Trans media Advertising: From Soap to Self-Esteem


The opportunity for people to experience stories in a variety of ways has always been accessible; it is the media and its platforms that have evolved. Today, it is not enough to just create a story; it’s about creating an experience. Ongoing technological advances have changed the way story-telling is approached. This work will analyze the strategies used for advertising. This paper will begin by going through the history of traditional advertising, then it will describe the concept of trans media and after tying together transmedia and advertising there will be a case study of how the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign reflects this and what the company has achieved.

History of Advertising

Broadcasting advertisements began with the radio, this medium of mass communication was revolutionary to the world of advertising. The invention of the radio gave agencies a whole new world of creative opportunity, they could create jingles, play music and communicate through spoken word (‘Barr). Agencies were reinventing themselves and the possibilities seemed endless. Celebrity endorsement was born as radio stars would often deliver commercial messages during their shows. All these techniques have developed as technology has advanced.

Once television hit the scene there was a wide range of commercials; there were national commercials with high production values as well as local, low budget commercials (‘Barr). Once agencies had adjusted to using television as a new platform, they began to move on to international advertising. agencies would open offices in other countries to create media that was culturally appropriate for international audiences (‘Barr). The goal to customize advertising to have a maximum effect became much more essential with the internet. Specialized cable created sectors of target audiences with specific interests, making it easier for agencies to ensure they were giving the right audience the best advertisement they could. The internet goes steps further because it narrows the aim, not to a sector of audiences but to the individual (‘Barr). agencies track surfing habits of individuals and customize the ads that pop-up on their computer screens based on what the web surfer’s browsing history proves their interests are.

As agencies become more determined to customize advertisements, they have also become more determined to connect to audiences on multiple levels and on multiple platforms. This is what is making agencies adapt to transmedia methods of communication.


What is Transmedia?

Transmedia is a continuously growing phenomenon, it is used by television shows, by musicians and of course, by agencies. Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. Now there are five factors which differentiate transmedia and traditional cross-platform media (Jansson, p.279).

  1. Mediated mobility: blurs the distinction between texts and contexts; making media use more fluid.
  2. Technology convergence: Makes various kinds of content flow seamless across platforms.
  3. Interactivity: Blurs the line between producers and consumers, takes away the notion of an “author”
  4. New interfaces: User’s interaction with media comes closer to the body. Certain platforms will be used as extensions of the self.
  5. Automation of surveillance: Use of technology leads to being watched and having your technological world customized to your preferences with little awareness.
    *( Jansson, p.280)

Technological advancements are fundamental to how these new customs of interaction came to be but it isn’t a cause and effect, it is much more progressive than that. As technological advancements are made, a cycle is created by the culture as it absorbs them and finds ways to make them a necessity in our everyday lives. Smartphones are created, apps are developed. People become addicted to the apps and technology continues to advance with the demand. As these platforms develop people find ways to indulge in them further. Take Snapchat as an example, their shtick is the “story”, a short video upload that is able to be viewed for only 24 hours. Instagram took this concept from them and it is now a huge hit, as of a few weeks ago Facebook launched their own version of the “story”. This is an example of how it is not only the technology advancements that are creating this transmedia effect, it also the cultures intense demand that feeds it.


Development of Transmedia Advertising

Convergence media is media spread across multiple platform for the purpose of encouraging consumer interaction. Convergence is what makes transmedia story telling possible. It is different parts of the same story being told across multiple platforms, not the same story being told through different mediums. Batman is a perfect example of this, from comics to The Dark Night, Gotham the TV series and even a campaign that recruited fans to the Joker’s gang, it had fans dressing up in costumes and participating in scavenger hunts (Granitz). This brand demonstrates the ability to take advertising and turn it into a personal experience by making the brand available to consumers on different platforms. The goal of transmedia consumer engagement is to create a psychological investment that will develop a strong connection to the brand and creating interest in all aspects of their transmedia campaign (Granitz).

The key to encouraging consumers to make these brand connections is for organizations to make them feel good about their brands.  The emphasis on personal engagement makes consumers prioritize their knowledge on the history and heritage of a brand in order to continue building their connection (Granitz). There are a few principles in transmedia advertising campaign that must be followed to guarantee proper execution. To start with, is “creating content that is customer centric, not product centric” (Ling). This ensures the goal of transmedia being a personable experience that caters to the audience as opposed to a business experience that caters to the brand. Going in hand with that is the second aspect which is making sure the advertisement is invisible (Ling). This means that the audience needs to be completely unaware that they are being sold anything, for example the Dove Real Beauty Sketch campaign is set up to promote real women and confidence, in reality they are still selling their brand of hygienic products. Supporting this is the act of “extending the reach of the message” (Ling).


Dove Campaign: Development

It has been over 10 years now since Dove launched the transmedia “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Dove was looking for a new way to revive its brand, so after conducting extensive studies on 3,000 women in 10 different countries to learn about their demographics mindset (Skene) they determined that only 2 percent of women considered themselves beautiful, the executives at Dove saw a great opportunity to engage in personal matters.  Before this study they were beginning to sell other types of beauty products, as one of their efforts in refreshing their brand. This got them thinking that with the new products they could “start a conversation about beauty” with their audience (Skene).

Real Beauty Campaign.

This conversation of beauty would become their new brand that would focus on challenging the prevailing conceptions of beauty. The beginning of this process took place with these changes (Malmelin):

  1. The creation of an inspiring vision that unites the staff
  2. The design and implementation of a bold communications strategy
  3. The creation and the emergence of a profitable reputation.

