Ogilvy & Mather/Toronto

Striking Gold-winning spot sends a powerful message to women everywhere.

To date, the Dove "Evolution" viral spot has attracted more than 2 million hits on YouTube, generated acres of publicity, sparked a public debate about the media manipulation of image and beauty and spawned six parodies, including "Pumpkin Evolution" and "Slob Evolution." Not bad for a low budget, mostly Internet campaign designed to get mothers and daughters to attend a Canadian self-esteem workshop and one which most of the talent worked for next to nothing.

The one minute, 14-second spot shows the transformation of an average-looking woman into a gorgeous supermodel via a stop-motion technique. In the process it reveals how the fashion industry uses everything from airbrushing to hair and make-up to create artificial images of beauty. And as it evolves, so too does the viewer's comprehension of such manipulation.

The spot, from Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto, was part of that agency's award-winning "Campaign for Real Beauty," aimed at increasing the self-esteem of women. According to art director and co-director Tim Piper, "We were asked by Dove for activation ideas and 'Evolution' was only one of a series that we pitched. But we knew it was a real winner and we started to beg borrow and steal from all our suppliers."

While the short-term goal was to promote the workshops, the long-term objective was to raise the profile of the Self-Esteem Fund. The workshop sold out immediately, and the spot become one of the hottest virals in the world within days.

"It was gigantic. Indescribable. A phenomenon," says Janet Kestin, chief creative officer, who also worked with Mike Kirkland, Nancy Vonk and photographer Gabor Jurina on the spot. "It got 40,000 hits on YouTube the first day, and within a week it was on every talk show in the US and on news in Canada and around the world. Within two weeks the parodies were starting to happen."

It was Piper who came up with the idea. "Working on Dove you become extremely sensitive to the issue of self-esteem," says Kestin. "Tim realized his girlfriend was one of these women who didn't think she was good enough. So, when he saw it happening in his own home, this gave him the chance to do something about it."

They chose the Web as a launch pad not just because of budget, but because of the time restraints of traditional media. "The Web felt right because we could tell the story in the time that we needed, which is why it's a minute and 14 seconds," says Kestin. "In the US, we're stuck with 30- and 60-seconds, but in Europe they buy whatever they want, which seems more intelligent."

And while they believed it was interesting and well done, and that people would watch it, "What we didn't figure on was the insanity. We knew it was a captivating film, and it sent a strong message. We'd never done anything like it before, nobody ever has."

How do you top something like 'Evolution?' The answer is you don't. "'Evolution' did a particular job: it shone a bright light on the self-esteem issue," says Kestin. She adds that different campaigns do different things at different levels and scales. And even today, people are still talking about it.

| More