frisky feels very differently.
"I couldn't help but be especially irked by the blatant sexism. I usually love Dove commercials, but I found this one to be way off target from their 'women loving themselves' branding," says the blogger.
"Just because we're watching a show that takes place in a time when sexism was more socially acceptable shouldn't give advertisers the go-ahead to embrace the views of the time to sell products. Yes, we're wild about 'Mad Men,' but no, we don't want to be transported back to 1964 completely," adds Angelowicz.
In response, Unilever tells us that the commercial isn't to be taken literally, and is nothing more than light-hearted entertainment meant to engage 'Mad Men' fans.
"We created the vignettes to showcase the heritage of our iconic brands -- which are as popular today as they were then -- on a hit show that is culturally relevant to consumers. The vignettes showcase how 1960s fictional ad agency SmithWinterMitchell develops campaigns for the six Unilever brands, combining witty historic parody with modern ad footage," a spokesperson for Unilever tells StyleList.
A New York Times blog reader from Toronto, Canada thinks that regardless of what you think of the content, Unilever's idea to mimic the style of 'Mad Men' in its upcoming campaign is brilliant.
"The real genius of this series of ads is that when viewing the show on a DVR, you stop fast-forwarding at the start of the ad, thinking the show has resumed. At least I did -- and engaged with a commercial for the first time in months," says the reader.
Ah, yes -- the attention of the dear viewer is the most prized commodity of all today.
Tell us, do you think the Dove ad glamourizes sexism, or is it just clever and cheeky 'Mad Men' fun?