The main priority was to clarify the visions and values of the brand, with the idea that Dove could evolve into a brand could have an impact on consumer that would extend beyond its products. In the discussions, which followed, the brand team (most of whom were women)

Created campaigns that consisted of women expressing their insecurities (sketch ad), women of all sizes, shapes, colours and age in their ads. Accompanied with emotional videos that created an emotional reaction. To tie all of this together they of course created a twitter with a hashtag #realbeauty so that their audience’s engagement would be limitless and open the doors to further strengthen the consumer’s connection to their brand.


Dove Campaign: Challenges

Dove received some negative attention, not because of any flaw in their campaign but because people were paying attention to the brother and sister companies of Dove that were not portraying this same image of acceptance. For example, AXE, creates commercials and slogans that hypersexualizes women who are the epitome of the high-standards of beauty as well as Slim Fast, which promotes the action of acquiring thinness as opposed to acceptance and other make-up products.

Dove also received criticism for selling certain products that did not match with the theme of self-acceptance, it promoted skin-firming lotions to “reduce cellulite.” This was considered ironic for what Dove was supposed to be standing for. This was said to affect the look of “authenticity and transparency and it undermined the power of Dove’s message” (Nelson).

As much as critics want to look down of Dove for this, it needs to be acknowledged that the goal of Dove is not self-esteem and acceptance, it is the promotion of their skin care and beauty products. It is a transmedia advertising method that had an incredible impact on the brand. It is also worth noting that the parent company that owns AXE and Slimfast is very savvy because they know how to promote to each of their demographics. If this is being studied as a case of the authenticity in advertising, then the criticism can be understood. However, this being an analysis of how these campaigns used transmedia to bring their companies ahead; it has been a huge success.

Withered or Wonderful.

This campaign has won ad awards for their use of integrated media, use of social media, viral marketing and video. Dove has also sold an enormous amount of product.  Sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year (Skene).


Dove Campaign: Results

The stated goal of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is to “celebrate the natural physical differences personified by all women” and build confidence and happiness from within. However it is worth noting that this campaign has received a few advertising awards, along with being the “most watched ad ever” (Kelly). The company has doubled sales since the campaign officially launched (Skene).

Dove Real Beauty Sketches.

The rising success of Dove demonstrates that people are interested in more than the product, their interested in the message. Dove is getting the attention of their audiences outside of the aisles. Kristen Nelson conducts a case study that focuses on Doves stand against the high standards of beauty for women, she says:

“Dove wasn’t touting a revolutionary lotion formula with its campaign. Its product formulas didn’t change. And its lotions and creams are much like those of its competitors. The differentiating factor is in the positioning of the product. Dove isn’t selling soap. It is selling acceptance and recognition of beauty in women just as they are. Increased sales of soap and related products are the results of this affirmation of normality in women’s appearances. “

Nelson is correct in stating that what makes Dove stand out now is its’ product positioning. It took the brand to an entirely new platform that promotes beauty on all levels, this ties back to transmedia methods of making the advertising invisible to the audience. When viewers are watching the Dove ads and generating a positive connection, they don’t realize that they are being advertised beauty products. The effects of the advertisement take place when they walk into a drug store to buy soap and shampoo, they are going to pick the one they feel closest to, which is the one that appealed to them on a personal level.



As a result of this campaign Dove has managed to sell an enormous amount of product.  Their sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year. Considering that this was essentially a re-branding, it was a very big risk that ended up making them more successful than they have ever been. This campaign thrived because of their transmedia approach. The engagement of transmedia is what is getting audience’s attention. Classic commercial advertising is no longer enough to keep the audience focused and it can not stand out next to the interactivity of transmedia. With technological advances the approaches of the media are developing and changing further, leaving traditional methods behind.


Works Cited

‘Barr, William M. “A Brief History of Advertising in America.” Advertising & Society Review 11.1 (2010): n. pag. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Granitz, Neil, and Howard Forman. “Building Self-brand Connections: Exploring Brand Stories through a Transmedia Perspective.” Proquest. Journal of Brand Management, Jan. 2015. Web. <>.


Jansson, André, Karlstads Universitet, and Fakulteten För Humaniora Och Samhällsvetenskap (from 2013). “Mediatization and Social Space: Reconstructing Mediatization For the Transmedia Age.” Communication Theory 23.3 (2013): 279-96. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Kelly, Samantha M. “Viral Dove Campaign Becomes Most Watched Ad Ever.” Mashable.20 May. 2013. <>.


Ling, Stephanie . “5 Digital Marketing Lessons Taught By Transmedia Storytelling.”Powered By Search. 25 Jun. 2014. <>.


Malmelin, N. and Hakala, J. (2009), ‘‘Guided by the brand: from brand management to integrative corporate communications’’, Business Strategy Series, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 248-58, ISSN: 1751-5637.


Nelson, Kirsten . “Dove Campaign For Real Beauty: A Case Study In Defining What You Stand Against.” Pendulum In Action. 30 Aug. 2013. <>.



Skene, Kiley . “A PR Case Study: Dove Real Beauty Campaign.” News Generation. 11 April. 2014. <>.




Dove. Real Beauty Campaign. Digital image. Huffington Post. Dove, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. <>.


Dove. Dove Real Beauty Sketches. Digital image. Dove. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.


Dove. Withered or Wonderful. Digital image. Huffington Post. Dove, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. <>.