Dove's Pro- (not Anti-) Age Campaign Women in Santa Monica, Calif., love Dove's older models in its latest "Real Women" ad series. The 60-something models, who show a lot of skin, follow a series that featured models in bras and panties with real-woman curves.
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Dove's Pro- (not Anti-) Age Campaign

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Dove's Pro- (not Anti-) Age Campaign

Dove's Pro- (not Anti-) Age Campaign

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This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand.

As the first baby boomers hit retirement age, businesses are scrambling to cash in.

CHADWICK: NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates now reports on a new ad campaign specifically designed to appeal to women of my age.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: I went down to the farmer's market in Santa Monica to show a tasteful nude portrait to some randomly selected passersby. Here's one reaction.

Ms. SUSAN O'NEAL (Resident, Santa Monica): I work in the visual effects industry. So I'm looking for signs of where they do beauty touch-up and kind of enhance the sheen and stuff like that. It's very natural and glowing, and I approve.

BATES: That was Susan O'Neal (ph). She's in her early 30s, and she likes the fact that Dove products is using older women posed in nothing more than their jewelry to launch what Dove is calling its Pro-Age Campaign. O'Neal is reacting to a shot of Wendy Katzman, who is 54. She has blue eyes, tousled platinum hair, freckles, and a slight smile. Jim Freed(ph) and Svenya Richards(ph) also approved.

Mr. JIM FREED (Resident, Santa Monica): A very attractive woman.

Ms. SVENYA RICHARDS (Resident, Santa Monica): You always and only see all the young girls and stuff, so - no, I like it. It's very attractive, very sexy.

BATES: Twenty-six-year-old Nate Burns(ph) stopped to study the photograph for a moment.

Do you think she's attractive?

Mr. NATE BURNS (Resident, Santa Monica): Yeah, I think she's attractive.

BATES: She's 54.

Mr. BURNS: Okay.


Mr. BURNS: I don't know. That's my mom's age, so it's a little creepy for me. But it's okay.

BATES: You wouldn't want your mother doing this.

Mr. BURNS: No, I don't think anybody would.

Ms. MARY MORRIS (Model, Dove Pro-Age Campaign): It isn't like a naked body. It's - you're seeing arms, and legs, and a shoulder, and I think I was really smiling in that picture. And they loved it, and my son said, if this makes my mom happy, it makes me really happy.

BATES: Hey, Nate, meet Mary Morris, the 64-year-old cover girl for the Pro-Age Campaign. A huge billboard of her was unveiled in Times Square last month, and Mary was wearing a suntan and a radiant grin, period. Pro-Age marketing head Kathy O'Brien explains how the company went about recruiting real women like Mary for their ads.

Ms. KATHY O'BRIEN (Marketing Head, Dove Pro-Age Campaign): We tapped into swim clubs and health clubs, and we just got the word out to women 50 plus. And it's amazing how many people raised their hand. This campaign is extremely popular, and people want to be part of it.

BATES: Suggestions also came from friends and family. The finalists' portraits were taken without airbrushing by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Kathy O'Brien:

Ms. O'BRIEN: We wanted to feature women 50 plus as they are, with, you know, a lot of self-confidence, age spots, wrinkles, and grey hair. And the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

BATES: Several women's magazines took multiple pages of the mature models, including Oprah Winfrey's O and More, a fashion and beauty bible for women over 40. More's editor and chief, Peggy Northrop, says her readers have been hungry for an alternative to the post-adolescent waifs that are often used in major fashion and beauty campaigns.

Ms. PEGGY NORTHROP (Editor in Chief, More Magazine): I think what's most important about these women is that they see themselves as happy, accomplished, confident, optimistic women. And they don't necessarily see that image of themselves reflected anywhere else.

BATES: Guessing her readers were ready for change, Northrop featured Dove's new campaign prominently in its March issue. Northrop says More's e-mail box was deluged almost instantly.

Ms. NORTHROP: The reactions have been uniformly positive. In fact, I'm getting some reaction that is a challenge to me in saying, you see what they're doing in their advertising, you should do more of that.

BATES: But not everybody approves. Some critics think the nudes, tasteful though they are, are inappropriate for general circulation magazines. And early on, Kathy O'Brien says, the networks told her they wouldn't permit television ads of the nude Dove models to air because of decency standards. So Dove got around that, sort of, by creating an ad that showed a model in a bathrobe preparing to be photographed.

(Soundbite of Dove Advertisement)

Unidentified Woman #1: Quiet on the set.

Unidentified Woman #2: Dove is about to show that beauty has no age limit.

Unidentified Man: Roll camera.

BATES: Just as the bathrobe is whisked off, a hand covers the camera's lens.

(Soundbite of bleep)

Unidentified Woman #2: But you'll only see it at

BATES: More editor Peggy Northrop thinks moral guardians and nervous networks need to get a grip.

Ms. NORTHROP: Here are women in their 40s and 50s. They like how they look; you know, they're naked and happy, what is your problem?

BATES: Mary Morris is happy because she's contributing to a realistic aesthetic older women can relate to.

Ms. MORRIS: In the beauty magazines, all you see are young, thin girls, and that isn't real life.

BATES: And the Dove folks? They're happy they guessed correctly, that women baby boomers would not only approve of seeing people like themselves in ads, but which show their approval where it counts - at the cash register.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

BRAND: Tomorrow, Karen looks at how the boomers have changed virtually every aspect of American life.

(Soundbite of music)

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