Thursday, May 20, 2010

Preaching to the Choir

I've seen a few comments, both here and elsewhere, that the Dove ad I posted this morning "preaches to the choir." That got me pondering the concept of "preaching to the choir." Do all works with a strong point of view "preach to the choir"? Is there any hope of changing people's opinions?

How can you tell if a piece of writing, or a film, or a song, merely affirms the beliefs of those who already agree? Or if it gets people to think differently?

I love that frigging Dove ad, though. And, yes, I'm in the choir, singing as loud as I can.


  1. I actually included your post with that video on my shared posts feed widget today. I saw this a long time ago, and yup, posted it on an old blog. I've also personally shared it with various people in person, and watched the look on their faces as their chins drop and they say, "Wow...I never realized..."

    I'd disagree that it's preaching to the choir. I'd say it's a good reminder to the choir, and in posting it, you open the possibility of increasing the size of that choir. It's a powerful clip.

  2. So, I just watched this video about "preaching to the choir" (in a religious context) and then you posted this. Perhaps you will enjoy a gander. It basically affirms that, preaching to the choir or not, everyone's voice deserves to be heard and has value. Anyway, here's the link:

  3. I think "the choir" is an interesting concept when a person is talking about body image and beauty standards. One of the reasons it's so difficult to combat these images and norms is that they're so pervasive, even for someone who considers her or himself aware of the messages she or he is receiving. As we all know, it's incredibly difficult to wake up one morning and say, "ah yes - years of gender conditioning be damned, I LOVE the way I look ALL THE TIME!" In that way, I think this message is, if it's intended for "the choir," a way of consciously re-affirming a message women (and, let's be honest here, men) need to tell themselves every day: the images I see through popular culture need not define me. (Enter: vague irony that this is a commercial.)

    When we start to think about, "are opinions a thing which can be changed" I think that's one of the few, precise, questions huge marketing research firms ask themselves every day. For this ad, I'm sure the research would look something like, "are we getting an unexpected demographic (ex: men between 16-25, presumably unmoved by the "daughter" argument) to respond positively to our ad (click the links?) in grater numbers than sheer chance would dictate?" So, in a way, this video (something created by a commercial entity, which probably runs lots of that kind of research) is probably a much better way of pondering the question, "is this changing a new demographic's attitudes" than a lot of the messages we send out into the world!

  4. I don't think this is preaching to the choir... it is likely many people will see it because it is an ad.
    I have often felt though, that movies like Supersize Me, or Michael Moore movies, etc. are preaching to the choir. And that is why I don't watch them. I am sure they could further my knowledge about certain subjects, but I already care about them, and really just feel the reason people watch those movies is to affirm their values.
    A few years ago I read the book "What is the What?" about a "lost boy" in Sudan and was outraged and felt like everyone should read it. But that's the thing. The people who should read it, probably won't.
    I feel kind of hopeless about all this actually, that we all just surround ourselves with viewpoints we are comfortable with.
    I think things like ads are good because usually they are shown in a context with a captive audience, and they can quickly get a message across.

  5. I think it depends on where this ad is being shown. If it's on prime time TV during shows that kids or adults with kids are watching, then I think it will reach a much wider audience. If it's an ad on websites targeted to liberal-thinking mothers, then maybe not so much!

    I also agree with Just Margaret that this is a good reminder to the choir. It's all too easy to get relaxed with our viewpoints and forget to take any action on them. Plus, this ad in particular contextualized the issue in a new way for me (ie showing us the bombardment of images vs. telling us)

  6. When it comes to the beauty industry, this fills both the need to remind and has a large potential to make those who are sympathetic aware of something they hate to think about but which moves them deeply when they do.

    Preaching to the choir is more about stating the obvious to those who know, and this ad is more about stating the obvious to the oblivious.

  7. First a disclaimer: I swear I'm not coming to this blog just to stir up trouble! It's just that this blog is making me think.

    About the choir (since I was the one who posted that phrase here) - I am going to step back from my original idea that this ad is *just* preaching to the choir since I don't know where it aired or on what programs. I personally have only seen the ads via the internet from a feminist perspective, which is what made me think of it as preaching to the choir. However, this discussion has reminded me that my personal experience is not a good proxy for evaluating the rest of the audience for this ad. So that is valuable, and thank you all for reminding me of that. (The plural of anecdote is not data!)

    From a marketing perspective, I think that this ad is about Dove trying to brand itself as a female-friendly company. They ran a similar print ad campaign that featured women who were (slightly) larger than typical models. It's worth pointing out that the "real women" were all extremely conventionally attractive. I won't speculate on the use of photoshop on the "real women" although there have been allegations, but I will note that at the end of the day, Dove's goal as a company selling beauty products is to try to get you to buy their products - such as hair product, deoderant and moisturizer.

    I'm not going to say I don't use any of those things, because I use all three on a daily basis, BUT I will point out that this female-friendly branding strategy of Dove-as-a-company relies on the fact that women-as-a-gender (in the US, at least) have been conditioned to believe that we *must* have soft skin and our natural hair is not good enough in its natural state and dog forbid we smell like sweat - so basically the thinking behind this ad campaign is, "women are going to "need" shampoo and moisturizer and deodorant anyway, so why not give them warm fuzzies about spending their money with Dove in particular". (I know I'm using my experience as a proxy here, but I genuinely believe that the female conditioning stuff I mentioned above is absolutely rampant.) Therefore, I find the "campaign for real beauty" (what is so real about using deodorant and hairspray?) to be a cynical ploy, even without mentioning that that Dove's parent company (as mentioned above) is quite capable of running female-shaming ads to sell another product.

    However. If you aren't an overly analytical marketer like me, you can probably watch the ads and take away the surface message from them (which I completely agree is powerful and effective.)

  8. I love the ad, but I feel like Dove is talking out of both sides of its mouth. Sure, Dove is putting out awesome commercials about self respect, but it's owned by Unilever, which also owns AXE body spray. And AXE's commercials are some of the most offensively sexist ads around.

  9. I totally agree about "reminding the choir". It's easy to become complacent... or, for that matter, it's easy to be swayed. And sometimes those of us within the choir can't or don't express our beliefs as often as we should in order for them to blossom outside of it.

    Also, there are generations behind us who may NOT have heard the message. And especially as things seem to be becoming "easier" for us, I sometimes find myself forgetting to impress on my own daughter the messages that were so important for ME to learn as a young woman. Sometimes I don't have to be reminded only for myself, but in order to remember to pass the message along to my daughter, my nieces, etc. There's a whole young generation that may never learn to sing if they don't have the chance to listen to this "choir".