The Transparency Angle

What’s even real these days? It may or may not be a question that’s crossed your mind recently, but it is causing a stir in companies and ad agencies.  Transparency and authenticity are in, and flashy propaganda is on its way out.  It’s no surprise that businesses continue to refine the concept of authenticity for the purpose of marketing strategy.  What could be more lucrative than to convince consumers that a product can bridge the disconnect between modern civilization and reality, especially in a society constantly seeking meaning?

Chick-fil-A is one company that is now taking the advertising approach of transparency, inviting customers for behind-the-counter tours at all of their locations.  This blazes the path for their upcoming menu improvements, such as salads with more nutrient-rich ingredients focused on harnessing the concept of authenticity in their food offerings.

However, restaurant chains aren’t the only ones using this strategy.  Dove, a brand owned by Unilever, started the “real beauty” campaign in 2004 in the hopes of expanding the definition of beauty and promoting self-esteem in women of all shapes and sizes.  This week the company released a video to tell women “you’re more beautiful than you think” by comparing how women view their own beauty with how strangers view them.  This type of advertising goes beyond showing the consumer how authentic a product is; it makes the audience consider the authenticity behind their own self-image.

The Authenticity Hoax, a book by Andrew Potter, takes apart the ideal of the “authenticity” that we’re all striving for.  He looks at the areas of our lives where we feel connected to experiences, the world, and nature, and how society has lost the true meaning of authenticity in the process of seeking it out.  In his conclusion he says, “we are trying to find at least one sliver of the world, one fragment of experience, that is innocent, spontaneous, genuine, and creative, and not tainted by commercialization, calculation, and self-interest.”

The minute authenticity became a brand in and of itself, people wanted to have it, and companies are more than happy to sell it.  Dove may highlight the reality of the average woman versus the size zero models in many other ads, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capitalizing on some other ideal.  Authenticity is the new thing to have.  The problem is, just as Potter points out, authenticity is pretty much a false goal.  Chick-fil-A can show its customers where they make the food, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s life is more real because they ate a chicken sandwich that wasn’t frozen.

Ally Walton

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13 thoughts on “The Transparency Angle

  1. Ally, fantastic article on this up and comings electing strategy. I’m over all the flashy BS that companies throw at us anymore and I love these new strides to so the face behind the brand. Very well written article! Dr. Persuit has you guys going in the right direction!

    • I had to comment on this because I saw the Dove commercial a couple days ago and immediatly thougt of IMC. This is such a fresh way to advertise. I much rather see average people like me and not size 0 models with a bunch of makeup on. Seeing this commercial also made me click on their link to their website to look closer at their research. It made me appreciate Dove much more as a brand, and I think many other people feel the same way.

    • Although it is true that tons of companies are falling into the allure of of the “transparency angle” as written in the blog, I think Dove was falsely classified in this category. In my opinion they are doing the opposite of angling persuasion in such a way where things look so perfect and amazing and, well, fake. The real beauty campaign is the opposite of that. It is going against the typical marketing of “buy our product to be pretty” to “you are pretty no matter what, and you should give yourself more credit.” In a country with so little self-confidence due to things like angles of transparency and false advertising (or as false as they can legally make it), it is refreshing to see a “real” angle. Imagine if other brands started to do this….

  2. This was a captivating article, and really summarized much of what I too, have noticed lately with advertising. There definitely does seem to be a “shift” towards authenticity. You (and Potter) make the wonderful point of authenticity being a false goal. But I think the overall concept behind this, is that advertising is never going to totally vanish, it is now a given in our world. I think, most importantly, that these companies actions are still a step in the right direction. They may be capitalizing off of their new “authentic” portrayed ideals, but isn’t that the point of a company? A company has to generate revenue, and I’m not suggesting that they should lie, but I think this is a major step towards being as “real” as they can get with their consumers. There needs to be some self-educating that the consumer does as well, so that they can also make their own informed decisions about what they deem to be ethically “authentic.”

