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You can’t miss the recent surge of ad campaigns with messages of female empowerment. It seems like a contemporary phenomenon, but Dove pioneered this movement ten years ago, launching its “Campaign for Real Beauty” in 2004. In its first pass at “real beauty” messaging, Dove deployed ads featuring women with bodies of all shapes and sizes in understated undergarments and minimal makeup, drastically different from the usual lingerie-clad, made-up model. After much acclaim (and press coverage), Dove continued its “real beauty” campaign, partnering with Annie Liebowitz to celebrate the beauty of aging women and eventually zeroing in on the need to help younger women and girls, and society at large, embrace more realistic standards of beauty. In 2010, Dove established “The Dove Movement For Self-Esteem,” which, according to the campaign’s website, “delivers self-esteem education to young people (primarily girls) aged 8-17 years through lessons in schools, workshops for youth groups, and online resources for parents.”

It’s not surprising that other brands have begun to incorporate pro-women messages into their ads, especially in our post-Lean In world. As conversations about “having it all” continue to trend in major publications, and large, pop-culture heavyweights like Google, Twitter, and Facebook publicly commit to diversifying their workforces, brands are trying to tap into the viral potential of female-empowering messages. In fact, many brands have drastically altered their messaging and established philanthropic, educational platforms to back up their efforts. CoverGirl, for example, launched its #GirlsCan ad, which featured celebrity spokeswomen discussing (and rejecting) the limitations that were placed on them as young girls. CoverGirl accompanied this effort with a pledge to donate $5 million over five years to nonprofits that help women “break barriers and blaze trails.”

Continue reading on Women’s Media Center.