TheGrill NYC: Dove and Chipotle Make Beautiful Videos – But Do They Sell Soap and Burritos? (Video)

The days of straightforward ads are over, Unilever and Chipotle executives tell TheWrap's Sharon Waxman

Unilever Skincare, owner of Dove, did a study recently that came to a sad conclusion: Only 2 percent of women would describe themselves as “beautiful.”

The company responded with a famous campaign that also served as an ad for diversity, inclusiveness and the notion that everyone is beautiful: It famously featured women of all ages, races and body types, posing in their underwear. Some had tattoos. One was 93. Another Dove campaign shows women how portrait artists see them — almost always more beautifully than they see themselves.

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Which is great. But as TheWrap CEO and Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman asked Thursday, “Does this help you sell more soap?”

Getty Images

Getty Images

She posed the question to Rob Candelino, Unilever's general manager and vice president of marketing, at TheWrap's Grill NYC Conference on Branded Entertainment. His answer: We're not just worried about selling soap.

“What we can't do is say, we put this campaign on the air, look at our sales. It just doesn't work like that,” Candelino, above, said. “There are too many factors in play. What we do know is that brands with purpose, brands like this that have consistently demonstrated their commitment to superior care in their functional products as well as a bigger purpose to our consumers, do more, do better and long term are much more sustainable businesses.”

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“Our loyalty is higher, our consumer advocacy is higher and as a consequence you have to believe hat it's better long-term for the sake of your business,” he added.

The conference illustrated the extent to which advertisers are posting unbranded videos — or videos that only include their logos at the very end — to spread their messages without a hard sell.

Chipotle aired a four-part series on Hulu — “Farmed and Dangerous” — that criticizes industrial farming without explicitly offering Chipotle as an alternative. The videos promote its mission even while “completely unbranding,” said Chipotle director of brand marketing Mark Shambura.

“The mission of Chipotle is food with integrity,” said Shambura, who added that the series was “excellent for us.”

Chipotle doesn't share viewership figures, but Shambura (pictured, with Waxman) noted that the Hulu series was in the streaming site's Top 5 on its first day, and, by its second day, hit is viewership targets for eight weeks.

The videos are only part of Chipotle's effort to brand itself by pushing its brand as gently as possible. It recently unveiled a new line of cups that will include short written pieces by people like Bill Hader and Sarah Silverman. The company invites you to laugh at their writing while you eat your lunch.

Unilever's latest campaign, like the one for skin toner, also resulted from customer research. The company found that most fathers don't see their contributions to raising their children included in most TV ads. A new ad, which feels more like a short film, features 30 children of all ages calling out for their dads to help them. The Dove logo appears only at the end.

“Isn't it time we celebrate dads?” the ad asks. It debuted Friday, just before Father's Day. It's another way, Dove said, it has tried to do more than sell soap.

“We said we can be passive, we can be complicit, or we can make great work to actually do something about it,” said Candelino.

And if you opt to buy some soap, too, he won't object.