  3. It’s an interesting commercial, I think — it makes the brand seem more real, and helpful to their customers. By not using actual models, Dove is saying that their products are for ‘real’ people — you don’t have to be incredibly thin to use Dove products. Again, it also supports the idea that Dove encourages women to love themselves no matter their shape or size. But this authenticity campaign across advertisements can be misleading. It may allow audiences to automatically assume that a company or its advertisements are true when they actually aren’t. I agree with Meghan that with ‘authentic’ commercials, it falls more as the consumer’s responsibility to double check if a company’s commercials line up with its ethics and beliefs before simply taking the advertisements at face value.

  4. I agree that advertising has taken a shift toward authenticity and transparency in the messages they are delivering to the consumers. By being transparent and honest, it helps the consumer relate more to the company. In Dove’s case, using normal, real women in the commercial gives a majority of women something to relate to instead of constantly seeing size zero models using the products. Another company that came to mind that has recently been using transparency in advertising is Domino’s. They asked customers to take pictures of burned and ruined pizzas and submit them to the company. In turn, Domino’s created a commercial showcasing all of their mistakes and vowing to never make these mistakes again. They used transparency to show the customers their mistakes, and promised to fix them. It brings up the question, how many companies will follow suit? Should we expect every company to publicly admit to their mistakes?

  5. I definitely think these advertisements that are transparent are the best for advertisers and the polis. Consumers appreciate the idea of “real images” and seeing the Dove campaign express that really captivated many people. I know that when I saw it I was so excited that for once you saw real woman, instead the famous people promoting products. For my IMC class we found a study that over half of consumers appreciate and will purchase brands that are real and honest. Brands and advertisements that are not transparent will also help the company selling the product in the long run.

  6. I saw this commercial just a few days ago. A bunch of women where sharing the video on Facebook so I decided to check it out. At first I was captivated by how real and authentic Dove was being. There was no models and their product wasn’t even in the video. It was all about real people. As the video came to a close, I couldn’t help but think about what kind of advertising strategy this was for Dove. Have they researched their customers so much that they realize that what women want isn’t unrealistic models selling their products, but something much more real. What better way to be real than allowing customers to see themselves for who they really are.

  7. When I first read this article I couldn’t help but watch the video first (visual learner). However I did find your opinion on the entire situation very captivating. In a sense it seems that Dove is selling something that people don’t necessarily need to buy? If authenticity is the aim of the commercial, shouldn’t it drive customers to boycott products and appreciate their beauty? Other than that I found it interesting these two situations relate, the transparency approach to advertising is one that is subjective in it’s outcome with the target market.

  8. This advertising strategy of transparency is a very interesting approach that companies are embracing in order to “smoothly” promote their brand. The most interesting example was that of Dove and the company’s “real beauty” campaign. I was moved by the video, particularly since many women do not see their own beauty and are always finding problems with themselves without appreciating their interior beauty. Personally, I believe Dove was successful in capturing their audience’s attention through this promotion campaign. By doing so, not only is company promoting an “authentic” product, but they are also encouraging “real” women to value and respect their own authenticity.

  9. I agree with Ashley, this is such a fresh way to advertise. Rather than making a commercial solely about the product and how much better it is than everyone elses, make it about the idea or campaign behind the product. I think this commercial will gain just as much, if not more attention than a regular commercial. Especially since it doesn’t seem like an advertisement at first. When something like this comes on tv, it always gains my attention and makes me wonder what it is. This campaign may also cause more people to visit their website.

  10. I think this is a brilliant ad. I find it interesting to take apart people’s perceptions of themselves and the perceptions others have of them. I hate that the typical mindset of the United States contains low self-esteem. Dove is smart to look at this mindset and encourages women to love themselves, and to think higher of how they look. I also appreciate the honesty of Dove and doing an ad that helps women, as well as sells their product.

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